Happy Birthday, Witold Lutoslawski and Jean Francaix

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Witold Lutoslawski would have turned 100 this month if he were still alive. A new complete recording of his symphonies by the Los Angeles Philharmonic with Esa-Pekka Salonen makes for a gorgeous birthday offering. The four works span Lutoslawski’s compositional development, from the lively first symphony, heavily influenced by Stravinsky, Debussy, and Prokofiev, to the somber fourth symphony, which was commissioned by the L.A. Phil and premiered a year before his death.

Études Pour Piano by Pascal Dusapin is a set of seven crystalline works for solo piano, given an appropriately subdued performance by Vanessa Wagner. The disc is accompanied by a book of photographs by Dusapin, who studied fine arts, science and aesthetics before turning to composition, and has described his compositional process as more influenced by photography than by musicological considerations.

The unabashedly friendly music of Jean Françaix was collected in a 3-CD set by the Wergo label to celebrate the composer’s 100th birthday at the end of 2012. The release features vibrant performances by The Bläser Ensemble Mainz and numerous soloists including guitarist Emanuele Segre the composer himself on piano.