Witold Lutoslawski: Orchestral Works, Vol. 1

Audio Samples

>Lutoslawski, Witold : Symphony no 3
>Lutoslawski, Witold : Chain 3, for orchestra
>Lutoslawski, Witold : Concerto for Orchestra

Album Summary

>Lutoslawski, Witold : Symphony no 3
>Lutoslawski, Witold : Chain 3, for orchestra
>Lutoslawski, Witold : Concerto for Orchestra
Conductor Ensemble
  • >
Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Edward Gardner, the music director of English National Opera and an exclusive Chandos artist, has completed the first disc in a projected Chandos series devoted to Polish music. Also his first purely orchestral CD for Chandos, the disc presents music by one of Poland's most important twentieth-century composers, Witold Lutoslawski, including perhaps his most famous work, the Concerto for Orchestra (1950 - 54), a brilliant and highly attractive work.

"Their account of the concerto is lively and crisply virtuosic, but the performances of the other two, much later works on this disc are the more significant... Gardner's performance [of Symphony No. 3] is impressive - vivid, incisive and well controlled - and he does an equally good job on the slighter and more elusive Chain 3 from 1986." -The Guardian

"This CD offers a thrilling reminder of [Lutoslawski's] craftsmanship... Chain 3 is a small, brilliant orchestral jewel. Atmospheric, if not quite virtuosic, performances from the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Gardner, who must be encouraged to explore more of Lutoslawski's oeuvre." -Financial Times

What's this? The man who's got English National Opera's orchestra accompanying Puccini so passionately and emotionally has opted for Witold Lutoslawski on his debut orchestral CD for Chandos?

In fact Lutoslawski's Concerto for Orchestra - the main course on this disc - isn't a million miles away from Puccini under the surface: big-boned themes marinate in complex orchestral textures before emerging in pile-driving unisons. For added verisimo weight, many of those themes are lifted directly from Polish folk music.

In a narrative sense, too, the Concerto is wholly suited to Gardner's strengths. As Lutoslawski wrote the piece in 1954 he was experimenting with the idiosyncratic theories of Witold Malíszewski, who suggested separate musical movements should serve specific and separate narrative functions.

That in mind, Gardner's ENO-honed ability to choose and hold a tempo and set a tangible mood from the off serves him well in each movement: there's tautness and weight in the Intrada's production line of pounding rhythms, a fine sense of pace to the slow-burn Passacaglia and impressive lightness in the piquant woodwind flutterings - even if they aren't the most beautifully shaped.

In fact, the burnished sound and dramatic thrust in the Concerto is reminiscent of Lutoslawski's own recording on EMI. It's just a shame the strings sound so purposeful in their ghostly response to the Chorale in the third movement - a dollop more Vaseline on the lens would have created a more eerie effect, but it's the only obvious dramatic nail that Gardner hasn't hit head-on.

The sound world of Lutoslawski's 1983 Third Symphony is initially less lyrical and a whole-lot more spatial, fragmentary and modernist. While there is the occasional lapse in ensemble, the playing is finely shaped - the symphony throws the spotlight on just as many solo instruments and instrumental groups as the Concerto does.

Gardner comes into his own as the symphony collapses through glissando winds and brass towards a more cogent conclusion, but careful listeners will notice that he's actually pretty adept at the more elusive, darkened corners of the piece, too (and in the accompanying filler, Chain 3). He might not be Pierre Boulez, but he's got me very interested - especially given the promise of the spine label, 'Polish Music Volume One'. Watch out for more."-BBC Music

"This CD offers a thrilling reminder of [Lutoslawski's] craftsmanship...Chain 3 is a small, brilliant orchestral jewel. Atmospheric, if not quite virtuosic, performances from the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Gardner, who must be encouraged to explore more of Lutoslawski's oeuvre." -Financial Times ****

"Exciting performances of exciting music. Lutoslawski is a master of whipping up the orchestra, though in a tasteful, increasingly refined manner...A fanfare guides us through the novel form [of the Symphony], though Gardner is a persuasive guide in his own right." -Sunday Times ****

"Gardner makes the most of the taut rhythmic energy in the music...all the colours of this showpiece [the Concerto for Orchestra] are brightly painted, with a virtuosity which is never empty, but always has direction and purpose, and a sense of real enjoyment." -BBC Music Magazine ****

"On this evidence, Edward Gardner and the BBC SO are a dream team, pressing the claims of a composer who has been neglected since his death in 1994...This performance sets a seal on a disc that leaves one eager for its successors" -Gramophone Magazine

"Gardner's ENO-honed ability to choose and hold a tempo and set a tangible mood from the off serves him well in each movement: there's tautness and weight in the Intrada's production line of pounding rhythms, a fine sense of pace to the slow-burn Passacaglia and impressive lightness in the piquant woodwind flutterings" -Andrew Mellor, bbc.co.uk

"Gardner pulls no punches in the 'Intrada'...few have equalled this for long-term conviction, in which the playing of the BBC forces leaves little to be desired...Gardner's interpretations are much more 'inside' the idiom than Daniel Barenboim's rather dutiful readings...this disc can be warmly recommended, not least if it hastens the return of Lutoslawski's music to its former eminence." -International Record Review

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Assembly Hall, Walthamstow, London, England (07/05/2010/07/06/2010).



Reviews

An excellent start to a new Polish orchestral series
This new Chandos CD provides three important works by one of the 20th Century's most important composers. There's a great deal of cleverness evident in the Concerto for Orchestra, written in the early 1950s, a virtuoso showpiece modelled after Bartok's work. More cleverness was required to disguise some quite radical musical ideas as "social realism" for his political masters. Lutoslawski's Third Symphony, written for Solti & the Chicago Symphony in the early 1980s, is probably the composer's masterpiece. The Third Chain, written later in that decade, is slighter in scope but not in effect. Gardner and his orchestra are at their best in the Symphony and Chain III. They're not quite hitting all of the virtuoso highlights of the folk-inspired Concerto for Orchestra, though the playing is still of a very high calibre. Both of the later works make use of aleatory, the introduction of chance into a musical work. Though Lutoslawski nails down pitches and rhythms, he gives the orchestral musicians the freedom to play sections of the piece in their own time. This provides us with unexpected combinations of sound, which a multi-channel recording has the potential to expose to us more explicitly. Actually, I can see the advantage of really cranking this up, exaggerating the separation between instruments of the orchestra, even if it results in a less than accurate reproduction of the concert-hall experience. As it happens on this disc, the Chandos engineers have spread out the orchestra, but not at the expense of atmosphere and musical coherence. I expect to listen to this CD often, letting these often surprising sounds wash over me. And I look forward to other discs in Gardner's new series of Polish orchestral music.
Submitted on 01/31/11 by Dean Frey 
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Works Details

>Lutoslawski, Witold : Symphony no 3
  • Conductor: Edward Gardner
  • Notes: Assembly Hall, Walthamstow, London, England (07/05/2010/07/06/2010)
  • Running Time: 3 min. 43 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Form: Orchestral
  • Written: 1972-1973

>Lutoslawski, Witold : Chain 3, for orchestra
  • Conductor: Edward Gardner
  • Notes: Assembly Hall, Walthamstow, London, England (07/05/2010/07/06/2010)
  • Running Time: 11 min. 3 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Written: 1986

>Lutoslawski, Witold : Concerto for Orchestra
  • Conductor: Edward Gardner
  • Notes: Assembly Hall, Walthamstow, London, England (07/05/2010/07/06/2010)
  • Running Time: 12 min. 24 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Form: Concerto
  • Written: 1950-1954