Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us

Lutosławski Woven Words

Musique funèbre & Piano Concerto
Ravel Daphnis et Chloé

Krystian Zimerman (piano) Philharmonia Orchestra & Voices/Salonen

Royal Festival Hall January 30, 2013

Esa-Pekka Salonen & Steven Stucky launched this centenary festival, hoping to revive the posthumous fortunes of this great composer, one of my favourites of the late 20th C, who had once observed that "dying is a poor career move" !

Their informal conversation before a sizeable audience shared some personal experiences; Stucky rightly recommended purchase of the substantial programme book, with URLs to important background sites including film clips; I have been delighted to discover amongst many clips on YouTube including, at random, part of a 1984 documentary "Open Rehearsals with Witold Lutoslawski" produced for the USC School of Music, made at a time when he was also a regular visitor to UK; reviving memories of the man and musician he was.

The earlyish Musique funèbre quickly displayed his wonderful and very personal sense of harmony, form and orchestral timbre, without cheap special effects. Two climaxes, and the ending niente, became reminders of his unerring mastery of scale and direct expression.

Most important, and well chosen for this first concert, was the piano concerto - not a quick favourite when new, nor in the recording by Krystian Zimerman [L]. But hear it from Białystok with the young Paweł Kowalski playing it by memory in 2008 ! (Zimerman didn't !)

Paweł Kowalski , DOl9jA4HEZk and YbhCWErB9OI

Listened to live again now from Zimerman & the Philharmonia at the RFH (from a good seat on the non-keyboard side) balance was superb and it was exciting and riveting from first bar to the last - received in total silence by a near full RFH audience and greeted with prolonged ovations. No microphones in evidence; perhaps the Philharmona will take it to the studio...

The Ravel, a showcase for orchestra and conductor, was so good that I feel free to express my long held reservations about it as a concert work. The large choir raises expectations, but their wordless contributions don't satisfy them. It is too episodic in response to the scenario, with not a few longueurs. It really needs to be restored as a ballet, but where now is there a large enough theatre pit as, so I am told, Paris used to have in the days of its premiere's and Stravinsky's Rite?

Peter Grahame Woolf