Lutoslawski: Concerto for Orchestra; Cello Concerto

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COMPOSERS: Lutoslawski
LABELS: Dux
ALBUM TITLE: Lutoslawski
WORKS: Concerto for Orchestra; Cello Concerto
PERFORMER: Rafal Kwiatkowski (cello); Warsaw Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra/Antoni Wit
CATALOGUE NO: 499
When two well-filled Naxos discs contain these works, plus a whole load of other Lutos?awski, where’s the incentive to buy this new CD? The conductor’s the same – though now with the orchestra he’s led for the past three years. Recording quality is fuller and rounder, but more resonant, which doesn’t work quite as well in the many passages where the orchestration is finely detailed. In the Concerto, Kwiatkowski just has the edge over Andrzej Bauer (on Naxos) in projection and intensity, but it’s a close-run thing, and Bauer is recorded in a more realistic perspective. Then turn to the Concerto’s dedicatee, Rostropovich, with Lutos?awski conducting on EMI, and suddenly we’re on a higher level of passion, variety of colour, and involvement, even though the recording’s 30 years old.

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In the Concerto for Orchestra, Wit surpasses his earlier recording in both precision and energy, with the opening packing a real punch. The filigree murmurings of the second movement are delivered with tight control of rhythm and phrasing, and the long finale is perfectly paced to an inevitable climax. Although the recording sometimes artificially highlights parts of the orchestra – the piano especially – it otherwise has good depth and separation. It’s certainly up there with Barenboim’s or Tortelier’s versions (on Erato and Chandos respectively), and ahead of Lutos?awski’s own on EMI, which though charged with commitment, is untidy around the edges. This showpiece needs real virtuosity, and gets it. Martin Cotton