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.
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.
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