Sungu Okan | Istanbul, Istanbul Turkey | 08/11/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a good recording for begginers to Lutoslawski and already-know-Lutoslawski admirers. Antoni Wit is a champion on perform the musics of Lutoslawski and Penderecki (even so Mahler too, released on Naxos).
There is a Bartokian and modal Overture, also it is a succesful early-work with his 1st Symphony. Concerto for Orchestra is already known and his more modernist and most famous work. But, I think that, the star of this CD is Three poems of Henri Michaux. I supose, this is the most pshycopat choral work of 20th century. Even so, this work won 1st prize in a competition of UNESCO. The poems are French (libretto including with Eng. translation) and the using of chorus are extraordinary. I like especially the second movement, Le Grand Combat. This is very terrific, wild and impressive.
A good recording of 'Concerto', and the best 'Mi-Parti' avai
JohnWYC | Hong Kong | 05/26/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"We must thank Naxos and Wit for their committed efforts in recording 20th century Polish music, especially of their continuing series of Lutoslawski's complete orchestral works.
Lutoslawski is one of the most innovative composers of the mid-late 20th century, and the recording here (as in other volumes) brings together works from both Lutoslawski's earlier, folk-inspired era (Concerto and Overture) and the latter, semi-aleatoric era (Poems and Mi-Parti).
'Concerto for Orchestra' is famous enough, so I won't go into details here, but I would certainly have liked more crisper, precise rhythms in the 1st movement.
The Camerata Silesia demonstrate full confidence in the semi-aleatoric processes going on in the 'Three Poems', based on Michaux's surrealist poetry. Lutoslawski's new style was gradually taking form, and so this work is rather experimental in nature, paving way for the coming vocal masterpieces 'Paroles tissees' and 'Les Espaces du Sommeil'. His semi-aleatoric style is well suited to the hissing and shouting required by the text in 'Le Grand Combat'. This is great fun to listen to. The last poem of the work, 'Repos dans le malheur', an ultra-condensed requiem in a sense, is hauntingly beautiful. (There is a misprint on the CD. 'Repos' should be track 6, while 'Combat' should be track 5.)
'Mi-Parti' is one of my favourite Lutoslawski works. Although written in the seventies, its long, beautiful catilenas predate the composer's Symphony No. 4 and 'Les Espaces du Sommeil' in the coming decade or so (they are recorded on vol. 1 and vol. 3 respectively). There are lush string sonorities, with flute bird-calls above, and the piece gradually builds up to a climax, followed by a wistful coda (played by strings) ascending into heaven. Indeed, 'Mi-Parti' would've served well as a short symphony. Analyzing on a more academic aspect, Lutoslawski employs 'vertical/harmonic serialism' here (as opposed to Schoenbergian horizontal/melodic serialism'). Chords are built using all 12 notes of the chromatic scale, yet Lutoslawski spaces the notes widely, so that the harmonies sound amazingly consonant, even neo-romantic, especially by the use of major and minor thirds/sixths. The two-part structure (as implied by the title) is a signature of Lutoslawski's later works (Symphonies Nos 2, 3, and 4).
'Overture for Strings' brings us back to the composer's earlier neo-classical era. A harmless little piece with quirky harmonies that make one smile.
The sound, though not the best in the series, is more than good. I would've liked a clearer bass though.
This is a good introduction to Lutoslawski's music, and at Naxos' price, you can't just sit here wondering. Go give this a try, especially for 'Mi-Parti', it might open the door to contemporary classical music for you."
5 stars for half the disc
Perry Townsend | New York, NY USA | 11/20/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"That would be, the mature half ("Mi-Parti and "Trois Poemes"). The Concerto is good but not remarkable or terribly inventive, and the Overture is practically juvenilia. However, despite another reviewer's assertion, I'd argue that indeed Lutoslawski "found himself" in the modernist works of the 60s through 90s, starting with "Trois Poemes". If his career had ended before this point, he would be considered a very fine & skilled composer indeed, but not one who forever changed the contour of the language. These works and others from his mature period are central to 20th century repertoire.
The performances of both works are very strong, esp. the "Mi-Parti" which is exquisite. I agree Luto's own recording of "Trois Poemes" is more laser-beamed and on the money, though Wit's is certainly fine. This disc is well worth buying for these 2 works alone, even though the other 2 are largely ignorable.
One note: The disc packaging gets the movement order wrong in "Trois Poemes". "Le Grand Combat" is the crazy, babbling, screaming middle movement (hence the title), and "Repos daus le malheur" is the hauntingly elegiac finale."
Solid pieces with variety, though not Lutoslawski's best
Christopher Culver | 08/03/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This Naxos disc, the fifth installment in a collection of Lutoslawski's orchestral works, brings together four pieces by the Polish composer from the two different halves of his output. "Overture for Strings" and "Concerto for Ochestra" represent the relatively simple, Bartok-like composer, while in "Three Poems by Henri Michaux" and "Mi-Parti" we see an important contribution to modern European music. Antoni Wit conducts the Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra, and in "Three Poems" the Camerata Silesia led by Anna Szostak appears.
The "Concerto for Orchestra" (1950-54) is a result of Lutoslawski's turn to folk music inspiration in the late 40's and early 1950's, when the Stalinist condemnation of "formalism" made it impossible to produce anything else. three movements. The concerto is in three movements. The opening Intrada has as its foundation an F sharp from the timpani and basses, but towards the end it shys away from pomp and grandeur towards gentle melodic writing. In the second movement, "Capriccio notturno e Arioso", woodwinds are given pride of place before an impressive series of variations is presented on the bass line. The last movement, "Passacaglia, Toccata e Corale", is longer than the first two combined. Inspired by the chorale of Bartok's similar concerto, it starts small and ends big, with all of the orchestra's forces unified at last. Because of its accessibility the concerto is Lutoslawski's most-performed piece, and it is very entertaining. Yet, I find it's not enough. Listening to this, I'm reminded of the symphonies of Shostakovich, enjoyable music of technical elegance which due to communist censorship lack the original insight they could otherwise have presented. This piece certainly doesn't compare to Lutoslawski's works from 1960 to the early 1990s.
"Three Poems by Henri Michaux" for chorus, strings & percussion (1961-1963) show enormous progress, because with Stalin's death the proscriptions against formalism were (slightly) lessened, and Lutoslawski found fresh ideas from Darmstadt. The opening "Pensees" bears a striking resemblance to the "Beneath the Waves" section of Sofia Gubaidulina's later "Hommage a Marina Tsvetaeva" (if the Russian-Tatar composer wasn't inspired by this piece I'll eat my hat). The vocal writing is dense, even micropolyphonic, and the manner of singing frenetic and confused. The second poem "Repos daus le malheur" begins with babbling from the female vocalist intertwined with shouts from the male vocalists. Here the low percussion becomes a major player. The last "Le Grand Combat" is elegiac This is wonderful music, and a rare part of Lutoslawski's output in that it's the closest he's even gotten to Ligeti.
"Mi-Parti" for symphony orchestra (1975-1976) is a single-movement work in two parts. In the first part, eight chord aggregates of twelve notes each provide a background harmony from which melodic lines arise. Phrases are increasingly shortened, creating suspense and tension. The second part can itself be seen as two sections, each beginning with brass.fanfare. This is a very ghostly-sounding piece, and though hailed as a masterpiece, Lutoslawski himself was critical of the work's complexity, and resolved to use simpler chords in the future. This resulted in the clear and open sounds of his final phrase, inaugurated by the Third Symphony.
"Overture for strings" (1949) is a throughly unremarkable piece.
Performances are solid here, and production values are wonderful. The Naxos line of Lutoslawski pieces with these performers and conductors rarely disappoint (I can think only of their "Piano Concerto"), and I have no complaint about this disc here. While none of these pieces are as strong as the composer's Third Symphony or his Piano Concerto, this disc makes a worthy purchase once the listener has heard more renown part of this great Polish composer's oeuvre."
Waiting for the Definitive Recording of the Concerto for Orc
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 06/04/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Witold Lutoslawski's importance in the catalogue of classical music grows with every year since his death in 1994. His long association with particular orchestras in this country (especially the Los Angeles Philharmonic for whom he composed his Fanfare 1993 and awarded the premiere recording of his Symphony No. 4) makes his music available to just about every major orchestra and audience. His creative orchestration rivals the finest of any composer of the last century and the works contained on this CD reflect a fairly wide range of his gifts. Of all the Lutoslawski works his 'Concerto for Orchestra' 1954 remains the most popular despite the fact that his four symphonies and his song cycles find more and more frequent performances. Apparently Lutoslawski wished the attention given to his Concerto for Orchestra would fall into the shadow of his more 'major' works, but audiences continue to be swept away by the sheer drama and technical brilliance the piece affords.
Antoni Wit has long been a champion of the works of Lutoslawski, Gorecki, Penderecki and the other important Polish composers and his performance here with the National Symphony Orchestra of Polish Radio and Television gives the Concerto its due. But a substantial, adequate performance is all that is offered. Lutoslawski loved conducting his own works (his presence in front of an orchestra was one more of profound respect for his compositional techniques rather than his ability in baton technique!) and yet even the few recordings of the composer conducting his compositions fail to reach the heights heard in the halls of the great orchestras. We still must wait for a definitive recording, but until that time Wit recreates some of the glory of the score.
While many may purchase this CD in hopes of a truly fine Concerto performance, the other works included here are very well played: the Overture for Strings is particularly clean, and the Henri Michaux poems for chorus, strings & percussion and the Mi-Parti are radiant. The quality of this Naxos recording lacks presence, but that is the only flaw in this very inexpensive introduction to works by Lutoslawski. His time is now and hopefully better recordings will follow soon. Grady Harp, June 07 "