LUTOSŁAWSKI Cello Concerto. Symphony No 4
I’m not going to beat around the bush: the reason to hear this recording – and hear it you should – is Gautier Capuçon’s ear-opening performance of Lutosławski’s Cello Concerto. This work has fared remarkably well on disc, beginning with Mstislav Rostropovich’s pioneering account under the composer’s direction on EMI (1974). Rostropovich emphasised the music’s stark contrasts, its feeling of titanic, tragic conflict, and his successors have more or less followed suit. Capuçon’s interpretation takes a different approach, wresting the solo part’s often violent volley of musical ideas into longer, more lyrical lines. The sense of struggle is no less compelling but the result is more elegiac, closer perhaps to an aria than a mad scene. Even in the most ferocious passages of the finale (listen starting around 19'45"), Capuçon manages to bind the disparate phrases together – and note how expressively he renders even the smallest detail, like those sighs and groans at 21'30".
Alexander Liebreich is a sympathetic collaborator, finding moments of surprising beauty in the chaotic tangle of the orchestral part, and elicits warm, superbly articulate playing from the Polish National RSO. The communicative power of the performance is enhanced by Accentus’s close, clear recording.
Liebreich takes an even more radical approach in Lutosławski’s Fourth Symphony, homogenising the music’s textures and rounding its sharp angles. On first listen, I found his reading notably lacking in dramatic impact, particularly in comparison with Edward Gardner’s gripping version. But Liebreich’s interpretation has grown on me, and while it’s certainly not my first choice, I do admire his focus on the symphonic character of this score. Although relatively brief, the Fourth Symphony can feel episodic. Liebreich finds a channel for the music to flow more easily than I believe the composer intended – but who knows?
I have no doubt, however, that Szymanowski’s unabashedly Straussian Concert Overture requires greater differentiation of character. Liebreich’s leisurely tempos are not the issue; Antoni Wit (Naxos) is similarly unhurried, yet his performance is so richly dramatic.