Lutoslawski, Penderecki

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COMPOSERS: Lutoslawski,Penderecki
LABELS: BIS
WORKS: Cello Concerto
PERFORMER: Torleif Thedéen (cello); Swedish RSO/Leif Segerstam
CATALOGUE NO: CD-937
Despite his well-deserved reputation as the Sixties avant-garde iconoclast with the popular touch, critical heavyweights, unwilling to forgive his subsequent backtrack into so-called neo-Romanticism, have tended to place Penderecki on a rather lower rung than his older compatriot Lutoslawki, whose popular Cello Concerto, at least in this rather underwhelming account, emerges as less the protest against totalitarian rule it’s purported to be, than urbane comedy of manners.

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Not so with the Penderecki, which manages to avoid the pitfalls which beset so many neo-Romanticists. Melodically vapid and harmonically benign, such composers, it might reasonably be argued, are never as good as the real thing. Yet Penderecki’s Second Cello Concerto, for all its vibrant, if admittedly somewhat generalised, lyricism and fastidious scoring, is not the easy touch it ought to be. Its opening gestures seem to presage a return to the earlier avant-garderie, and there will be those who will regret that he doesn’t carry through their implications in that direction. Instead, the work develops into a fascinating dialogue between the old and the new, and ends with that note of ambiguity characteristic of much of the best music of our time. Well worth the attention of cellists and sympathetic listeners alike, it receives powerful advocacy from Torleif Thedéen and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, aided by a finely engineered recording. Antony Bye