Lutoslawski: Symphony No. 2; Symphony No. 4

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COMPOSERS: Lutoslawski
LABELS: CPO
WORKS: Symphony No. 2; Symphony No. 4
PERFORMER: Saarbrücken RSO/Roman Kofman
CATALOGUE NO: 999 386-2
Interest in Lutoslawski’s fastidious yet exhilarating orchestral music has never been greater, or so it would seem from the stream of new recordings over the last couple of years. These two new releases from (it has to be said) fairly unknown artists are not perhaps in the same league as Salonen’s LAPO performances of this repertoire (on Sony), but both offer more than adequate accounts of some major scores. The CPO disc features two symphonies which, though separated by 25 years, both share the composer’s concern with creating large-scale symphonic structures in two complementary sections: in the Symphony No. 2 (1965-7) these are titled ‘Hésitant’ and ‘Direct’. The Symphony No. 4, Lutoslawski’s last major orchestral score, is recognisably a ‘late’ work, its surface textures cleaner and its workings-out more transparent than before. Between these works came what is arguably Lutoslawski’s masterpiece, Symphony No. 3 (which occupied him between 1972 and 1983). This new Polish performance has the stamp of authority, and is better recorded than anything I’ve previously heard on Naxos. The couplings are a mixed bag: the hilarious Paganini Variations are given with just the right degree of zany virtuosity, but the two song cycles are sung in rather undistinguished French. Stephen Maddock

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