Review By Richard A. Kaplan ,Fanfare,November 2010
This attractively packaged CD is labeled Sinfonia Iuventus and Its Soloists, Vol. 1. The Sinfonia is a professional youth orchestra; that is, its members are recent graduates (and students) from Polish conservatories. Similarly to Florida’s New World Symphony, the members are age-limited; when they reach 30, it’s time to move on. The aim of the series of recordings inaugurated here is not only to showcase the orchestra, but to spotlight one of its especially gifted members with each release. This is therefore as much Waldemar Zarów’s CD as it is the orchestra’s; indeed, he is featured in three of the four works, or well over half the total duration. A more traditional approach would have been to present a program of representative orchestral works
To cut to the chase: Young Zarów is a superb talent indeed, with a full, dark, plummy sound and a consummate technique. His selection of pieces is intriguing: no Mozart or Weber here; only the Debussy could be regarded as standard repertoire. This work, more colorful in its orchestral garb than in the more frequently heard original version with piano, is a study in instrumental control—breath control in its long phrases, tone control in its soft passages in the altissimo register, and finger control in its awkward passagework—and Zarów excels in every respect. The playing may seem a bit under-characterized at times, but this is for the most part introspective music, and the soloist can hardly be faulted for his tastefulness!
The Strauss, in which Zarów is joined by the orchestra’s principal bassoonist, Alicja Kieruzalska, is likewise pretty understated stuff; written only two years before the composer’s death, it is typical of the autumnal style familiar from his Oboe Concerto and the string sextet from Capriccio. The performance is top-notch, with lovely solo work from both players, and the wonderfully transparent recording allows us to hear more detail in the string accompaniment than most versions. With my longtime favorite version—by Gerard Schwarz and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, with soloists David Shifrin and Kenneth Munday—no longer listed, this version is as good as anything available.
Only in the little-known Françaix Variations—again more frequently done with piano—does Zarów allow himself to be flamboyant. Like Françaix’s wind chamber music, this piece is light-spirited but technically formidable, and Zarów dispatches it handily.
Of course, La Mer, the one purely orchestral work here, presents an entirely different sort of challenge. This is in many ways, however, a truly striking performance and recording; the playing is remarkably polished, with t