Lutosawski: The Symphonies
Esa-Pekka Salonen has been associated with Witold Lutosawski’s music for almost as long as he has been conducting, making it a cornerstone of his programming both in London (as we have just experienced again in the Philharmonia’s Winter Words series) and in Los Angeles. The brief Fanfare for Los Angeles Philharmonic (1993) that opens this new release is a further reminder of the great Polish composer’s connection with that orchestra and its current conductor laureate, who made the recordings gathered together here over a 27-year period, from 1985 to 2012.
The most recent of them is the rarely heard First Symphony, which has arrived at the same time as Edward Gardner’s release on Chandos (review below). Salonen’s account is extremely lucid, but perhaps not as powerfully attuned as Gardner’s to the inner struggles of a work that was banned in the Stalinist era. But it is very good to have Salonen’s version of the Second Symphony restored to the catalogue; he captures its elusive qualities, and the LA strings sound at their most potent here in the surging warmth of the second movement. Salonen’s strengths also come to the fore in fine performances of the Third and Fourth Symphonies. Different acoustical backdrops may disguise how the orchestra has changed over the years, not necessarily for the better, but this holds together compellingly as a cycle.