Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Lutoslawski - Orchestral Works II

Following on from Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski’s (1913-1994) vocal works, Edward Gardner and the BBC Symphony Orchestra have turned their attention to his orchestral works.  The disc starts with his Symphonic Variations from 1938.  There are elements of Stravinsky here, but otherwise, this has a refreshingly individual voice, with very imaginative orchestration.  In the sparky, vigourous ending, I even heard elements of John Adams – a good sixty or seventy years prior!  This is followed by his Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, composed in 1988 for Krystian Zimerman, and here performed deftly by Louis Lortie.  This work has yet to acquire a place in the core repertoire, but this disc should definitely aid its cause.  It is an exciting piece, full of bite and energy, yet with amazing subtlety and delicacy in places.  

Edward Gardner
In contrast to the Symphonic Variations, interestingly in a work composed towards the end of his life, you can hear the debt to much earlier pianist composers, such as Rachmaninov, Liszt and Chopin, yet there is still that distinctive Lutoslawskian voice too.  This is followed by the relatively well-known Variations of a Theme of Paganini – although it is mostly known in the original two piano version – again, precisely and engagingly performed here by Lortie.  The disc then ends with the Symphony No. 4, another late work from just a year before his death.  This is a much darker work, full of unsettling and rather eerie emotion.  Again there are the imaginative orchestral effects – strange slides for the violins, and great use of percussion and the piano.  Yet this is within an overarching architecturally structured one movement work that again demonstrates that Lutoslawski’s music has so much to say and deserves to be heard more.  Gardner and the BBC Symphony Orchestra do him proud, and I look forward to more. 

Louis Lortie
Lutoslawski, Witold. Orchestral Works II. Louis Lortie, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Edward Gardner. 2012. Hybrid Super Audio Compact Disc. Chandos CHSA 5098.

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