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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mid Life Evolution, 26 April 2007
By 
N. E. M. Goulder (Saffron Walden, England) - See all my reviews
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These two CD's gather together six fine examples of Lutoslawski's middle period output. It would be hard to find such a helpful selection so cheaply.

Earliest here are the five songs from 1958, a gorgeous group well sung by Halina Lukomska who is in delectable voice here. I long remember an early vinyl of her doing Pierrot Lunaire; she made a fine Pli Selon Pli with Boulez in the 1960's and I have her somewhere doing Webern's two late cantatas, also with Boulez. It's a pity she didn't get to record more.

The String Quartet (1964) has become a classic. I wrote a somewhat sceptical review of the Kronos Quartet's interpretation of it recently (available elsewhere). The Berg Quartet here, always a polished and refined group, produce a compelling performance - where the Kronos make the music feel disturbed and even manic, the Berg are collected and cultured. The exquisite closing pages are made to grow from the robust earlier sections of the main movement instead of merely being in contrast to them. Their version was recorded in 1995, with superior sound quality to the other items here.

For Paroles Tissés (1965) it's hard not to think of Peter Pears who did this so well, but this performance, conducted by the composer, is fully sympathetic.

The two other major works here, the Cello Concerto (1970) and the Preludes and Fugue for strings (1972) both suffer mildly from the dated (1970's) recordings but there's no shortage of enthusiasm in the performances. The Cello Concerto especially is a fine work, gradually gathering a place in the mainstream repertoire.

Warmly commended as a set. My greatest admiration in Lutoslawski remains his truly outstanding 3rd and 4th Symphonies, but there's plenty to enjoy here. It's a great pity that EMI did not trouble to supply texts and translations for the vocal pieces, and the sleeve is in error in reporting the Quartet as running for 33 minutes (the Berg are actually very slightly quicker than the Kronos, at 23 minutes), but these minor details should not stop you from thoroughly enjoying the set.
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Lutoslawski: Orchestral Works
Lutoslawski: Orchestral Works by Witold Lutoslawski
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