Why the LPO’s Lutosławski 3 was such a special thing this week

Perhaps the most pleasing thing about the LPO’s season opener was the range of experiences one concert has yielded.

First, attending a concert where my ears convey one impression of an acoustic to my brain, and later the way a radio mix with added reverb reflects something entirely different.

For years I’ve unwittingly sought out ‘perfection’ in performance. It’s a sure fire way of guaranteeing disappointment.

Recorded music presents us with something dry and possibly detached from the composer’s original intention. In recent years, I’ve shrugged off the expectation for everything to be note perfect.

This week I come to realise that it doesn’t really matter if the BBC adds an effect to the broadcast. What’s consistent between the live in-the-hall experience and listening back on catch-up is that the music itself – Lutoslawski 3 – is such a gratifying listen.

Until Wednesday I was completely unaware of Lutoslawski’s third symphony. I didn’t even realise he died as late as 1994. It was only when I saw someone I know on Twitter post a reference to the work (if you don’t follow George Chambers on Twitter, then you should) that I was even aware of the LPO’s concert programme. That’s how simple a process it was to get me to the LPO concert and discover something new which, three days later, I’ve listened back to a grand total of five times. That’s all it took. One person’s mildly obscure tweet to pique my interest. Time for those orchestras to start cutting back their marketing budgets.

That’s another point about what’s been rather thrilling about the LPO’s gig this week. I’ve had numerous conversations with people about it. In that way, a performance which has taken us all (kind of) by surprise, has stimulated conversations.

And most importantly for me, it was a mixture of auditorium and catch-up experiences which made playing the work to my non-concert-going OH for the first time which sealed the deal. If something I hear for the first time turns out to be something I feel the need to play to him like its some kind of earth-shattering discovery, then that says something about the music and something about the performance. 

At the risk of sounding like a soppy twat, a piece of music I heard for the first time this week, first performed in 1983, nine years before the composer’s death has brought a network of people together. Nice.

On the one hand I was dissapointed to hear how many tickets were actually sold – a surprisingly low number. Also that the PRS has a fund available to ensure that composer’s new works get a second airing – that’s why we got to hear Thomas Ades’ compelling In Seven Days at the concert too. The similarities between him and Lutoslawski – their joyous love of sound – makes the concert a triumph of programming. That it didn’t sell quite as many tickets as I had originally assumed goes to show the resources necessary to keep an art form alive.

We have a great many people to thank for that. Bold resolute individuals.



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