Lutoslawski Double Concerto for Oboe, Harp and Chamber Orchestra

A lighter side to the Polish composer alongside a brilliant, colourful concerto

Author: 
Arnold Whittall

Lutoslawski Double Concerto for Oboe, Harp and Chamber Orchestra

  • Double Concerto
  • Dance Preludes
  • Chain 1
  • (2) Children's Songs
  • (6)Children's Songs
  • Grave

Volume 8 (the last?) of the Naxos Lutos
awski series is nothing if not diverse, with several short pieces originally written for voice or instruments with piano alongside two attractively adventurous scores from the early 1980s.

Eight of the large number of children’s songs which Lutos
awski composed in the years immediately after the war remain attractive and unsentimental offerings in folk style, and they are probably most effective when performed, as here, by an adult mezzo: in particular, the broad lyric lines of ‘A Brook’ benefits from Urszula Kryger’s vibrant legato, and she avoids excessive coyness in the comic items. The Dance Preludes are most familiar – and work best – in their version for clarinet and piano. Similarly, the brief later Grave, in an arrangement for cello and strings, seems almost overloaded texturally. But these orchestrations were the composer’s own, so it’s right that they should be available on disc, and the performances here – as throughout – are admirable.

The Double Concerto which Lutos
awski composed for Heinz and Ursula Holliger is a fine example of his ability to use immediately accessible materials in imaginative and far from conventional ways, and there are few better instances of genuine comedy in 20th-century music than the concerto’s finale, which perfectly complements the dirge-like atmosphere of the middle movement. Best of all, Chain I, written for the London Sinfonietta in 1983, recaptures the boldness of colour and febrile juxtapositions of diverse materials, from the most poetic to the most exuberant and joyful, which first brought Lutos
awski to international notice in his Venetian Games. The Naxos recording lacks perspective, but music of such energy and eloquence is not seriously disadvantaged.

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