Lutoslawski: Piano Concerto; Chantefleurs et chantefables; Symphony No. 2; Fanfare for the Los Angeles Philharmonic

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Lutoslawski
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: Piano Concerto; Chantefleurs et chantefables; Symphony No. 2; Fanfare for the Los Angeles Philharmonic
PERFORMER: Paul Crossley (piano), Dawn Upshaw (soprano); Los Angeles PO/Esa-Pekka Salonen
CATALOGUE NO: SK 67189 DDD
Both discs claim world premiere status for their recording of Chantefleurs et chantefables, Lutoslawski’s enchanting settings of surrealist poems by Robert Desnos. It is unlucky for Valdine Anderson that her performance has appeared simultaneously with an inevitably more high-profile version from Dawn Upshaw. Anderson floats her voice quite beautifully, and is first-rate in the more contemplative numbers; but in the last resort she cannot quite match Upshaw’s combination of childlike innocence and vivid characterisation. (I particularly liked Upshaw’s hint of Mississippi drawl in ‘L’alligator’.)

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Nevertheless, if I had to choose just one of these new recordings it would be Tadaaki Otaka’s: the Third Symphony is a much more compelling and cogently argued piece than the accompanying works on the Sony disc, and it is superbly played by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. In comparison, the Second Symphony strikes me as a rather dated piece of Sixties avant-gardism, placing too much reliance on Lutoslawski’s characteristic ‘controlled aleatoricism’; while some of the neo-Romantic gestures in the Piano Concerto sound somewhat overblown. Paul Crossley meets the Concerto’s virtuoso demands admirably, though his playing does not have quite the commanding authority that Krystian Zimerman, the work’s dedicatee, brings to it on his DG recording conducted by the composer.