[ Ondine SACD / Hybrid SACD ]
Release Date: Tuesday 12 February 2019
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Witold Lutoslawski is one of 20th Century's greatest composers. He is also a remarkable symphonist. The three works on the present release performed by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Hannu Lintu, represent three important stages in Lutoslawski's career: his 1st Symphony, one of his earliest significant works; Jeux vénitiens was the first work in his best-known stylistic phase; and his 4th Symphony remained his last extensive work. Lutoslawski began his First Symphony in difficult times, during the Nazi occupation of Poland. At the time, he was making a living playing piano duos with composer colleague Andrzej Panufnik in the cafés of Warsaw. It is firmly rooted in Neo-Classicism but has none of the irony or stylization commonly associated with that style. Also, it makes no use of folk music elements, which frequently appear in many of Lutoslawski's post-war works. The title of Jeux vénitiens alludes to the fact that the work was meant to be premiered at the Venice Biennale. In the end, only three movements were performed there in April 1961, and the final four-movement version of the work was premiered in Warsaw in September in the same year. Secondarily, the title alludes to the game-like nature of its aleatoric writing. The Fourth Symphony is a product of Lutoslawski's late period at its most refined, characterized by a more nuanced and translucent harmonic approach than before, greater rhythmic clarity, a more straightforward approach and an expanded role for expressive melodic writing. These features stemmed in part from the fact that the importance of aleatoric sections was decreasing. In the Fourth Symphony, aleatoric counterpoint only accounts for about one fifth of the duration of the work. Conductor Hannu Lintu is an excellent advocate of Lutoslawski's music. Hannu Lintu recently won the Gramophone Award for his recording of the Bartók Violin Concertos together with Christian Tetzlaff and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra.
"Three key works, each from an essential point in Witold Lutosławski's career, add up to a thrilling portrait of the modern Polish master. All are played with searing energy by the Finnish Radio Symphony orchestra under the lucid baton of their chief conductor, Hannu Lintu, in equally successful performances…Captured in brilliant sound, this recording makes an unbeatable introduction to Lutosławski's world." BBC Music Award Finalist 2019
"The highlight is a slow movement whose expressive fervour, building to an apex of anguish, powerfully reaffirms its wartime genius…Superbly recorded and comprehensively annotated, Lintu's versions are worth considering, with hopefully a release of the Second and Third Symphonies to come." Gramophone
"These works are like the before and after of Lutoslawski's great innovating moment - his extension of limited rhythmic and pitch freedoms to performers, starting with the 12-minute Jeux vénitiens (1961), included here, and defining his middle career." Sunday Times
"Hannu Lintu does Lutosławski absolutely proud, securing playing of painstaking polish, infectious commitment and impressive sheen from his Finnish RSO forces." Classical Ear Five Stars
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 4