Lutoslawski: Chantefleurs et chantefables; Chain 1; Preludes and Fugue; Five Songs

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COMPOSERS: Lutoslawski
LABELS: Virgin
WORKS: Chantefleurs et chantefables; Chain 1; Preludes and Fugue; Five Songs
PERFORMER: Solveig Kringelborn (soprano)Norwegian CO/Daniel Harding
CATALOGUE NO: VC 5 45275 2
Preludes and Fugue (1972) for 13 solo strings will never be as popular as its composer’s larger orchestral works. Besides a less concert-friendly scoring, aleatoric features both local and global proclaim it as among Lutoslawski’s more avant-garde compositions. Daniel Harding, in his first recording for Virgin, stresses the piece’s craftsmanship and refinement. These are qualities for which the composer was himself famous as a conductor, yet his own version – less impressive technically as both performance and recording – has, surprisingly, more bite than Harding’s.

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The real gem here, though, is the Five Songs of 1957 in the composer’s 1958 arrangement for soprano and 30 instruments. These are critical in Lutoslawski’s discovery of his own way with 12-note materials, but rarely performed – and presently lacking any recorded rivals – due not least to their Polish texts. These settings of Kazimiera Illakowicz are beautifully imagined, sometimes exquisite realisations of the poems’ predominantly nature-based evocations; Solveig Kringelborn sings them with passion and close attention to detail.

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Chain 1 (1983) and Chantefleurs et chantefables (1989-90) – the latter settings of Robert Desnos in the composer’s beloved French, here sung by the performer who premiered them – are so exquisite that they verge on the precious. More dramatic performances would perhaps lessen the sense of a great composer ending his career by refining himself almost out of existence. Keith Potter