This disc continues to divide opinions, it seems, but I'll chime in on the detractor side. Naxos has now anyway embarked on a second round of Szymanowski symphonies (this time with Antoni Wit), which is probably a good thing. For despite the importance of this first project with Karol Stryja, the performances are too rough and technically insecure to be entirely successful (although they're not quite disasters, and at least the performances sound committed). The company's resurrection of the first symphony may or may not have been favored by the composer himself, but this early work contains only a few interesting things and might definitely be of more historical or biographical than musical interest. Heavily Straussian (more "heavy" than "Strauss"), with dense counterpoint and harmonic opacity, it is a rather tiring experience - even so, there are faint pre-echoes of the composer to emerge, although I hate to think that anyone might be encountering Szymanowski for the first time through this work.
The second symphony is more familiar (but infinitely inferior to the third and fourth and, come to think of it, too many other works by other composers for its relative popularity to be entirely defensible), which means there are competitors - and Stryja and the Polish State Philharmonic unfortunately fall dangerously short. Again, there is a certain smoldering power here hidden under the rough, unpolished surface of this performance, and Stryja has - at least for the most part - a secure grip of the architectonics, but the orchestral playing is not entirely up to the task and nuances and textural details are lost, resulting in a rather bland and static sound picture overall. In the final fugue Stryja's approach fails as well, giving us a far too heavy-handed (ham-fisted) account, ending on a mistakenly sustained chord (I think it's a mistake, at least - at least other conductors play it staccato). The sound quality is boomy and grainy (yes, both). Good intentions, then, behind this issue, but unfortunately and undeniably a failure in the execution.