Other reviewers wax glowingly over this Naxos collection of Szymanowski's beautiful choral works, but compared with Naxos' newer disc (from 2007) of the same program, conducted by Antoni Wit, it wanes in comparison, to me.
Szymanowski's Stabat Mater is justifiably cited as his greatest work, and is usually included with his Veni Creator and Litany to the Virgin Mary, as it is here. I am familiar with six recordings of his Stabat Mater: two on EMI (Rattle and Wit), one on Chandos, a live recording on Profil, and two on Naxos (this one conducted by Stryja, and Wit). They are all very good performances, but of those six, I now prefer the latest recording on Naxos conducted by Antoni Wit, instead of this one.
This recording, under the baton of Polish conductor Karol Stryja, is good; Stryja is obviously at home with Szymanowski. And Szymanowski's music is breathtakingly, hauntingly beautiful. But, compared to this performance conducted by Stryja, Wit provides the more nuanced and full-blooded performance, with idiomatic and fresher sounding soloists, and much better sound quality. What is missing here (and in most of the other recordings above, save Wit on Naxos) is mystery. In general this performance opts for slower more uniform speeds, which over-emphasizes sadness and seriousness. This is true of most other recordings as well.
The subject of Mary standing pitiably at the cross has been treated by many composers. Because of its subject matter, it provides the composer a canvas upon which to represent the most poignant emotions. Through Szymanowski's work, we experience subtle emotional contrasts, confronting the listener with mystery, urgent helplessness, anguish, and resignation - not simply sadness. I highlight that, because it is those subtleties which elevate this work and distinguish Wit's Naxos performance. I can understand why Naxos now offer the newer Wit recording, even though they already had this one.
In truth, you won't go horribly wrong with this or any of the other recordings above, but you'll miss the very special qualities of the newer one conducted by Antoni Wit