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Customer Review

7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars beware - NOT the best intro cd to this Master composer..., 3 Dec. 2010
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This review is from: Lutoslawski: Symphony No.4 (Audio CD)
Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski is now acknowledged as one of the masters of 20th C classical music using both avante-garde + his own compositional techniques to produce undeniably arresting music that is arguably more approachable + enjoyable to the most noted late 20th C modernist composers - Pierre Boulez or Elliot Carter, if not Gyorgy Ligeti.

As a Lutoslwaski fan of over ten years now - having first being converted to his music via a London Barbican weekend dedicated to his music back in the late 1990s, i would just like to add a brief review here of the Naxos release of his Symphony no.4 etc. This cd although as fine as the others in the excellent series under Antoni Wit + the Polish NRSO for intense, committed playing and interpretation - it is NOT the best introduction to his music as the choice of music for this cd is rather too austere,lacking variety + doesnt do this great composer justice i feel.

Symphony No.4 is a pretty difficult + late work by Lutoslawski (his last Symphony from 1993)which summarises many of his varied techniques into a 20 minute work. its growing on me but lacks the overt brilliance of his Concerto, or vocal works. i would recommend people approach his more lyrical Symphony no.1 then the No.3 would be best to listen to first). Likewise the Chain No.2 for Violin remains in similar subdued territories, although the earlier Funeral Music also played here,is very powerful one of the best works here (and was dedicated to Bartok).this naxos cd for me lacks the diversity of the others in the series.

go instead for the absolutely riveting vocal compositions Chanteflueurs et Chantefables, Trois Poemes + also Mi-Parti. the CD under Essa Pekka Salnonen (on Sony) is similarly excellent with a fine Chantefleurs (w/Dawn Upshaw) + the Piano Cncerto. for me the best introduction to this composer is still his Concerto for Orchestra again under Wit in the naxos budget (or under the composer himself on EMI), as a great place to convert people to his music as "among the most accesssible of the twentieth century" (Rough guide to Classical Music) as that release contains a marvellous recording of Lutoslawski's most initially attractive large scale work.

alternatively - try the "best of Lutoslawski" release on naxos - for an bargain basement edited intro selection of his works for those in a hurry..
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 3 Sep 2011 09:25:43 BDT
Last edited by the author on 3 Sep 2011 09:28:18 BDT
enthusiast says:
A note on the programming was perhaps called for. But we need more

Does three stars actually mean that you don't like these pieces that much? What do you think of the works here? Most say the 4th symphony is one of Lutoslawski's greatest works. What about the other works?

Also, for those of us who know what works we want to buy - how are these performances and recordings? Does three stars mean that these are only so-so?

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Sep 2011 20:19:21 BDT
my reviews are largely intended for the newcomer to this great 20th C Composer. on this cd i only comment on the strength or otherwise of the works in relation to Lutoslawski wider canon of which i have several other cds + a pretty decent overview. the three stars is for the music alone, not the performances. other reviews i have submitted on amazon, show Wit + his polish counterparts on naxos to be fine interpreters when compared to Salonen et al, in good clean recordings. i still maintain that newcomers are best served elsewhere . Symphony 4 is growing on me certainly. the other works are not. Mi-Parti, Concerto for Orchestra, Chantefleurs etc are my preferred works by Lutoslawki (see my other reviews if yr curious). cheers.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Sep 2011 09:39:11 BDT
enthusiast says:
Thank you for clarifying. But, just to be clear, are underwhelmed by the music (even though you are a Lutoslawski fan) or is it only that you feel the programme is a poor introduction to that composer?

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Sep 2011 12:50:08 BDT
yes as a keen fan of Lutoslawski - the music on this cd is all later works + thus much more demanding for most people, other than the hardcore modernist composer camp. this cd (despite acolytes elsewhere both on amazon + Penguin guide) contains works which all demand much more from the listener not used to post war compostion. melody, rhythymic + overt thematic development are pretty much abandoned in favour of a much more restricted palette i feel. like all composers - Lutoslawski had his off days + if i'd have bought this cd before hearing his more approachable earlier works i might never have bothered delving deeper into his canon. it was a Barbican weekend of concerts i attended in 1998 i think it was, where i heard a good overview of the composers styles + thus gradually came to love some of his more dissonant later works such as Mi-Parti ,but only after several years. Symphony No.4 + the Chain series etc continue to prove a tough listen for me. maybe im too honest by saying so - i don't award a cd 5 stars just because its had rave reviews elsewhere. hope this clarifies further. cheers.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Sep 2011 18:59:47 BDT
enthusiast says:
Thanks, Simon. I get where you are coming from, I think.

Your comment at the end deserves a response, though:

"i don't award a cd 5 stars just because its had rave reviews elsewhere"

I don't award 5 stars for that reason either .... but I do happen to love three of the pieces on this disc (but I don't know these performances) - Chain II and the Partita and the 4th Symphony. I didn't find them very difficult - it is like listening to a language that is very similar to one that I understand so that I get the gist and am somehow held, fascinated. That's why I was surprised at your 3 stars!!

My interrogation is now over!

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Sep 2011 10:12:52 BDT
Last edited by the author on 12 Sep 2011 10:13:14 BDT
the 5 star review comment was not directed at you , but at many other reviewers on amazon but ok thks for yr input + comments. may our enthusiasm for online culture continue !

Posted on 19 May 2016 20:19:51 BDT
Last edited by the author on 19 May 2016 20:22:08 BDT
KaleHawkwood says:
All I can say is this was a perfect introduction for me to this composer's wonderful music. It is a CD I play often & will continue to do so.
I really don't think his work is 'difficult' at all. I find it lyrical, big-hearted, and engrossing.
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