Lutosławski: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2, etc.
Classical music can be stirring, somber, graceful, joyful, pleasant or gripping. Is it ever just cool? Take this two-CD set from Polish composer and conductor Witold Lutosławski. Symphony No. 1, though hardly laid-back, is completely cool. All the more remarkable, it was written secretly in occupied Warsaw during World War II. To escape the horrors, Lutosławski produced disarming, rambunctious music, drenched in shimmering colors. The opening movement is mechanical, an elaborate toy that sparkles and glows in the dark. Influenced by Béla Bartók, Lutosławski later wrote his Concerto for Orchestra, also included, which is equally fine. Don’t miss the gossamer-winged “Scherzo,” a latter-day Felix Mendelssohn with a touch of Igor Stravinsky, à la Firebird. Very cool.