Monday, July 17, 2017

Witold Lutosławski - Orchestral Works Vol. 2 (Louis Lortie; Edward Gardner)


Composer: Witold Lutosławski
  • (01-04) Symphonic Variations
  • (05-08) Concerto for Piano and Orchestra
  • (09) Variations on a Theme of Paganini, for solo piano and orchestra
  • (10-14) Symphony No. 4

Louis Lortie, piano (5-9)
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Edward Gardner, conductor

Date: 2012
Label: Chandos



Volume 2 but the third disc in Gardner’s Lutosławski series

The third volume in Chandos’s welcome Lutosławski series brings a second helping of purely orchestral fare in a programme spanning the Polish master’s entire career. Proceedings are launched in irrepressible fashion with the Symphonic Variations that the budding 25-year-old composer finished in 1938 while still a student at the Warsaw Conservatory. His teacher, Witold Maliszewski, was scathing (‘For me your work is ugly’); however, in a performance as vivacious and committed as this one, it comprises a veritable treat, for the music is personable, resourceful and witty, and scored with colourful assurance to boot.

Three years later, Lutosławski completed his Variations on a Theme of Paganini, a dazzlingly inventive showpiece for two pianos; this arrangement for piano and orchestra was written in 1978 at the behest of Felicja Blumental (who went on to give the premiere in Miami the following year). Louis Lortie makes quite a splash with it and is no less scrupulously appreciative of those dependable virtues (among them elegance of form, generous lyricism and tumbling fantasy) that distinguish the strongly communicative Piano Concerto that Lutosławski fashioned for Krystian Zimerman in 1987-88. Plaudits, too, for Gardner’s conception of the riveting Fourth Symphony (1988-92), which has both infectious involvement and considerable expressive ardour to commend it, if not quite the supreme composure and cumulative power of Salonen’s unerringly paced pioneering account with the LAPO.

Throughout, Gardner secures some first-class playing from the BBC SO; Ralph Couzens’s engineering is, needless to say, state-of-the-art. Cordially recommended – and next up, I gather, is a coupling of the Cello Concerto (with Paul Watkins as soloist) and Second Symphony.

-- Andrew Achenbach, Gramophone

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.


Louis Lortie (born 27 April 1959 in Montreal) is a French-Canadian pianist. He made his debut with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra at the age of thirteen. Lortie won First Prize in the Ferruccio Busoni International Piano Competition in 1984. An international soloist, with over 30 recordings on the Chandos Records label, Lortie is particularly known for his interpretation of Ravel, Chopin and Beethoven. He currently lives in Berlin and teaches at Italy’s renowned Accademia Pianistica Internazionale at Imola. Since 2016, he is a "Master in residence" at the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel (Waterloo, Belgium).


Edward Gardner (born 22 November 1974 in Gloucester) is an English conductor. He attended University of Cambridge as a music student, and was a choral scholar in King's College Choir. He also studied at the Royal Academy of Music, where his teachers included Colin Metters. He was music director of English National Opera (2006-2015), principal guest conductor of  the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (2011-2016). He is currently principal conductor of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra. Gardner has conducted several recordings for EMI Classics and Chandos. Records.


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