KAROL SZYMANOWSKI: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2 – Ewa Marczyk, violin solo/ Marek Marczyk, viola solo/ Warsaw Philharmonic/ Antoni Wit – Naxos Audio-only Blu-ray

by | Jun 7, 2011 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

KAROL SZYMANOWSKI: Symphony No. 1 in F minor Op. 15; Symphony No. 2 in B flat Major Op. 19 – Ewa Marczyk, violin solo/ Marek Marczyk, viola solo/ Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra/ Antoni Wit – Naxos Audio-only Blu-ray (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 & PCM Stereo) NBD0021, 53:11 *****:
This is this month’s audio-only Blu-ray in the series Naxos has going full swing.  The original recordings were made in Warsaw in 2007 and ‘08 and released on standard Naxos CDs in 2009.  The originals were evidently done multichannel, and this is their greatly-enhanced release on Blu-ray.  There seems to be a discrepancy between the front and back of the box – one says these are 96K/24-bit recordings and the other that they are 88.2/24-bit recordings – not that that would be that hearable a difference. Also, since we’re waxing technical, there is no video display with all these discs – they are only taking advantage of the high quality lossless surround tracks offered by Blu-ray (which to my ears are indistinguishable from multichannel SACD). However, the box says if you are not using a video monitor, just press Play on the remote for the disc to start up. It’s not always that easy – there can be quite a long delay and often I find it stays stuck at Track 1, which evidently is only data. It is when it finally switches to Track 2 that the music begins.
Critics have been highly complimentary of the Szymanowski recordings by Antoni Wit and the Warsaw Philharmonic.  They seem to be highly in tune with the musical language of their countryman Szymanowski, and communicate his colorful and lively music with gusto. The composer had a change of heart about the quality of his First Symphony, which is only 18 minutes long. He even called it a “contrapuntal-harmonic-orchestral monster,” and felt embarrassed by its influences from Wagner, Reger and Richard Strauss. While not representing the general style the composer eventually settled on, it is still a most exuberant work and fun to hear.
The Second Symphony, like the first, is only two movements but clocks much longer at about 34½ minutes. The opening movement is full of sensual passion and power, and seems – like much of Szymanowski’s music – to show the influence of Scriabin, while its grandiose sound may remind one of Mahler. The second movement is a theme and six variations of many designs and colors, ending with a  strong Fuga variation that is much longer than the other five. Since they are not limited to the 80 minutes of CDs & SACDs, Naxos could have given us a third Szymanowski recording here conducted byAntoni Wit, but they didn’t.  Sonics are of course superb.
— John Sunier

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