Lutoslawski: Chantefleurs et Chantefables

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COMPOSERS: Lutoslawski
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Chantefleurs et Chantefables; Les espaces du sommeil; Paroles tissées; Silesian Triptych; Lacrimosa; Sleep, sleep
PERFORMER: Lucy Crowe (soprano), Toby Spence (tenor), Christopher Purves (baritone); BBC Symphony Orchestra/ Edward Gardner
CATALOGUE NO: Chandos

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Lutosławski’s Chantefleurs et Chantefables is one of his best-loved scores. It makes a fitting climax to this programme of music for solo voice and orchestra, the second disc in Edward Gardner’s Lutosławski series. Premiered at the Proms in 1991, Lutosławski’s penultimate work consists of nine miniatures conjuring up animals and plants from a child’s perspective, and the BBC SO’s performances here sparkle brilliantly. Lucy Crowe deploys an impressive palette of soprano colours.

It’s rare to find a Lutosławski survey stretching back as far as the Lacrimosa of 1937, also for soprano and orchestra, written in the shadow of Szymanowski and affecting in its devotional style. As Adrian Thomas says in his typically illuminating notes, this is the only fragment of a projected Requiem and the only sacred piece in Lutosławski’s output. More mainstream Lutosławski strands from the 1950s are well represented too: from the composer’s socialist realist period we hear the Silesian Tryptych, haunting pieces that show how he used folk material to non-propagandistic effect. Sleep, sleep is typical of the children’s songs in which he excelled, anticipating the late mastery of Chantefleurs et Chantefables.

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By 1965, when he wrote Paroles tissées for Peter Pears, Lutosławski was already drawing back from a 12-tone period, and there is lyricism under the surface of these extremely delicate songs. Toby Spence is on mellifluous form here, and Christopher Purves is no less subtle in the nocturnal cycle Les espaces du sommeil, composed in 1975 for Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. An attractively varied, highly accomplished release. John Allison