Various Artists

Karol Szymanowski: Violin Concertos; Stabat Mater; Symphony No. 3; Symphonie Concertante

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Well chosen, well performed, and well recorded, this two-disc set is an ideal introduction to the recherché art of Polish modernist Karol Szymanowski. The pieces include his two violin concertos, his last two symphonies, his Stabat Mater, and two shorter works for singer and orchestra. The performers are all Polish and all deeply committed to doing their best by the composer. Violinist Konstanty Kulka is a persuasive advocate for the exotic themes and shimmering colors of the concertos, and he is subtly and sensitively supported by conductor Jerzy Maksymiuk and the Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra. With Jerzy Semkow directing the same orchestra, pianist Piotr Paleczny delivers a brilliant account of the Symphonie Concertante (Symphony No. 4) and tenor Wieslaw Ochman turns in a stalwart reading of the Symphony No. 3, "Song of the Night." In the three works for voices and orchestra, Antoni Wit leads the same orchestra plus the Polish Radio Chorus of Kraków in stirring performances of works that are at once sensual, spiritual, and strangely effecting. Recorded in big, close, and vivid sound, anyone who can imagine enjoying music combining Strauss' colors, Debussy's sonorities, and Scriabin's ecstasies will probably enjoy Szymanowski's music.

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