London Philharmonic Orchestra, Vladimir Jurowski, Elżbieta Szmytka/Agnieszka Rehlis
Royal Festival Hall, London, 5th March 2016
Klarafestival, Brussels, 11th March 2016
Szymanowski’s Stabat Mater felt burningly pure. Despite their glittering carapace of Twenties modernism, the melodies were simple and folk-like, a quality brought out by the radiantly innocent sound of soprano Elżbieta Szmytka. That, and the amazingly intense singing of the London Philharmonic Choir gave the whole piece a rapturous air, as if two different worlds had been fixed in one dazzling, impossible image. No wonder we all sat stunned at the end, reluctant to let the dream go.
This was a dramatic account of an austerely beautiful work
On 5th March 2016, London Philharmonic Orchestra performed Karol Szymanowski's Stabat Mater in London's Royal Festival Hall for the very first time.The concert was the first foreign celebration of the 1050th anniversary of the Baptism of Poland.
The orchestra was conducted by Vladimir Jurowski, the first conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO). Next to Sir Simon Rattle, Valery Gergiev and Edward Gardner, Jurowski is considered to be one of the greatest contemporary admirers and ambassadors of Szymanowski's work worldwide. Solo parts were performed by Elżbieta Szmytka (soprano), Anne Sofie von Otter (mezzosoprano) and Andrzej Dobber (baritone). The concert was attended by the Polish Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Culture and National Heritage, Prof. Dr. Piotr Glinski and his wife.
Stabat Mater has a special place among Szymanowski's compositions. Its creation was influenced by several events. Bronisław Krystall, Warsaw-based patron of arts commissioned a requiem in the memory of his prematurely deceased wife, violinist Izabela Kryystallowa. Meanwhile, Szymanowski had plans to compose Peasant's Requiem, which would incorporate echoes of lamentations and religious songs sung in countryside churches. At the same time, the composer was influenced by grief after the tragic death of his niece, Alusia.
The concert also included Alexander von Zemlinsky's Six Maeterlinck Songs, Op. 13 as well as Tchaikovsky's Symphony no. 3 (Polish), Op. 29. Stabat Mater was performed again on 11th March 2016 at the Klarafestival in Brussels. The Belgian audience heard Szymanowski's composition in almost the same rendering, and the LPO was joined by another Polish voice – mezzosoprano Agnieszka Rehlis. Besides Stabat Mater, the programme of the Brussels concert includes Sofia Gubaidulina's Sieben Worte and Alexander Zemlinsky's Psalm 23, Op. 14.