ALBUM TITLE: Lutosławski
WORKS: Piano Concerto; Symphony No. 2
PERFORMER: Krystian Zimerman (piano); Berlin Philharmonic/Simon Rattle
CATALOGUE NO: DG 479 4518
Krystian Zimerman has recorded Lutosławski’s Piano Concerto before, even for the same label: as dedicatee, he not only gave its premiere in Salzburg in 1988 but made the first recording under the composer’s baton soon afterwards. He has lived with the work ever since, and over a quarter of a century on his performances of it mix complete authority with fresh, questing spirit, as if he were laying out the notes for the first time. So there is not just room but need for another recording from him, especially with such outstanding forces as the Berlin Philharmonic. Zimerman injects both delicacy and virtuosity into the dialogue with Simon Rattle’s orchestra, and also holds the key, as probably only a Pole could do, to the serious yet wistful undercurrents of this work. Yet Rattle’s own input is distinguished; well known for his affinity with Szymanowski’s music, he conducts this with a similar ecstatic beauty, suggesting a plausible if unexpected kinship between these two great Polish masters from opposite ends of the 20th century.
The slightly distant recorded sound is no disadvantage here, but a little more immediacy in the live recording of Symphony No. 2 might help. With its dense harmonies and ad libitum explosions, this belongs to an earlier Lutosławski phase. But it is still a work of warmth, and who better to summon up that than the luxurious-sounding Berliners? John Allison