Lutoslawski: Symphony No. 4; Funeral Music; Chain II; Partita; Interlude

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COMPOSERS: Lutoslawski
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Symphony No. 4; Funeral Music; Chain II; Partita; Interlude
PERFORMER: Krzysztof Bakowski (violin) Polish National RSO/Antoni Wit
CATALOGUE NO: 8.553202
Two things struck me about this disc before I had listened to a note of it. One was how welcome it is to see Naxos branching out into (relatively) contemporary repertoire. The second was that the ten-page programme notes must have lost something in translation from the Polish: they’re packed with factual and technical information, but as an introduction for the general listener (to whom I assume Naxos would like to address itself) they are totally inadequate.

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The earliest piece is the Funeral Music for strings of 1958: in concert it can be highly effective, though here I found its workings-out rather stiff. From the other end of the composer’s career comes the marvellous Fourth Symphony, composed in 1992 for the Los Angeles Philharmonic and recorded by them with Esa-Pekka Salonen (Sony). The Polish account cannot match the atmosphere or sonic refinement of Salonen’s performance, but it’s full of character nevertheless.

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The remainder of the disc is taken up with the two violin-and-orchestra pieces composed for Anne-Sophie Mutter in the Eighties, together with the Interlude which was added as a palate-cleanser. Again, Krzysztof Bakowski’s playing is highly accomplished, but lacks the intensity of Mutter’s DG recording (with the composer conducting). Still, this is a useful collection, and provides a good introduction to this most approachable of postwar giants. Stephen Maddock