ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
Karol Szymanowski - Symphonies Nos. 1 & 4


KAROL SZYMANOWSKI - SYMPHONIES NOS. 1 & 4 - CONCERT OVERTURE, OP. 12 - ANTONI WIT (CONDUCTOR) - JAN KRZYSZTOF BROJA (PIANO) - WARSAW PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA - Naxos 8.570722

If you were to hear the Concert Overture for the first time, without knowing what was playing, you would swear that it is an orchestral work by Richard Strauss, so strong is the influence. So strong in fact that you could imagine Richard Strauss sneaking into Szymanowski's home at night and revising his manuscripts. In particular, the way Szymanowski scored for the Brass section in his early works is pure Richard Strauss, but with more muscle and determination.

Symphony No. 1 also bears the influence of Strauss, but this time Szymanowski's own personality and nervous energy take over, and like his 2nd Symphony previously reviewed on this site, exhibits a keen sense of structure and development. Imagine if you may Richard Strauss living an extra 20 years. He himself would probably have sounded exactly like this.

Symphony No. 4 is a 'Symphonie Concertante', with a piano being the prominent instrument. By this time in his creative life, this music is all Szymanowki. Much more infused with mystery and adventurous harmonic twists, but still very formal in structure and form. Emotion and logic all rolled into one.

As with the previous release of Symphonies 2 and 3, Antoni Wit lives this music and releases every ounce of energy out of every note in the score. The Naxos recordings produced in Warsaw are excellent in every way, resulting in a full-bodied and three dimensional soundscape. Well done!

Jean-Yves Duperron