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Lutoslawski: Orchestral Works, Vol 4 - Collins / Little / Gardner

Lutoslawski: Orchestral Works, Vol 4 - Collins / Little / Gardner

Chandos  CHSA 5108

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Lutoslawski: Dance Preludes; Symphony No. 1; Partita; Chain 2

Michael Collins
Tasmin Little
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Edward Gardner


This is the fifth and now final volume in our survey of orchestral works by the Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski. Gramophone wrote of a previous volume in the series (CHAN 5106) that it ‘offers a broad view of Lutoslawski’s creative profile, which the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Edward Gardner fleshes out with playing that is as polished as it is animated, and alert to the individuality of Lutoslawski’s musical vocabulary and mode of expression’.

Lutoslawski wrote his Symphony No. 1 between 1941 and 1947, but interestingly it does not display any obvious signs of his trying to come to terms with the ordeal that befell his people. Quite the opposite, in fact. Lutoslawski himself described the symphony as bright and cheerful, ‘because that was the idea of the composition, which was conceived in the period of independence before the war, but brought into being during the terrible wartime and in far from idyllic post-war years’. At the time, one Polish colleague went so far as to call it ‘fauvist’, so wild and vibrant did it appear to the audiences at its first performance in April 1948.

Lutoslawski was a meticulous collector of folk materials in the first half of the 1950s, but for him, Dance Preludes was a ‘farewell to folklore’, even though he privately still explored folk tunes for several more years. Here the orchestra and conductor are joined by the clarinettist Michael Collins, an exclusive Chandos artist.

As his career developed in the more open environment that emerged after the ‘socialist-realist’ period, Lutoslawski began to receive international recognition, and with the Partita (1984, orchestrated 1988), for violin and orchestra, he presented a newly relaxed, more melodic compositional style to the public. The soloist is the exclusive Chandos artist Tasmin Little.

Chain 2 (1984 – 85) was premiered by Anne-Sophie Mutter on 31 January 1986 with Collegium Musicum, conducted by Paul Sacher to whom it was dedicated. On this recording Tasmin Little leads the orchestra through a succession of ideas, much as the soloist had done in the ‘Episodes’ movement of the Cello Concerto (recorded on CHAN 5106 with Paul Watkins).

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Review by John Broggio - February 23, 2018

This disc rounds off the orchestral cycle from the BBC SO under Edward Gardner's baton with style.

The opening work, Lutoslawski's first symphony (1941-47), is somewhat unusual for many musical works started during or immediately after World War 2; there is little in evidence of the horror's of war so starkly captured in the output of composers such as Strauss, Shostakovich and Britten. The first movement bursts with energy in this account, which helps make the slow movement (nearly half the symphonies length) that is replete with quasi-Prokofiev use of marching material doubly effective. The third movement is a fascinating contrast between languorous textures reminiscent of Ravel and (a highly chromatic) Dukas. The finale is full of energy and all concerned are on their toes and audibly enjoying the challenge posed by Lutoslawski and Gardner.

Next up are two concertante works for violin and orchestra; Partita (written for Anne-Sophie Mutter) and Chain 2. Here the soloist is Tasmin Little and as with their collaborations in Szymanowski: Violin Concertos - Little / Gardner and Walton: Symphony No. 1, Violin Concerto - Little / Gardner, there is tangible chemistry. In the Partita, Elizabeth Burley joins Little, Gardner & the BBC SO for the piano obbligato role. Little manages to mimic some of Mutter's characteristic steely tone (and in Lutoslawski's composition, this is perhaps a relatively straightforward achievement) but in the more lyrical phrases conveys a wonderful patina of tone that one sometimes feels eludes her German colleague. The slightly longer and slightly earlier Chain 2 is given just as compelling a reading by all involved.

To conclude the disc, Lutoslawski's Dance Preludes for Clarinet, Percussion, Harp, Piano and Strings is offered up with Michael Collins as soloist (and Elizabeth Burley once more doing the honours on the keyboard). Collins is every bit as alive as Little and the continued partnership of Gardner & the BBC SO accompanies with as much sensitivity and vigour as they exhibit in the rest of this cycle.

Crowned with a wonderful blend of clarity and warmth from the engineering team, this time using the Watford Colosseum and the customary informative notes, this is a fitting conclusion to this cycle.

Strongly recommended.

Copyright © 2018 John Broggio and HRAudio.net

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