* WITOLD LUTOSLAWSKI: Symphony No. 3; Chain 3; Concerto for Orchestra – BBC Sym. Orch./ Edward Gardner – Chandos multichannel SACD CHSA 5082, 69:56 [Distr. by Naxos] *****:
1983 saw the premiere of Lutoslawski’s Third Symphony, dedicated to and performed by Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. There have been a number of recordings since, and those by Salonen and Barenboim stand out. But neither of these even approaches this magnificent SACD reading by Gardner and the BBC. This work is a towering masterpiece based on a four-note repeated “E” motif that utilizes a complex and intricate development that makes superb use of the orchestra as an aid in that progression. Dramatically things simply could not be better; Lutoslawski saw himself in a mainstream tradition that started with Stravinsky and worked through Bartok, part of a great continuum of composers, and as such paid only peripheral attention to some of the techniques of the avant-garde. Here he is very concerned with dramatic thrust and reasonable continuity of form, and the results could not be more thrilling, aided by the deeply resonant surround sound and spectacular playing of the BBC musicians.
Chain 3 was a 1986 San Francisco premiere, the last of three same-named pieces that refer to a technique of overlapping textures. This piece might be called Symphony No. 3 “light” as the scoring is much more reserved in scope and the overall tone is quieter and more illuminatingly impressionistic. It makes a perfect follow-up to the Symphony.
Perhaps the most famous work of the composer is his 1954 Concerto for Orchestra, one of the defining pieces of post-war modernism. Lutoslawski was sickened by the then-mandatory conscriptions of Soviet “socialist realism”, and was able to placate the Polish authorities by using no fewer than eleven folk melodies as the melodic basis for the work. He also treated the piece as true to its title, a genuine concerto that brilliantly shows off the capabilities of the individual sections of the orchestra as well as its component sections. The contours and many dramatic interludes seamlessly form to make a piece of affecting and even riveting excitement that for me, at least, tops Bartok’s composition of the same name.
Again, the playing is wonderful and the sound simply state-of-the-art superlative. This is an essential release for anyone that loves classical music!
A posthumous release of late career Bill Evans in SACD format adds to the formidable legacy.