Witold Lutoslawski, Orchestral Works, Vol. 1: Concerto for Orchestra / Symphony no. 3 / Chain 3
BBC Symphony, Edward Gardner (conductor) (Chandos, 2010)
Witold Lutoslawski (1913-1994) is one of the more important composers of the 2nd half of the 20th century. In the early part of his career, he (like Shostakovich, Ligeti, and Arvo Part) suffered under the constraints of the narrow Soviet aesthetic and found subtle brilliant ways to express themselves despite Communist doctrines; in the latter part of his career, he defied all that and became daringly experimental, incorporating aleatory techniques (via John Cage). Chandos has begun a series to record his works. In this first volume are three of his major compositions. This record includes from his early period a brilliant Concerto for Orchestra (1950-54), a self-conscious homage to Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra (which people around here are huge fans of). It also has what most consider his masterpiece, Symphony no. 3 (1981-83), which is adventurous, somewhat avant-garde, but not atonal as such. It also includes another of his finest works, Chain 3 (1986). I'm really impressed. So I've put Volume 2, which just came out at the end of January, on my wishlist. It has his other masterworks: Symphonic Variations, Symphony no. 4, and his Piano Concerto. As usual, Chandos sound quality is superb, and Edward Gardner's interpretation is first-rate. I should add that both of these recordings were named as "Editor's Choice" by Gramophone Magazine, Volume 1 in December 2010, Volume 2 in the April 2012 issue. (And that's only a sampling the fine reception the first has received and the second is beginning to receive).