Valery Gergiev / London Symphony Orchestra

Szymanowski: Symphonies Nos. 3 & 4; Stabat Mater

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For the second of their two SACDs of the symphonies of Karol Szymanowski, Valery Gergiev and the London Symphony Orchestra present the Symphony No. 3, an evocative choral work subtitled "Song of the Night," and the Symphony No. 4, subtitled "Symphonie concertante." Featuring tenor Toby Spence with the London Symphony Chorus, the Symphony No. 3 is a three-movement setting of Polish translations of poems by Rumi, and the music is brooding, exotic, and passionate by turns, often showing the pronounced influence of Alexander Scriabin in its ecstatic outbursts. The Symphony No. 4 features pianist Denis Matsuev as soloist, and the piece functions in almost every respect as a piano concerto. It is strikingly scored with delicate orchestral touches influenced by Maurice Ravel, and despite its apparent seriousness, it is the lightest of Szymanowski's four symphonies. Sandwiched between these works is the Stabat Mater, featuring soprano Sally Matthews, mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Gubanova, bass-baritone Kostas Smoriginas, and the London Symphony Chorus, an austere, brooding work that stands in stark relief between the more colorful symphonies. These live audiophile recordings do credit to Szymanowski and his intensely wrought scores, and make a compelling case for including these neglected works in the standard repertoire.

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