Boulez conducts Szymanowski – how unlikely
is that? Probability is stretched yet further by these pieces
being two of the Polish composer’s most ecstatic and lapidary
works. After this we must not be surprised if Boulez next records
the Krol Roger
opera or even Bantock’s Love Songs of
! Perhaps the marriage is not that
given Boulez’s The Firebird
and his forays into Bruckner
and Mahler. It’s certainly no great travel between the luminous
pages of the First Violin Concerto and Stravinsky’s early ballets
and Mahler’s night music movements. The present two works along
with the orchestral song-cycles and Harnasie
my favourite Szymanowski - my hopes were very high.
Right from the very start this recording of the Concerto proclaims itself in luxury. Every bejewelled line is held up to the light in luminously glimmering sound. It has never been more beautifully recorded. Tetzlaff’s violin carries a sheen of vibrato – the merest dusting to intensify its exoticism. It’s the first time I have noticed the references to Saint-Saens’ Havanaise
as well as an ambient affinity with Korngold. The cadenza is by Pavel Kochanski. Intriguingly Boulez, in the recorded interview, says that he prefers the first violin concerto over the second. He also mentions that, as a student, he was much struck by the Fontaine d’Arethuse
which he heard at a Jacques Thibaud concert.
Of the four symphonies Boulez was most drawn to the Third - by its music, obviously, but also by the religious-philosophical text by Rumi. It’s fascinating and its allure is contributed to by tenor Steve Davislim rather than the soprano used by Witold Rowicki in his classic analogue recording. He sounds very idiomatic as he does also in the Vierne and Chausson he recorded for Melba
. The recording is just superb and picks up details previously lost to my ears including that doomed drum-beat. The solo violin again plays a critical part rather like a trusted helpmeet yet the part is also freighted with an unnerving sinuous seduction. The choral writing is close to Delius, the glowing lambency of Moeran’s Nocturne
and the translucent ecstasies of Flos Campi
. Every detail is in place.
There are other aspects to this set. Do they signal a trend? Package 49 minutes of music on one CD and add three different 15 minute conductor interviews – each in a different language - on a second CD. Encase them in an undeniably elite hardback book of 40 pages enlivened with a mix of session photos and historic images of Szymanowski. Then charge £17.00 - that’s MDT - or if Amazon: £21.99. It must be conceded that even if the two works were sold as one CD they would make short commons. As for the book – certainly a lovely thing – just seven of the 40 pages are taken up by the English language essays. There is, I am pleased to say, a very sensibly laid out full text for the Symphony and translations into English and other languages.
A deluxe presentation then – and a price to match - for these two headily exotic works. I wonder whether Boulez and DG will return to Szymanowski for the Stabat Mater
, Sinfonia Concertante
and Krol Roger