Episodes from a Symphony

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Lutoslawski: Concerto for Orchestra

& Hindemith: Symphony “Mathis der Maler”

Paul Kletzki / L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande

London CS 6665

My episodic symbiosis with folk music.

Witold Lutoslawski

After Chopin, Lutoslawski was possibly the most famous Polish composer, and certainly one of the titans of twentieth century music. Like Bartok’s 1943 Concerto for Orchestra, Lutoslawski’s, from 1950-’54, shows the elasticity of orchestral forms, with individual sections given solos. It’s scoring is similar, but the Concerto makes use of a wider variety of instruments, including a piano and a bell.

While Bartok parodied Shostakovich’s 7th Symphony in his Concerto, Lutoslawski celebrates his fellow Social Realist by inserting the “DSCH” monogram in musical language in the score. The 1st movement is a monumental symphonic spree of big climaxes and ear-splitting brass. Folk songs influence the following Capriccio Notturno E Arioso, with its forbidding calm, only to let loose in a trumpet fanfare before culminating in an introspective ppp marking (the quietest notation played even quieter).

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Diminishing and thundering intermittently, the final movement starts with a passacaglia, and then increases in fierceness for the toccata. A soft chorale follows close on its heels before turning extroverted with a gigue-like ending that sounds like a collaboration between Penderecki and Handel.

Notably, Lutoslawski has signed the back of this copy, which appears on the London label. It’s a strong performance by Kletzki and the Suisse Romande. Included on the album is Paul Hindemith’s symphonic drama about the role of the artist in a totalitarian regime. Auspiciously, it premiered in Germany under the baton of Wilhelm Furtwangler, as a sort of teaser for his opera of the same name.

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