Lutoslawski: Symphony No. 3; Symphony No. 4; Les espaces du sommeil

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COMPOSERS: Lutoslawski
WORKS: Symphony No. 3; Symphony No. 4; Les espaces du sommeil
PERFORMER: John Shirley-Quirk (baritone)Los Angeles PO/Esa-Pekka Salonen
This is the first recording of Lutoslawski’s final symphony, premiered by the same orchestra and conductor in 1992. His mastery of orchestral effect is obvious, as always – though the textures have become even sparer, individual groups being deployed with great selectivity to articulate the music’s structure.


Chamber and soloistic scoring are much in evidence. Manic woodwind sections alternate with fidgety string-dominated ideas and occasional interjections from the orchestral heavyweights, while periodically a long violin line appears, stretching itself higher and higher. Expectation and suspense are the emotional hallmarks, with the tension maintained right to the end of the 21-minute span.


The 1985 performance of the Third Symphony (1972-83) by Salonen and the Los Angeles Phil is a generally more fluent and convincing account than the one by Barenboim and the Chicago orchestra (for whom it was written during the Solti period), released on Erato last year. In between the symphonies John Shirley-Quirk takes the part originally composed for Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in the atmospheric Realms of Sleep, a discomfiting setting of Robert Desnos exploring the borderland between waking and dreaming. George Hall