Jacek Kaspszyk conducts Szymanowski

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COMPOSERS: Szymanowski
LABELS: Warner
ALBUM TITLE: Szymanowski
WORKS: Stabat Mater; Litany to the Virgin Mary; Symphony No. 3 (The Song of the Night)
PERFORMER: Aleksandra Kurzak (soprano), Agnieszka Rehlis (mezzo-soprano), Dmitry Korchak (tenor), Artur Ruci´nski (baritone); Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra & Choir/Jacek Kaspszyk
CATALOGUE NO: 90295864507

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Few conductors today are more steeped in the music of Karol Szymanowski than Jacek Kaspszyk, music director of perhaps no more ideal an orchestra for exploring that composer’s work, the Warsaw Philharmonic. All three works on this new CD also involve the Warsaw Philharmonic Choir, and this huge ensemble is captured in brilliant sound – essential for appreciating the composer’s luxuriantly detailed soundworld. 

The disc opens intimately, though, with the Litany to the Virgin Mary, from the early 1930s and the last phase of Szymanowski’s creative life. Despite being essentially unfinished, the two-movement cantata for soprano, female chorus and orchestra became a favourite work of the composer, and its devotional quality is captured in the limpid purity of Aleksandra Kurzak’s singing, who puts aside her operatic persona. Kurzak shines, too, in the last movement of the Stabat Mater (1926), in what the composer rightly felt to be one of his most beautiful melodies. Folk inspirations are fully absorbed in a score that exudes mountain-air mysticism, and Kaspszyk ensures that everything is balanced between introversion and dramatic impact.

Dating from a decade earlier, the Third Symphony (Song of the Night) inhabits a very different hothouse atmosphere, inspired by the Persian mystic Rumi. Projecting his words keenly, the tenor Dmitry Korchak has heft and a ringing top flecked with light as he hymns the stars. Sweetly unsettling violin solos add to the mood of eroticism, and Kaspszyk brings out the dancing flexibility of the central movement while controlling his forces masterfully.

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John Allison