The BBC Symphony Orchestra under Edward Gardner, music director of English National Opera and an exclusive Chandos artist, presents Volume 2 of their Polish Music series; a disc dedicated to vocal works by Witold Lutosławski. They are joined by the soloists Lucy Crowe, Toby Spence, and Christopher Purves in looking at some of the composer’s earlier works for voice and orchestra as well as three major works written after 1960: Paroles tissées, Les Espaces du sommeil and Chantefleurs et Chantefables.
Among the earlier pieces, Lacrimosa is the only surviving fragment of an intended Requiem and the only sacred work in Lutosławski’s output. In complete contrast, the Silesian Triptych was written at the height of the post-war Soviet doctrine that called for music that connected with the broad masses. In this folk-based work, Lutosławski takes three Silesian songs about the trials of love, giving them sparkle as well as depth to lift them above the mundanity of everyday life. Both works here feature the soprano soloist Lucy Crowe.
When Poland finally emerged from the cultural oppression of the post-war decade, its music scene flourished.
For Lutosławski, it was a time for personal development. In the first half of the 1960s his music had a raw energy, but by 1965 it had developed a much more subtle tone. Paroles tissées, in which the tenor soloist here is Toby Spence, simply accompanied by strings, harp, and piano, was the first work really to show this new subtlety in his works. Les Espaces du sommeil, with the baritone soloist Christopher Purves, is another prime example of the new lyrical quality that came to colour many of Lutosławski’s later orchestral works.
Chantefleurs et Chantefables is made up of nine charming and humourous songs which, inspired by the collection of childrens’ poems by the surrealist Robert Desnos, explores the vivid imagery and bright colours of the natural world through the innocent eyes of a child.
“What comes across in this anthology is that he wrote just as beguilingly for voice as for orchestra...[Les Espaces du sommeil] is a dark dreamscape hauntingly captured by Christopher Purves, while Toby Spence underlines the Britten-esque associations of Paroles tissées, written for Peter Pears...With music ranging from youth to old age, the disc adds up to a fascinating traversal of Lutoslawski’s style.” Financial Times, 27th August 2011 ****
“Toby Spence brings more muscularity to Paroles Tisées than Pears ever summoned, while Christopher Purves is a wonderfully secure soloist in Les Espaces du Sommeil” The Guardian, 1st September 2011 ****
“Poles may quibble over Lucy Crowe's command of the Śląsk (Polish) dialect. They're more likely, though, to praise the beauty of her singing and the beguiling power of music-making projected by all concerned with this disc. Gardner's understanding of and empathy for the expressive subtleties and rich humanity of this music register clearly and irresistable authority. The BBC Symphony Orchestra is on superb form” Classic FM Magazine
“Lutosławski's sensitivity to aural texture and detail puts him in a category of his own...Gardner and the BBCSO provide glowing, delicately shaded accompaniment throughout.” The Observer, 11th September 2011
“Toby Spence is on mellifluous form here, and Christopher Purves is no less subtle in the nocturnal cycle Les espaces du sommeil...An attractively varied, highly accomplished release.” BBC Music Magazine, November 2011 ****
“Lucy Crowe is in ravishing voice and displays comparable charm and composure in both the rustic Silesian Triptych (1951) and miniature 'Sleep, sleep'...Christopher Purves proves a wonderfully secure exponent in a reading which combines tingling atmosphere and arresting drama to consistently riveting effect. As for the sublimely delicate and exquisitely rapt Paroles tissees, tenor Toby Spence acquits himself with enormous credit” Gramophone Magazine, November 2011