Magazine article Gramophone

Lutoslawski Old and New from Los Angeles Phil

Magazine article Gramophone

Lutoslawski Old and New from Los Angeles Phil

Article excerpt


Fanfare for Los Angeles Philharmonic (a).

Symphonies--No 1 (a); No 2 (b); No 3 (c); No 4 (d)

Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra/Esa-PekkaSalonen

Sony Classical (F) (2) 88765 44083-2 (106' * DDD)

(a) Recorded live at Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, December 2012. From (b) Sony SK67189 (6/96), (c) CBS (F) IM42203 (8/86, 6/87), (d) Sony SK66280 (11/94)

Part new release, part reissue, Esa-Pekka Salonen's Lutoslawski symphony cycle provides are fined but often exciting take on an impressive corpus of work. The rowdy opening Fanfare (1993) inspires confidence from the start, effortless brass-playing that in context would surely have brought the house down. That's one of the two 'first release' December 2012 recordings programmed. The other is of the largely neo-classical First Symphony (1941-47), a work born of tragedy (the first movement was penned while Lutoslawski was in hiding during the last wartime months in Warsaw) but that generates a certain sense of optimism, except for the more sombre episodes in the Poco adagio, which tell afar darker tale. The scherzo runs hotfoot on pizzicato basses, while the finale returns us to the busyness of the first movement. Salonen is typically attentive to the work's multifaceted character while holding its arguments on a tight rein.

Turn to the Second Symphony (1966-67) and you enter an entirely different world, at once searching and frenzied, the second movement raging among swathes of aleatoric chaos, though again Salonen's evident love of order manages to lend shape to the music's shaggy contours. The Third Symphony (1972-83) abandons the excessive harshness of the Second without compromising originality, and it explores an unusually wide range of sonorities. The Third is an internally energised, multi-perspectival piece full of swiftly shifting shades and potentially expressive turns of phrase, and Salonen's performance is wonderfully precise (try the sharply etched quasi-fugal string-writing from 10'57"). Rival versions of the Third include Antoni Wit with the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Edward Gardner (part of his excellent complete cycle), Lutoslawski himself with the Berlin Philharmonic and Daniel Barenboim with the Chicago Symphony (for whom the work was written). …

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