Notes and Editorial Reviews
Edward Gardner and the BBC Symphony return to the intoxicating orchestral music of Karol Szymanowski in their third disc devoted to the composer. Ben Johnson, a tenor whose star is rapidly rising, joins Gardner and the BBC SO here as a soloist in two works. Symphony no 1 (1907) belongs to his early period, heavily influenced by German late-Romanticism. The exquisite Love Songs of Hafiz (1911), marked by fascination with oriental themes, and the ‘Song of the Night’, scored for huge orchestra with choir and tenor soloist, both feature Persian poetry set to sensuous and emotionally-charged music.
The performances are particularly cosmopolitan. And why not? The works here reflect influences from many nationalities. Johnson, whose relatively lean voice (in contrast with the Eastern European sopranos sometimes heard in this piece) is very much responsive to the text's meaning.
“The BBC Symphony Chorus sings with languid exaltation, yet it is the orchestral detail that impresses most here, right from the still, mystery-laden opening. Gardner conducts with such conviction that it is impossible not to find beauty in [Love Songs'] potentially dense Reger-meets-Scriabin soundworld.
– BBC Music Magazine