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  • Lutoslawski: Orchestral Works Vol. 2 - Symphonic Variations, Paganini Variations, Piano Concerto, Symphony no.4
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Lutoslawski: Orchestral Works Vol. 2 - Symphonic Variations, Paganini Variations, Piano Concerto, Symphony no.4 Hybrid SACD, SACD

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Lutoslawski: Orchestral Works Vol. 2 - Symphonic Variations, Paganini Variations, Piano Concerto, Symphony no.4 + Lutoslawski: Orchestral Works Vol. 3 (Symphony No. 2/ Cello Concerto) + Lutoslawski: Orchestral Works (Concerto For Orchestra/ Symphony No.3/ Chain 3) (Hybrid SACD)
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1. Symphonic Variations
2. Symphony No. 4
3. Paganini Variations
4. Piano Concerto

Product Description

CD Description

This is the third volume in the Chandos series devoted to the music of the Polish composer Witold Lutosawski. It brings together his first surviving orchestral piece (The Symphonic Variations) and his last symphony, as well as two works for piano and orchestra an early work originally written for two pianos (The Paganini Variations), and his very last concerto. The works are performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Edward Gardner, described by Gramophone as a veritable Dream Team in Vol. 1. They are joined in this recording by Louis Lortie, the award-winning pianist and exclusive Chandos artist. Lutosawski composed his Symphonic Variations while he was studying with Witold Maliszewski at the Warsaw Conservatory. When he showed the work to his teacher, he was told in no uncertain terms: For me your work is ugly. A rather disheartening response to be sure, but perhaps also proof that here was a work that was well ahead of its time. Today it fits in easily with the European tradition of variation form, and is considered a prime example of the lush, but edgy harmonies of the composer, and of his vivid ear for instrumental colour and virtuosity. Less than three years later, Poland was invaded by Germany, and normal music life disappeared. In its place, musical cafés emerged as places where light music as well as mainstream repertoire was performed. Lutosawski made his living in these cafés by playing a repertoire of light music, arranged by himself and his piano-duet partner, Andrzej Panufnik. All but one of these works were destroyed during the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. The sole survivor was the Variations on a Theme of Paganini. The version recorded here is Lutosawskis orchestration for piano and orchestra, of the original version for two pianos. Also on this disc is the Piano Concerto, the last of Lutosawskis concertante works, as well as Symphony No. 4, which Lutosawski composed over four years (1988 92), conducting its premiere in Los Angeles, with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, in 1993, just a year before his death.


Ed Gardiner and the BBC Orchestra obviously found a workable rapport here. They play four modern classics with assurance, virtuosity and, yes, fun. Lutoslawski is one of the most rewarding of 20th- Century composers, with a rhythmic and melodic gift which continually suprises. Louis Lorte is a dazzling soloist in the Piano Concerto, while the once-voguish Fourth Symphony is wonderfully well-performed.***** --Sunday Telegraph,08/01/12

For a composer who won the respect and affection of the UK concert-going public in the last 20 years of his life, Witold Lutoslawski (1913-94) has since been shamefully neglected. So it is good news that the Philharmonia Orchestra is planning a major retrospective next season. In the meantime, Chandos's excellent series of studio recordings not only helps to fill the gap but also reminds us what a craftsman the Polish composer was: there s not a note out of place, nor a crass gesture. This latest volume includes some lesser-known but far from insubstantial works the early Symphonic Variations, the jazz-inflected Variations on a Theme of Paganini for piano and orchestra, and two late masterpieces, the Piano Concerto and Fourth Symphony. The concerto is a racy, conversational work that evokes both Ravel and Rachmaninov, while the 20-minute symphony, played without a break, must rank as one of Lutoslawski's most enigmatic scores a canvas of weighty imagination interspersed with characteristically jewel-like inventions. These well-prepared performances, by pianist Louis Lortie and the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Edward Gardner, underline that Lutoslawski's oeuvre is classically wrought, full of welcome surprises and always communicative. **** --Financial Times,24/01/12

The Symphonic Variations from 1938 already show the young Lutoslawski's expertise in colourful orchestration. Here Edward Gardner and the BBC Symphony, backed up by a glittering sound, do this work proud. Performance**** Recording***** --BBC Music Magazine,Mar'12

Lortie,sensitive to the score, is magnificently scurrying in the second movement,and Gardner is hyper-keen of response,too.Together,Lortie and Gardner convey the multitude of moods here,including the darkness of the third movement.Lortie's skittering touch again enlivens the Paganini Variations, where lutoslawski's entertaining,circus-like humour comes to the fore.Gardener impresses, too, eliciting some wonderful brass chord weighting.A wonderful disc. --International Piano, Mar/Apr 2012

Something of a revelation, then, and Lortie is no less inside the Variations on a theme of Paganini(1941)- a two-piano work written for the composer and Andrzej Panufnik and heard in its 1978 revision with orchestra, where the 12 variations more clearly take on the guise of a mini concerto whose large sections culminate in a apotheosis hardly less dazzling than of the Rhapsody which inspired it. Bernd Glemser's account is duly eclipsed and this disc, with its opulent SACD sound....reasserts Lutoslawski's stature at a time when his centenary is fast approaching. --IRR, Mar'12

Throughout, Gardner secures some first-class playing from the BBC SO. Cordially recommended. GRAMOPHONE CHOICE --Gramophone,Apr'12

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Lutoslawski orchestral works 2 11 Feb. 2012
By E. S. Wilks - Published on
Format: Audio CD
Together with Grazyna Bacewicz, Andrzej Panufnik, Krzysztof Penderecki, and Mieczyslaw Weinberg, Witold Lutoslawski (1913-1994) was one of Poland's most important twentieth-century composers. Since it was founded in 1930, BBC Symphony Orchestra, one of England's leading orchestras, has been passionately committed to performing twentieth-century and contemporary music. On this new Chandos CD, the BBC Symphony Orchestra performs four of Lutoslawski's important orchestral works. This composer's mostly post-Romantic music style is not to everyone's taste, but those who love his music will certainly want to acquire this CD. The "Symphonic Variations" show the influence of early Stravinsky. At the request of the Polish-born pianist Felicja Blumental, the "Variations on a Theme of Paganini," originally for two pianos, was reworked into a piece for piano and orchestra. The Piano Concerto and the Fourth Symphony were both composed in the 1980s, several years after Lutoslawski had developed a newly melodic and often passionately lyrical musical language. Those who tend to dismiss Lutoslawski as "too modern" are encouraged to try these works. Edward Gardner coaxes fine performances from the orchestra, and the recorded sound is excellent.
Ted Wilks
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Superb Symphonic Variations, but all are superbly performed with great sound, as well!! 16 Aug. 2014
By Joseph Kline PhD, MD - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Witold Lutoslawski was the most prolific of 20th century Polish composers (and pianist and conductor) who was little known in America until 1956 when he visited the U.S. to give lectures and seminars. Lutoslawski was trained for the Polish Army Signal Corp during WW II but was captured and imprisoned by the Germans. He escaped and played piano in musical cafes of Poland for the duration of the war. He was also a composer in search of a compositional style with which he could confidently express his musical ideas, and his musical journey meandered through several influences and styles before arriving at his own. Initially, the expression of his musical ideas was limited to folk-dominated music by the post-war Polish state until finally in the 1950’s, when he devised his own methods that involved using groups of musical intervals to build his harmonic structure. He also employed aleatory in which rhythmic elements of the music are subjected to chance. This element of chance culminates in Indeterminacy in which increasing degrees of freedom are granted to the performer.

I’ve covered only a sampling of Lutoslawski’s life to give you some idea of its breadth. That life was an active one experientially as well as musically, and this album presents works beginning with the Symphonic Variations, his orchestral debut written at the age of 25, his Piano Concerto (1988), Variations on a Theme by Paganini for Solo Piano and Orchestra (1978), and his final Symphony 4 composed in 1992, just two years before his death. The works are performed by Edward Gardner and the BBC Symphony Orchestra on Chandos and were recorded in 2011.

The album begins with Lutoslawski’s Symphonic Variations, composed while the composer was studying composition at the Warsaw Conservatory. His teacher pronounced it musically incomprehensible and ugly. Nice. It depicts the influence of Stravinsky and involves a ten measure theme first presented by flute, then violins. Seven variations follow with a final coda. The music immediately captures and holds your attention, and it demonstrates how fine an orchestrator Lutoslawski had already become. The music is exciting, sometimes lovely, and sometimes powerful, sometimes stark, sometimes lush – but ALWAYS endlessly fascinating. Okay, I’ll admit it: I enjoy Lutoslawski! The rhythms, melodic elements, dynamic contrasts, orchestral sonorities, and drama make this music easy to enjoy.

The Piano Concerto was composed specifically for Krystain Zimmerman but is played here by Louis Lortie. Each movement has the tempo specified with metronome markings. The 1st movement is a driving affair with impressive climaxes. Lortie’s piano tone is beautifully rounded. The 2nd movement is marked Presto but is inconsistently so. I did not find it nearly as interesting as the 1st. The 3rd movement is slower and even less interesting. The 4th movement opens with low strings playing a quiet but agitated melodic element (really, a brief series of strongly rhythmic motifs). After 30 seconds of that introduction, the piano enters. As the movement continues and more instruments join in, those motifs dominate the musicscape. A final coda ensues that is quite exciting. Lortie demonstrates superb technique in one of the more difficult sounding piano concertos I have heard. The music is uniformly interesting and more than listenable, but I find it somewhat difficult to give it stars for beauty.

The Variations on a Theme by Paganini have an interesting history. German occupation of Poland stripped the land of its classical music opportunities, and musical cafes popped up as a new venue. Lutoslawski partnered with composer/pianist Panufnik to arrange and perform light music. They composed or arranged a considerable number of works, all but these Variations lost in the 1944 Polish Uprising. Much later, Lutoslawski arranged the Variations for piano and orchestra. These are interesting and superbly played, but I will always defer to Rachmaninov for such an arrangement.

Symphony 4 begins darkly. A clarinet sings a long, slow, rather pensive melody is soon repeated that is taken up by other instruments and instrument ensembles as the single movement symphony unfolds. Before the first tempo closes, the intensity increases, and the “movement” becomes a bit furious. The second tempo section is agitated and at times angry-sounding. Four more tempo section follow. This is difficult music to love, yet Lutoslawski felt that his later music better expressed his musical ideas. Personally, although I find great pleasure in modern music, I find Lutoslawski’s earlier works that are more easily accessible are far more enjoyable.

This album is an excellent sampling of Lutoslawski across time. Orchestral execution is superb, and Gardner is certainly in the mind of the music even if it has varying degrees of heart. Sonically, the disc is without flaw, and the music makes a big splash on an adequately amped audio system. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for the Symphonic Variations, but others may enjoy his more obtuse works as well. The latter, for me, are more enjoyable if absorbed rather than analyzed.
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