Karol SZYMANOWSKI (1882-1937)
Op.53 (1925-6) [23:25]
Op.55 (1923-31) [34:59]
Lucy Crowe (soprano), Pamela Helen Stephen (mezzo), Robert Murray (tenor), Gábor Bretz (baritone)
BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus/Edward Gardner
rec. Fairfield Halls, Croydon, England, January 2013
SACD Surround reviewed.
waiting several years for modern recordings of Szymanowski we are
suddenly being presented with several at once including two complete
sets of the symphonies. This is excellent because for all that
Szymanowski is not regarded outside Poland with quite the respect he
gets at home, his music is undoubtedly well worth hearing. Some of it
achieves real importance: I would suggest King Roger, the Stabat Mater
and the First Violin Concerto are amongst the loveliest pieces of the
early to mid-20th century.
This disc arrived along with another recording of the Stabat Mater
from LSO Live conducted by Gergiev so comparisons were inevitable.
As I say in the other review (yet to be published), there is little
to choose as regards the orchestral playing and choral singing save
that the LSO Chorus sounds bigger than the BBC Symphony Chorus. Gergiev
takes much the same time overall as Gardner. The big differences are
twofold: the recordings, in which this Chandos comes out far the best,
and in the female soloists. Lucy Crowe especially has a beautifully
clean and pure voice and makes the most ethereal sound in this gorgeous
music. Her partnership with Pamela Helen Stephen is a joy to hear.
The recording was made in the Fairfield Halls and works extremely
well. Heard in surround a lovely spaciousness is achieved. This, combined
with some judicious spot miking, results in a very finely detailed
recording with no loss of impact even in the quietest moments. Well
done to engineer Ralph Couzens and his team.
The impact of the ballet Harnasie here far
exceeds that of my other two recordings dating from decades ago. This
is an exotic and evocative score full of lush sounds and lively drama.
Unusually for a ballet the forces include chorus and tenor soloist
which will have made performances very few and far between. Harnasie has much in common with Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe
though only the most indulgent could suggest the music is as good as
Ravel's great masterpiece. The detailed notes describe how the composer
immersed himself in the culture of the Tatra mountain region of Poland
during the long gestation of his score. It is certainly a far more
rhythmic and dramatic invention than the Stabat Mater and makes a nice contrast on the disc.
This is the second disc of Szymanowski recordings being made as part of Chandos' Musyka Polska
series. All the others have been of Lutosławski. One assumes that the
most important of Szymanowski's remaining works will appear in due
course (Third Symphony and First Violin Concerto perhaps?) and Chandos
do suggest at least one more release is being prepared. On the strength
of the present SACD it will be worth waiting for.