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Karol SZYMANOWSKI (1882-1937)
CD 1
Violin Concerto No. 1 Op.35 (1916) [25:49]
Violin Concerto No. 2 Op.61 (1932-33) [22:24]
Symphonie concertante Op.60 (Symphony No.4) (1933) [24:18]
CD 2
Symphony No.3 Op.27 'Song of the Night' (1914-16) [24:48]
Litania do Marii Panny Op.59 (1933) [9:26]
Demeter Op.37b (1921) [7:53]
Stabat Mater Op.53 (1926) [25:56]
Konstanty Kulka (violin); Piotr Paleczny (piano); Wieslaw Ochman (tenor); Jadwiga Gadulanka (soprano); Jadwiga Rappe (mezzo); Andrzej Hiolski (baritone)
Polish Radio Chorus of Krakow
Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra/Antoni Wit; Jerzy Maksymiuk (Symphonies 3, 4)
rec. Polish Radio and Television Studios, Katowice, Poland, September 1978, October 1979, November 1983. ADD, DDD
EMI CLASSICS 2068702 [72:55 + 68:37]
Experience Classicsonline

The profile of the Polish composer Karol Szymanowski is rapidly rising; his music only just recently bursting onto the scene, after being largely overlooked during his lifetime. This disc from EMI is an excellent addition (or is it a return?) to the catalogue, presenting some of his major works.
 
The two-disc set opens with his two virtuosic violin concertos. Both essentially in one long movement, they were written for his close friend, the violinist Pawel Kochanski, who was allowed to compose his own cadenza for each. The first concerto is an ethereal work, with serene spells of other-worldly music contrasted by more frenetic passages and the odd burst of purely lyrical romanticism. It could almost be film music depicting another planet! The opening of the second concerto is at first gentle and tender, before a more martial and petulant mood develops. After going through some turbulence, the work ends in joyful triumph – as a whole, it appears far more of this world than the first concerto’s other-world. Both concertos are performed radiantly, ecstatically, as soloist Konstanty Kulka imbues them with passion, fire and spirit (he has also recorded the same works for Naxos: 8.553685).
 
The Symphonie concertante concludes the first disc. It was written for the composer as the solo pianist, and is counted as his Fourth Symphony. The high-spirited first movement is followed by a more lyrical movement, and the work ends in a blaze of turbulence. Again, the performance is of the highest quality - neither soloist Piotr Paleczny nor the Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra hold back.
 
The Third Symphony Song of the Night opens the second the disc. It was composed for chorus, tenor and orchestra, and sets verses by the Sufi mystical poet Jalal ad Din ar Rumi, in which “the beloved” is a metaphor for God, the poem describing a night of spiritual union. It is a passionate performance of an intense and beautiful work – the tenor, Wieslaw Ochman, is deeply convincing, and the orchestra and chorus are committed to a highly charged performance.
 
The Litany to Virgin Mary is a moving work of raw emotion, and is well sung by Jadwiga Gadulanka. It is followed by Demeter with Jadwiga Rappe the rich-voiced mezzo-soprano soloist. The disc concludes with the Stabat mater of 1926 – an atypically uncomplex work by Szymanowski’s standards, but which still retains a characteristic searing beauty. It is, again, excellently performed, with particularly sensitive playing from the wind at the opening of the piece.
 
Em Marshall

 


 


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