Review By Michael Barone,Minnesota Public Radio,February 2010
One of the foremost proponents of the ‘new’ energy in Polish music at the beginning of the 20th century, Szymanowski’s style evolved from an excellent imitator of the post-romantic ravishings of Richard Strauss (in Opus 12) to a pithier, lyric neo-classical voice (Op. 60), either of which provides a thoughtful and satisfying listening experience, particularly in this gorgeously recorded and committed performances. Explore!
Review By Steve Schwartz,ClassicalCDReview.com,February 2010
Revelatory. This CD closes out the distinguished Szymanowski symphonic cycle from Polish conductor Antoni Wit (Symphonies Nos. 2 and 3 are available on Naxos 8.570721. I will go so far as to call this disc nothing less than a revelation to me on Szymanowski. It mixes three early works with a late one, the Fourth Symphony. In general, I haven't been a fan of Karol Szymanowski's early period, a mixture of Richard Strauss and, slightly later, Claude Debussy. It's not that the music is terrible or badly-written, but much of it strikes me as second-hand, unfocussed, or unnecessary.
However, Wit's performances have begun to change my mind. Obviously, he believes in these scores. Under Wit, the Concert Overture
All in all, a distinguished contribution to the Naxos Szymanowski series.
Review By Gary Lemco,Audiophile Audition,December 2009
The solo violin (Ewa Marczyk) enjoys a concertante role…The Finale: Allegretto con moto grazioso, brings the violin back in misty colors, almost a distant cousin of the Berg Concerto. A romantic impulse emerges from the weirdly chromatic amalgam; even in the midst of mocking riffs, passion still persists. The final pages become momentarily diatonic just before the final, tympani-laden chords that announce another moment of mystical rapture.
Review By Jean-Yves Duperron,Classical Music Sentinel,November 2009
If you were to hear the Concert Overture for the first time, without knowing what was playing, you would swear that it is an orchestral work by Richard Strauss, so strong is the influence. So strong in fact that you could imagine Richard Strauss sneaking into Szymanowski’s home at night and revising his manuscripts. In particular, the way Szymanowski scored for the Brass section in his early works is pure Richard Strauss, but with more muscle and determination.
Review By Adrian Corleonis,Fanfare,November 2009
Of major interest are the two extant movements of the 25-year-old Szymanowski’s First Symphony, a bloated “monsterpiece” clotted with indigestions of Wagner, Reger, and Strauss. That is, the work is a curiosity rather than something one accepts at face value. One marvels, for instance, at its relentless contrapuntal involvement—enunciated throughout by stentorian brass…The young composer’s lurid geste of ongoing cataclysm—as if accompanying all-too-predictable flicks with titles like The Antichrist and The Thing That Ate Warsaw—affords the connoisseur, at least, tongue-in-cheek satisfactions. Wit and the Warsaw Phil turn in a taut performance, laced with genuine menace…Oddly, the earlier Concert Overture is a
With the “Symphonie concertante” and Fitelberg’s orchestration of the once-popular Étude in b♭ one encounters Wit’s latest sensuously parsing manner, which almost ran aground the Second and Third Symphonies (Naxos 8.570721). With Broja at the keyboard, the Fourth turns tentative—rather than teasing and allusive—as Wit’s direction shuffles the literal with the hectic, and Szymanowski’s glowing orchestral colors run to blowzy and garish…A spacious aural perspective nevertheless renders Szymanowski’s impacted detail with startling immediacy and clarity. De rigueur for mavens.
Review By David Fanning,Gramophone,August 2009
An impressive addition to the Naxos survey of symphonic Szymanowski
Naxos here completes its second recorded cycle Szymanowski’s orchestral works. And that apparent duplication seems less remarkable once you hear the passionate playing and exceptional musical understanding of the Warsaw Philharmonic under their general and artistic director.
Review By John Allison,BBC Music Magazine,July 2009
The main work on this new release in Naxos’s Szymanowski series is the Symphony No. 4, also known as the Symphonie Concertante for piano and orchestra. It receives the slowest recorded performance I know, yet one that works on its own terms—so convincingly that it shows how much interpretative latitude this wonderful piece can take. At the opening, with timpani tolling away underneath, the piano traces a languorously decorative line. In the middle movement, the flute solo sounds especially dreamy, and the finale, inspired by folk music from the Tatra mountains, takes on raw vigour while allowing the pianist Jan Krzysztof Broja to show his virtuosity…The Symphonie Concertante is one of the composer’s leaner works, but the same cannot be
Review By Dan Morgan,MusicWeb International,June 2009
‘Another triumph for Maestro Wit and his busy Warsaw band’, I wrote in my review of Szymanowski’s Second and Third symphonies [8.570721]. At least we haven’t had to wait too long for the First and Fourth, one still evolving musically; the other a good example of the composer’s settled, more mature style. And then there are the fillers, which make for a logical, well-balanced programme.
Review By ,Infodad.com,June 2009
The Concert Overture (1905), which clearly displays the influence of Wagner and Richard Strauss on the young composer, is a somewhat more interesting work than the similarly influenced Symphony No. 1 (1907), which Szymanowski later dubbed a “monster.” That is an overstatement—the work is not especially long (19 minutes; the Concert Overture runs 14) or especially monstrous in structure or harmony—but neither is it a very individualized piece; there is nothing especially compelling about it. Symphony No. 4, “Symphonie Concertante” (1932), is considerably more interesting, including a prominent piano part (well played here by Jan Krzystof Broja) and combining elements of symphonic structure with ones of a concerto. One thing that both more....
Review By Phil Muse,Atlanta Audio Society,June 2009
Antoni Wit, at the helm of the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, continues a distinguished survey of the music of Poland’s Karol Szymanowski (1882–1937) with Symphonies Nos. 1 and 4. This completes the cycle of the composer’s four symphonies that was begun with the 2008 release of Symphonies 2 and 3 (Naxos 8.570721). With the orchestra at the top of its form performing the composer’s luxuriantly scored music, these budget-priced releases are hard to resist.
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Review By David Denton, Naxos,March 2009
Unkindly disowned by Szymanowski in his later life, the Wagner-influenced First Symphony comes in total contrast to the Polish nationalism of the Fourth. Just twenty-five when he completed the two short movements, the work runs parallel, and in many ways similar, to Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht, often rising to erotic passages of sensuality. In that genre it is a powerful statement, made all the more so by this superb account from the Warsaw Philharmonic conducted by Antoni Wit. Twenty-five years separated this from the Fourth—also known as the Symphonie Concertante—by which time Szymanowski’s wanderlust was at an end and he had returned to his homeland. Financial difficulties certainly turned his