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Lutoslawski: Vocal & Orchestral Works - Gardner

Lutoslawski: Vocal & Orchestral Works - Gardner

Chandos  CHSA 5223 (5 discs)

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Lutoslawski: Symphonies 1-4, Chain 3, Concertos for Orchestra, Piano and Cello, Tryptyk śląski, Lacrimosa, Paroles tissées, Śpijże, śpij, Les Espaces du sommeil, Chantefleurs et Chantefables, Symphonic Variations, ‘Paganini’ Variations, Mała suita, Grave, Partita, Chain 2, Preludia taneczne

Lucy Crowe (soprano)
Toby Spence (tenor)
Christopher Purves (baritone)
Michael Collins (clarinet)
Tasmin Little (violin)
Paul Watkins (cello)
Louis Lortie (piano)
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Edward Gardner (conductor)

 

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Review by John Broggio - February 25, 2018

The review of this fine set focuses mainly on the vocal works; the rest has been reviewed on the individual orchestral releases of Lutoslawski: Orchestral Works, Vol 1 - Gardner, Lutoslawski: Orchestral Works, Vol 2 - Lortie / Gardner, Lutoslawski: Orchestral Works, Vol 3 - Watkins / Gardner and Lutoslawski: Orchestral Works, Vol 4 - Collins / Little / Gardner.

The range of compositions included here, encompass a wide range of Lutoslawski's compositional career. Starting with the early Silesian Triptych, these are heavily folk influenced and have obvious nods towards past masters of the orchestral song with some delightful touches of orchestration. In this and the student Lacrimosa from a never-to-be-completed setting of the requiem mass, Lucy Crowe is of radiant voice and the BBC SO under Edward Gardner are consistently inspiring whether as accompanists or as protagonists.

The 4 Paroles tissees written for Peter Pears follow and provide a large stylistic change from the highly accessible opening pair of works. The orchestral textures are more varied between sections and within phrases than before and mark an audible development in the compositional techniques of Lutoslawski. Toby Spence here sings with great style; what is most fascinating about this work is that Lutoslawski wrote so well for Pears, one can almost imagine Spence *is* Pears, such is the sympathetic nod towards the vocal writing of Britten. I am not meaning to suggest that Spence is in any (conscious) way seeking to mimic Pears but the writing is such that it is hard to deliver it in almost any other way without excessively straining the interpretation. As with the relative juvenilia, the BBC SO are inspired collaborators under Gardner's baton.

Before the second work written for a great singer, Lucy Crowe returns to sing a short lullaby from 4 Children's Songs dating from between the Silesian Triptych and the 4 Paroles. It functions very effectively as a cleansing of the aural palette before Les Espaces du sommeil, written for Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Here Lutoslawski had a less obvious role model to follow and the results in Christopher Purves' interpretation are more of a reflection of Lutoslawski's compositional voice without any intermediary composers. Similar considerations apply for Lucy Crowe's last contribution to the set in Chantefleurs et Chantefables which was one of Lutoslawski's last works to be completed. Interestingly, although the compositional style is obviously different, the orchestration is reminiscent of the earliest works; Crowe, as with Purves, is utterly compelling and the BBC SO under Gardner provide vividly contrasting accompaniments, giving each piece its own sound world.

Almost inevitably, over a span of almost 6 hours, there are some interpretations that come off particularly well and others that perhaps don't make that same exalted standard of performance. In the first camp, I would place the 4 Paroles, Concerto for Orchestra, Symphony No. 2 and the concertante works for violin and orchestra. In the second, the Cello Concerto, Chain 3 and Symphony No. 3 are perhaps merely very good and not as compelling or excellent as the remainder but there is nothing that should prevent the investment in this remarkable set if one wants to explore the orchestral & vocal output of Lutoslawski.

The recording of the vocal works was not made in Walthamstow's Assembly Hall (orchestral volumes 1 & 2) or Watford's Colosseum (orchestral volumes 3 & 4) but the BBC Maida Vale Studios, London. The sonic picture is remarkably consistent throughout the set and usually manages to achieve a very pleasing balance between aural bloom and clarity. Throughout, the texts are comprehensive and well written; translations (into English) are provided for the vocal works.

All in all, this is the best value way to acquire an overview of Lutoslawski's output and even if were priced without reduction from the individual releases, would still be highly recommendable.

Copyright © 2018 John Broggio and HRAudio.net

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Comment by cilea - February 26, 2018 (1 of 5)

Hi John, are the vocal works now released on SACD? It was originally a CD release.

Comment by John Broggio - March 3, 2018 (2 of 5)

Yes - a great shame they weren't originally but better late than never! (They were recorded in the same way as the rest.)

Comment by breydon_music - March 4, 2018 (3 of 5)

Perhaps gives one cause for optimism that many more Chandos RBCD's are actually SACD's waiting to happen? It would be especially nice at least to get a box of Jarvi's Atterberg series with the currently RBCD-only Vol.4 included as a SACD.

Comment by John Broggio - March 4, 2018 (4 of 5)

Agreed - there are many discs which one would have thought merited the SACD treatment.

Comment by Jan Arell - March 7, 2018 (5 of 5)

The Atterberg 4 was unfortunately not recorded together with the other symphonies. Instead I think it’s an old radio recording, at least 15 years old.
Since the 4th is my favourite of his symphonies I haven’t bought any of these recordings but stick to the older CPO CD’s.