LABELS: IMP BBC Radio Classics
WORKS: Symphony No. 3 (The Song of the Night) ; Symphony No. 4 (Symphonie concertante)
PERFORMER: Philip Langridge (tenor), Piotr Paleczny (piano); BBC Singers, BBCSO& Chorus/Norman Del Mar, Mark Elder, Andrzej Panufnik
CATALOGUE NO: BBCRD 9124 ADD
Plenty of reason to cheer Mark Elder’s Szymanowski Four. Nominally a pot-boiler Szymanowski stitched together when strapped for cash late in life, it can boil over too, if one isn’t careful; at worst, it’s like Rachmaninov undigested; at best, it’s a winner, with the kind of magic found in Bartók’s Third Concerto.
Elder conjures a whole gamut of beautifully clear textures, ranging from the Busonian piano writing of Szymanowski’s early sonatas to the mountain music that infuses much of his late output, and wins exceptional playing from all departments, including the BBC strings. (Paleczny also plays solo on the EMI Matrix account, paired with Harnasie, a work soaked in that same, wistful mountain music.)
Del Mar’s Symphony No. 3 doesn’t quite work. The big choral sections are rather stodgy, the seams feel flabby, and Langridge – surprisingly – doesn’t achieve nearly the presence of Jon Garrison on Rattle’s EMI, let alone of Wieslaw Ochman (on both Matrix, paired with Kaspszyk’s fine Symphony No. 2, and Marco Polo, with No. 4).
The Panufnik may make up your mind. Despite the rather over-busy ostinatos with which he builds his climax (or doesn’t) later on, the early stages of his symphony are beautifully delicate and shimmering. There’s a powerful, silkier Boston version from Ozawa, well paired with Sessions, and definitely not to be sneezed at. But this is Panufnik’s own word, and worth having for that alone. Roderic Dunnett