Szymanowski: Symphonies – No 1 in F minor, Op 15; No 3, Op 27 (The Song of the Night); Love Songs of Hafiz, Op 26

Reviewed on Tue 20 Jan, 2015

Languor – that elusive quality that defines great recordings of Szymanowski – is much in evidence here. In the Third Symphony, the ever-shifting kaleidoscope of sensual harmonies and lucid orchestral colours is vividly portrayed. Gardner allows the music to ebb and flow, but without ever compromising his attention to detail. Orchestra and chorus excel, and are captured with bracing immediacy by the SACD audio. It is similar in spirit, and quality, to Rattle’s 1994 account, although Rattle retains his upper edge in the greater suppleness of his tempos and more intuitive logic of his phrasing. Ben Johnson is a noble and passionate soloist with excellent tonal control and diction. He is effective in the Hafiz songs, though occasionally risks being swallowed up in the opulent instrumental textures. To conclude, the First Symphony, not as rich or as sensual as the Third, but still distinctive. It, too, receives a spirited and virtuosic reading, Gardner concluding his Szymanowski cycle in impressive style.
–Gavin Dixon