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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Witold Lutosławski - The Essential Lutosławski


Composer: Witold Lutosławski

  • (01) Symphony No. 3
  • (02-04) Concerto for orchestra
  • (05-08) Venetian Games
  • (09) Variations on a theme by Paganini
  • (01) Cello Concerto
  • (02-06) Dance Preludes
  • (07-09) Concerto for oboe, harp and chamber orchestra
  • (10) Les espaces du sommeil
  • (11-14) Funeral Music

Martha Argerich & Nelson Freire, pianos (CD1 9)
Heinrich Schiff, cello (CD2 1)
Eduard Brunner, clarinet (CD2 2-6)
Heinz Holliger, clarinet & Ursula Holliger, harp (CD2 7-9)
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone (CD2 10)

Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (CD1 1; CD2 10)
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (CD2 1-9)
Witold Lutosławski, conductor
Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra (CD1 2-8; CD2 11-14)
Witold Rowicki, conductor

Recording Date: 1964-1986
Compilation: 1997
Label: Philips



In a famous diatribe, Stravinsky (or rather his ghost-writer Roland-Manuel) expressed hostility to Wagner on the grounds that his music sounded ''more improvised than constructed''. To many, I suspect, the appeal of Lutoslawski is that his music sounds both improvised and constructed: brilliantly spontaneous in its details yet satisfyingly substantial in form.

In none of Lutoslawski's later works is this quality more directly expressed than the Cello Concerto of 1970, with its long, self-communing solo cadenza at the start progressing through an increasingly aggressive confrontation between soloist and orchestra to a coda in which the two learn to live together. This new Philips issue is the work's third recording, and while we may regret the current absence of the first, also conducted by the composer, with the dedicatee, Rostropovich, as soloist (EMI ASD3145, 2/76—nla), Heinrich Schiff gives an admirably sensitive and, where required, full-blooded account. The live recording, naturally balanced yet clear in that multiplicity of textural details so essential to all Lutoslawski's scores, is first rate.

The origins of Lutoslawski's more recent melodic style, with its frequent repeated notes and supple rhythms, can be heard in the folk-like ideas of the earlier Dance Preludes, winning music to which Eduard Brunner's often reedy tone is well suited. I'm a less fervent admirer than some of the Concerto for Oboe and Harp (1980). The second movement always strikes me as too long, and the composer's use of one of his more familiar devices—orchestral mass set off by solo display—comes close to cliche in both the first and second movements. There is nevertheless an agreeable lightness of touch in the outer movements, especially in the way the Shostakovich-like march theme of the finale is not allowed to generate the kind of relentless apotheosis that the Russian composer so often favoured. Performance and recording are all that could be desired.

-- Arnold Whittall, Gramophone
reviewing PHILIPS 416 817-2 LUTOSLAWSKI: Cello Concerto; Double Concerto; Dance Preludes

More reviews:


Witold Lutosławski (25 January 1913 – 7 February 1994) was a Polish composer and orchestral conductor. He was one of the major European composers of the 20th century, and one of the preeminent Polish musicians during his last three decades. He earned many international awards and prizes. His compositions (of which he was a notable conductor) include four symphonies, a Concerto for Orchestra, a string quartet, instrumental works, concertos, and orchestral song cycles. Lutosławski's music incorporates his own methods of building harmonies and the use of aleatoric processes.


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  2. Lutoslawski is a composer I'm enjoying recently. Thank you so much!