LUTOSLAWSKI: Symphony No. 4 / Violin Partita / Chain II / Funeral Music

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Witold Lutoslawski (1913 - 1994)

Funeral Music (Muzyka zalobna) for strings

Chain 2: Dialogue for violin and orchestra


Partita for violin and orchestra

Symphony No.4
The Funeral Music of Witold Lutoslawski can be considered a key workamong his compositions, since it is from this that the composer began to formhis own special and highly individual musical language, from various technicalprocedures that, later, came to constitute the aesthetic foundation of all hiswork. The suggestion that he write music for the tenth anniversary of the deathof Bela Bartok was made by the distinguished Polish conductor Jan Krenz in1954: it took the composer four years to realise this request. The four yearsthat passed from the completion of the Concerto for orchestra to the endof the Funeral Music, with the writing of the Five Songs on poemsby Kazimiera Illakowicz for female voice and piano in 1957 and, one year later,for mezzo- soprano and thirty instruments, could be compared to the seven-yearbreak in the creative life of Arnold Schoenberg that came before his firstdodecaphonic compositions. Lutoslawski said that it was after these two piecesthat he stopped composing as he knew how and began composing as he wanted:

What I have made in this work is a complex of means that allow me to movewith a certain sense within the twelve sounds, beyond, certainly, the tonal anddodecaphonic systems. It constitutes for me the beginning of a new period and isthe result of long experience. I have attempted to create a complex of meansthat will become my own. And it is just the first word expressed in this newlanguage, but certainly it is not the last (Witold Lutoslawski, 1958).

In dedicating Funeral Music to the memory of Bela Bartok, I wanted tocelebrate -as far as I could -the tenth anniversary in 1956 of the deathof the great composer. In writing this work I did not try to take as a model themusic of Bartok itself and the eventual resemblances in the music do not comefrom any preconceived decision. If there actually are any, it only confirms theindubitable fact that the study of the work of Bartok was one of the essentiallessons for the majority of composers of my generation (Witold Lutoslawski,1964).

The fundamental problem of the Funeral Music of 1958 is the harmonicwriting with the twelve notes. It occurs in the two first movements, thedodecaphonic canon of the Prologue, answered in the Epilogue andthe Metamorphoses which expressively grow denser in texture, leading tothe short Apogeum, under a minute in length. The composer's idea is tobuild progressively a spectrum of twelve notes and this structure rests on avery expressive use of the intervals, which have, for Lutoslawski, a livingsound quality, not, as for the serial composers, serving as a structural entity.

The Prologue is based on a series of twelve notes using only twointervals, the tritone and the minor second, and it takes the form of canonsthat increase in number of voices from two to eight. The series, treatedmelodically in the Prologue, undergoes metamorphoses in the secondmovement of the work. These are twelve in number, since the series is transposedto successive degrees of the scale always by the interval of a fifth, indescending order. The sonority of the work grows denser with "foreign"sounds, used more and more intensely, entwining with the notes of the series,which becomes a sort of cantus firmus, surrounding the whole always witha fuller sound and which reaches a climax, the apogee of the chromatic twelvenotes, in the short Apogeum, a series of 32 chords. These chords diminishgradually their extended range, limiting the number of components to reach thefinal stage, the canons of the Epilogue, which follows a principleanalogous to that of the Prologue, in retrograde form. The work whichreaches its height according to the principle of the golden section, that is tosay at a point two-thirds of its length from the beginning, returns to itsoriginal point of departure. The four sections are not separate movements butphases of a single curve. The first performance of the work" dedicated tothe memory of Bela Bartok, took place on 26th March 1958 at Katowice, playedby the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jan Krenz. The work wasgiven pride of place in 1959 at the UNESCO International Music CouncilCompetition in Paris.

Until the age of nineteen Lutoslawski played the violin and after the war hewas still a concert pianist. It is characteristic that, although he had longintended to write a piano concerto and even sketched such a work, only late inhis creative career, after the completion of the Third Symphony, did heturn to writing music in concertante form. The decisive creative impulse camewith a chamber work, a duo for violin and piano that may be considered themasterpiece of Lutoslawski's music in the 1980s and an important item in thewhole body of his work. The chamber Partita was transcribed for violinand orchestra with an obbligato piano part. Chain 2, subtitled Dialoguefor violin and orchestra is nothing else but a violin concerto. It may benoted that a sketch of the following violin concerto remains among thecomposer's papers.

The Partita for violin and orchestra, with obbligato piano, dedicatedto Anne-Sophie Mutter, was written in 1988, from the version for violin andpiano written in 1984 to a commission from the St Paul Chamber Orchestra ofMinnesota, for Pinchas Zukerman and Marc Neikrug. The three movements, pillarsthat support the work, Allegro giusto, Largo and Presto, areseparated by two short movements Ad libitum, which fulfil the function oflinking passages, remain as in the version for violin and piano; a shortinterlude in the fifth movement reduces the instrumentation similarly to a duoof soloists. In these fragments Ad libitum where there is an aleatoricsynchronization of the parts of the two instruments, the notation offers anoutline: these, like the Gry weneckie (Venetian Games) and the StringQuartet, conceived by Lutoslawski in the 1960s, are written in separateboxes.

The Partita is one of those compositions in which Lutoslawski wishesto present a synthesis of what he has already written, turning, among otherthings, towards the sound gestures of before the Funeral Music. Theyappear, however, in a new place, different from before. A vast melodic linereplaces the usually short, recurrent motifs. Chords with third and fifth doaway, in the harmonic image of this music, with the hitherto dominant of moresaturated groups of sounds, seconds and tritones, and more than once they forman accompaniment for the melody. If these qualitative changes were not soessentially part of the musical language of Lutoslawski, if it could beconfirmed that there was an attempt to reactivate some historical context, themajor-minor system for example, one could speak of a stylistic turning-point inthe composer's work, a reactivation of the past, perhaps symptomatic of Europeanand American music in the 1980s. Nevertheless it is not the case, neither inthis work nor in those that followed: there is a displacement of accents, but noessential change of language; melodic and harmonic traits of which there mightbe question simply set themselves free and resume the predominance that they hadlost. We recognise in the Partita, by the side of phrases and turns ofexpression that played an important part in the Third Symp
Item number 8553202
Barcode 730099420228
Release date 01/01/2000
Category 20th Century
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Artists Bakowski, Krzysztof
Bakowski, Krzysztof
Composers Lutoslawski, Witold
Lutoslawski, Witold
Conductors Wit, Antoni
Wit, Antoni
Orchestras Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra
Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra
Producers Jankowska, Beata
Jankowska, Beata
Disc: 1
Symphony No. 4
1 Prologue
2 Metamorphoses
3 Apogeum
4 Epilogue
5 Ad libitum
6 A battuta
7 Ad libitum
8 A battuta - Ad libitum - A battuta
9 Interlude
10 Allegro giusto
11 Ad libitum
12 Largo
13 Ad libitum
14 Presto
15 Symphony No. 4
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