Lutoslawski: Symphony No. 2; Piano Concerto; Symphonic Variations; Little Suite

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COMPOSERS: Lutoslawski
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Symphony No. 2; Piano Concerto; Symphonic Variations; Little Suite
PERFORMER: Piotr Paleczny (piano)Polish National RSO/Antoni Wit
CATALOGUE NO: 8.553169
Two years after his death, Lutoslawski’s music seems more than ever a touchstone of patient, searching integrity, brilliant invention and impeccable craftsmanship. Both discs offer admirable new recordings of the superb, late Piano Concerto, but in different styles and contexts. The Koch version is coupled with Szymanowski’s Fourth Symphony, a piano concerto in all but name. The latter is an unlikely marriage of a perfumed exotic orchestral style with a foot-stamping peasant melody derived from Polish folksong.

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Ewa Kupiec brings out the quicksilver, agile quality of the music, a quality she finds also in the Lutoslawski; Piotr Paleczny makes the gestures broader and more expansive. Both approaches are equally convincing, but the orchestral playing on the Naxos version far outshines the Bamberg Symphony on Koch, which sounds uncertain and even scrappy at times. The Naxos disc also has the advantage of giving a fascinating overview of Lutoslawski’s output, from the astonishingly sure-footed Symphonic Variations, written when the composer was 25, through the delightful folk-inspired Little Suite, to the ground-breaking experiments of the Second Symphony. An excellent disc at a bargain price – but if you want the very best version of the Piano Concerto then Lutoslawski’s own version on DG is the one to go for. Ivan Hewett