Gardner’s (and Lortie’s) Szymanowski Misfires

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 6

Sound Quality: 7

Hearing this disc, you get a clear sense that neither conductor nor orchestra knows this music very well. The playing is never less than professional, but the interpretations are utterly lacking in imagination. The Concert Overture, an exercise in Straussian excess, comes off best, being suitably flashing and exciting, but the other two works are problematic.

The Second Symphony is a tough work to do well. Szymanowski more or less acknowledged as much when he re-orchestrated the whole thing at the end of his life. Full of busy contrapuntal textures, it requires imaginative phrasing and a very keen sense of instrumental balance, none of which is in evidence here. It sounds a mess. Compare this performance to Antoni Wit’s on Naxos and you will hear the difference between a dutiful run-through and a genuine performance.

As for the Symphonie concertante, the performance raises another problematic aspect of this production: the flabby sonics, which give the high strings a glassy quality and Lortie’s piano a very unattractive, wooden tone with no sparkle in the upper register. In the finale the textures clog to the point that the actual melodic line sounds somehow unconnected to the accompaniment below. It’s quite odd, and really unattractive. Does he play well? Yes. Does it matter? No. This is a release whose existence is difficult to justify.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Wit (Naxos)

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