• Gardner/BBC SO top Polish Radio poll

Yesterday afternoon (19 January), a Polish Radio panel chose Edward Gardner’s recording of Lutosławski’s Concerto for Orchestra, with the BBC SO on Chandos, as its top recommendation for CDs of this much-recorded work.  This was no ordinary ‘Building a Library’ type of format, however.  This was an elimination contest based purely on listening, with no foreknowledge of who the performers were.

UnknownRadio Dwójka (PR 2) is Polish Radio’s cultural channel.  Every fortnight on Płytowy Tribunał Dwójki, a panel of three sits down to debate and vote on the best recorded interpretation of a selected work.  There is also a studio audience which gets its own vote.  It’s an intriguing format, one in which the panel puts its reputation on the line.  Last night, it consisted of the music critics and broadcasters Dorota Kozińska and Kacper Miklaszewski, and the conductor Wojciech Michniewski.  Jacek Hawryluk was in the chair.  Michniewski knew Lutosławski well, has conducted his music frequently, including sharing the conducting of Trois poèmes d’Henri Michaux with the composer on the 6-LP boxed set of Lutosławski’s music issued by EMI in 1978.  He was a key figure in the Breaking Chains festival in London in 1997 and in 2001 recorded a CD of Lutosławski’s music on Accord.  But I digress.

The schedule for yesterday’s ‘tribunal’ on the Concerto for Orchestra was as follows:

• Round 1: Opening of I ‘Intrada’
• Round 2: Opening of II ‘Capriccio notturno ed Arioso’
• Round 3: Opening of III ‘Passacaglia’
• Round 4: Continuation of III ‘Toccata e Corale’

After listening to the ‘Intrada’ from all six unidentified recordings, two were eliminated at the end of Round 1, then one more each round until two were left in Round 4. The results were:

• After Round 1: the two recordings eliminated were both of recordings by the Warsaw Philharmonic.  The earlier recording was conducted by the man who commissioned the Concerto for Orchestra in 1950 and gave the premiere four years later, Witold Rowicki (Philips, 1964, first released on LP).  The second recording was more recent, conducted by Antoni Wit (Dux, 2005)

• After Round 2, the composer’s own recording from 1976/77 was eliminated (EMI, first released on LP in 1978).

• After Round 3, Mariss Jansons’s new recording with the Bavarian Radio SO (BR Klassik, 2011) got the chop.

That left just two recordings.  The panel had proved itself pretty much of one mind during the earlier eliminations, and so it proved here too.

• In Round 4, the runner-up was Jukka-Pekka Saraste’s recording with the London PO (LPO label, recorded live in 2008 at the Royal Festival Hall, London, released 2011).

• The winner was Edward Gardner’s recording with the BBC SO, recorded and released in 2010 on the first of Chandos’s much-acclaimed series devoted to Lutosławski (for which I’ve had the privilege of writing the booklet notes).


The studio audience also agreed with the panel about the top recording, but chose Lutosławski’s recording as the runner-up.  While the panel preferred the three recent versions to the older ones, I was pleased to see that Lutosławski’s powerful interpretation still made an impact.


If you’ve come across Hyperion’s recent release of Juliusz Zarębski’s wonderful Piano Quintet – played by Jonathan Plowright and the Szymanowski Quartet – you may be interested that Zarębski’s work also comes up before the Polish Radio 2 ‘tribunal’ in four weeks’ time, on Saturday 16 February.  Of course, no-one knows if the Hyperion CD will be among those under discussion (my guess is that it will), but I’ll keep you posted!


UPDATE! On 24 January 2013, Polish Radio 2 responded to this post with one of its own: Wyroki Trybunału komentowane w Wielkiej Brytanii (Verdicts of the Tribunal commented on in Great Britain).  When I posted on the Tribunal’s deliberations on Zarębski’s Piano Quintet, Polish Radio 2 responded again: Adrian Thomas po raz drugi o werdykcie Trybunału (Adrian Thomas for the second time on the verdict of the Tribunal).

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