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8.553202 - LUTOSLAWSKI: Symphony No. 4 / Violin Partita / Chain II / Funeral Music
Witold Lutoslawski (1913 - 1994)Funeral Music (Muzyka zalobna) for strings
Chain 2: Dialogue for violin and orchestra
Partita for violin and orchestra
The Funeral Music of Witold Lutoslawski can be considered a key work among his compositions, since it is from this that the composer began to form his own special and highly individual musical language, from various technical procedures that, later, came to constitute the aesthetic foundation of all his work. The suggestion that he write music for the tenth anniversary of the death of Béla Bartók was made by the distinguished Polish conductor Jan Krenz in 1954: it took the composer four years to realise this request. The four years that passed from the completion of the Concerto for orchestra to the end of the Funeral Music, with the writing of the Five Songs on poems by 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-year break in the creative life of Arnold Schoenberg that came before his first dodecaphonic compositions. Lutoslawski said that it was after these two pieces that 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 move with a certain sense within the twelve sounds, beyond, certainly, the tonal and dodecaphonic systems. It constitutes for me the beginning of a new period and is the result of long experience. I have attempted to create a complex of means that will become my own. And it is just the first word expressed in this new language, but certainly it is not the last (Witold Lutoslawski, 1958).
In dedicating Funeral Music to the memory of Béla Bartók, I wanted to celebrate -as far as I could -the tenth anniversary in 1956 of the death of the great composer. In writing this work I did not try to take as a model the music of Bartók itself and the eventual resemblances in the music do not come from any preconceived decision. If there actually are any, it only confirms the indubitable fact that the study of the work of Bartók was one of the essential lessons for the majority of composers of my generation (Witold Lutoslawski, 1964).
The fundamental problem of the Funeral Music of 1958 is the harmonic writing with the twelve notes. It occurs in the two first movements, the dodecaphonic canon of the Prologue, answered in the Epilogue and the Metamorphoses which expressively grow denser in texture, leading to the short Apogeum, under a minute in length. The composer's idea is to build progressively a spectrum of twelve notes and this structure rests on a very expressive use of the intervals, which have, for Lutoslawski, a living sound quality, not, as for the serial composers, serving as a structural entity. The Prologue is based on a series of twelve notes using only two intervals, the tritone and the minor second, and it takes the form of canons that increase in number of voices from two to eight. The series, treated melodically in the Prologue, undergoes metamorphoses in the second movement of the work. These are twelve in number, since the series is transposed to successive degrees of the scale always by the interval of a fifth, in descending 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 with a fuller sound and which reaches a climax, the apogee of the chromatic twelve notes, in the short Apogeum, a series of 32 chords. These chords diminish gradually their extended range, limiting the number of components to reach the final stage, the canons of the Epilogue, which follows a principle analogous to that of the Prologue, in retrograde form. The work which reaches its height according to the principle of the golden section, that is to say at a point two-thirds of its length from the beginning, returns to its original point of departure. The four sections are not separate movements but phases of a single curve. The first performance of the work" dedicated to the memory of Béla Bartók, took place on 26th March 1958 at Katowice, played by the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jan Krenz. The work was given pride of place in 1959 at the UNESCO International Music Council Competition in Paris.
Until the age of nineteen Lutoslawski played the violin and after the war he was still a concert pianist. It is characteristic that, although he had long intended to write a piano concerto and even sketched such a work, only late in his creative career, after the completion of the Third Symphony, did he turn to writing music in concertante form. The decisive creative impulse came with a chamber work, a duo for violin and piano that may be considered the masterpiece of Lutoslawski's music in the 1980s and an important item in the whole body of his work. The chamber Partita was transcribed for violin and orchestra with an obbligato piano part. Chain 2, subtitled Dialogue for violin and orchestra is nothing else but a violin concerto. It may be noted that a sketch of the following violin concerto remains among the composer's papers.
The Partita for violin and orchestra, with obbligato piano, dedicated to Anne-Sophie Mutter, was written in 1988, from the version for violin and piano written in 1984 to a commission from the St Paul Chamber Orchestra of Minnesota, for Pinchas Zukerman and Marc Neikrug. The three movements, pillars that support the work, Allegro giusto, Largo and Presto, are separated by two short movements Ad libitum, which fulfil the function of linking passages, remain as in the version for violin and piano; a short interlude in the fifth movement reduces the instrumentation similarly to a duo of soloists. In these fragments Ad libitum where there is an aleatoric synchronization of the parts of the two instruments, the notation offers an outline: these, like the Gry weneckie (Venetian Games) and the String Quartet, conceived by Lutoslawski in the 1960s, are written in separate boxes.
The Partita is one of those compositions in which Lutoslawski wishes to present a synthesis of what he has already written, turning, among other things, towards the sound gestures of before the Funeral Music. They appear, however, in a new place, different from before. A vast melodic line replaces the usually short, recurrent motifs. Chords with third and fifth do away, in the harmonic image of this music, with the hitherto dominant of more saturated groups of sounds, seconds and tritones, and more than once they form an accompaniment for the melody. If these qualitative changes were not so essentially part of the musical language of Lutoslawski, if it could be confirmed that there was an attempt to reactivate some historical context, the major-minor system for example, one could speak of a stylistic turning-point in the composer's work, a reactivation of the past, perhaps symptomatic of European and American music in the 1980s. Nevertheless it is not the case, neither in this work nor in those that followed: there is a displacement of accents, but no essential change of language; melodic and harmonic traits of which there might be question simply set themselves free and resume the predominance that they had lost. We recognise in the Partita, by the side of phrases and turns of expression that played an important part in the Third Symphony and which will have such a part in the Fourth, lyrical phrases too, including motifs from bird-song which later have their place in the orchestral songs Chantefleurs et Chantefables.
The title Partita, used by Bach for some of his suites, appears to signify here some allusions to the Baroque, as at the beginning of the first movement, in the principal theme of the Largo and in the finale, with its suggestion of a gigue (Witold Lutoslawski, 1988). The first movement, the introductory Allegro giusto, and the third, the central Largo, developed and bearing a particularly intense emotional charge, are each built from four sections and each time the last of them brings the climax of the movement. It is the same in the penultimate, the fourth section of the last movement, Presto, written as ad libitum, which constitutes at the same time the climax of the whole work and which is followed by another section, the fifth part of the last movement, which functions as a coda.
The first performance of the work took place on 10th January 1990 in Munich, when Anne-Sophie Mutter was accompanied by the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of the composer. In 1988 the same soloist and conductor recorded the work in London with the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
The Interlude, dedicated to Paul Sacher, is an exceptional work among those written by Lutoslawski, if only in its genesis. After composing Chain 2, a dialogue for violin and orchestra, and the orchestral version of the Partita, Lutoslawski envisaged the performance of these two works with Anne-Sophie Mutter in one programme and thought that these two concertante works ought to be separated by music in the character of an interlude, contrasting with the others in type of expression, sound and musical discourse. It was for this reason that in 1989 he wrote the Interlude for orchestra, which, in practical concert terms, links the two concertante works for violin and orchestra in a triptych.
The aesthetic of the Interlude, in strong contrast with the two other works, makes this work something of a puzzle. The scheme of contrapuntal voices of the strings slowly moving is not so much a process as rather a state of musical material in which the regular dynamic level remains soft, a state without conflicts, without development. This writing for strings is accompanied by motifs for wind instruments, percussion and harp, piano and celesta, which become part of this apparently inert background of sound with delicate arabesques which seem taken from another place. The metaphysical reflection of this composition brings to mind, on the one hand, of The Unanswered Question of Charles Ives, and, on the other, of the scores of certain minimalists.
The first performance of the work, dedicated to Paul Sacher, took place on 10th January 1990 in Munich, as part of the triptych Partita - Interlude - Chain 2, with Anne-Sophie Mutter, the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra and the composer.
The three pieces composed by Lutoslawski in the years 1983 to 1986 bear the title Chain (Chain 1 for chamber ensemble in 1983, Chain 2, dialogue for violin and chamber orchestra in 1984-85 and Chain 3 for symphony orchestra in 1986). They are, nevertheless, independent works and do not form a cycle. The title refers to the technique of composition and, in the first place, to the form that joins the sections, the preceding section continuing still after the following section has started. This practice, which, in the Chains has become almost a rule, appears in various ways in several earlier works of Lutoslawski, already in the 1960s. It can be seen, for example, in the characteristic passages moving from undirected, ad libitum sections to directed sections, notated metrically (a battuta), when the aleatoric sections, shorter and shorter and more quickly interrupted, change imperceptibly into non-aleatoric sections. Another interesting process from this point of view is the introduction, in the initial stage of the development of the form of the work, of a motif, of a phrase or of a section hardly sketched out, "not obligatory", from which later develop an expressively and formally valid narrative element. The method that also is essential for the chain technique and that Lutoslawski used also in the majority of his earlier compositions, is that of complementary sounds: in certain registers, instruments or sections, sounds are associated that do not appear in these registers, instruments or neighbouring sections or in counterpoint.
This is the case with the Partita, where, in the first section of the first movement, Allegro giusto, the six notes entrusted to the violin that make up the melody are completed to make up the twelve notes by the six others that form the harmonic accompaniment in the orchestra. This is the case, too, in the Interlude, in which the eight-voice string part forms a harmonic dream-world which moves gradually on, taking into its texture the melodic arabesques of four wind instruments, always completing the series of twelve notes in the section.
The same is true of Chain 2, where the linking principle lies in the way in which the dialogue of violin and orchestra proceeds, the mutual integration of neighbouring movements in the form, the complementary relationship of the pitch of sounds and intervals. In the first movement, Ad libitum, to which the composer has given the character of an introduction, undecided, hesitant, typical of his strategy of building cyclic forms, the violin part does not seem to have much in common with the orchestral part, except that the four notes chosen are regularly given to the orchestra as harmonic background and the eight others provide the substance of melodic figuration by the violin. The second movement, A battuta, notated metrically, is made up of three sections, leading to the first climax, to which the conflict of combinations of denser intervals, designated rude in the score, and less dense intervals, designated soave leads. The third movement, again Ad libitum, with the violin playing a dominant part, brings a break in the narrative, as if to take breath before starting again in the next movement, the fourth, which is the climax of the work and which consists of a series of sections, A battuta - Ad libitim - A battuta.
The whole triptych, Partita -Interlude -Chain 2, is written for chamber orchestra. They come after some chamber music compositions. Beside the version of the Partita for violin and piano, there is above all the Epitaph for oboe and piano of 1979 and Grave for cello and piano in 1981. Turning away from chamber music, Lutoslawski came to a turning-point in his style, in both the Third Symphony and the Fourth Symphony. This change came to a head in the formation of a melodic language characterizing the most recent period of his creative life, a mode of expression that brings together all his compositional means in a musical system without equal, exclusively his own.
Chain 2 was first performed on 31st January 1986 in Zurich by Anne-Sophie Mutter and the Collegium musicum conducted by Paul Sacher, to whom the work is dedicated.
Beethoven is called to witness to the symphonic writing of Lutoslawski, with the characteristic rhythm of the kind that knocks at the door, the four repetitions of unison E that mark the ending of the Third Symphony in 1983. The Fourth Symphony, completed nine years later, in 1992, but written principally in the years from 1988 to 1990, seems to take up the story from the echo of the final notes of the Third Symphony and is even derived from this. As the fulness of the symphony orchestra develops from the lowest string of the quintet, so from the same note E are the two symphonies born and with them come to an end, but always with the important reservation that the E of the Third Symphony is rational and that of the Fourth is metaphysical.
The fifteen-bar episode that opens the first movement of the symphony will, it is certain, find a place in the history of music as theme-symbol. It is a clarinet melody, helped at the end by the flute, with the accompaniment of the muted string quintet, coloured by the harp. The dream-like beauty of these bars, projected over the whole symphony, has its origin in the masterly simplicity of the composer. The measured repetition on E in the harmonic aura of minor thirds that surround it provides the accompaniment, a phenomenon forgotten in new music. The singing line of the clarinet, divided into antecedent and consequent, where motifs seem to follow one on the other, provides the melody, the most difficult quality to find in new music, while the harp, with droplets of sound, colours the string-writing, intertwining with violins and violas in a melodic line. The harp part, singing and at the same time giving an opaline colouring to the ensemble, gives to the fundamental E a metaphysical dimension. This symphony is a continuation of its predecessor in the sense that it develops what was only suggested in the earlier work. A total emancipation of consonance and combinations in thirds is found in the harmonic system and this brings with it more numerous tonal associations than usual in Lutoslawski's music after the Funeral Music, the more expressive in that it does not avoid the tensions that recall dominant-tonic, although this is not to suggest that the symphony is even partially tonal.
The sources of the singing character of the Fourth Symphony can be perceived in the Adagio episode of the Third. The melodic singing character, the cantilena, a long Adagio narrative phrase is a trait of this work that comes from the quality of the harmony. Up to this point the scores of Lutoslawski had not known such sublime melodic phrases, which, in their fulness, make up for years of asceticism. The gesture that opens the symphony and comes back at the end takes up the Adagio idiom of Mahler, however great the spiritual distance of the composer from Mahler and associations of this kind.
The symphony has two movements. After the introduction an Allegro develops and at a section marked cantando in the score comes a second theme, as it were a second subject according to the historical form of the symphony. In comparison with other cyclic compositions of Lutoslawski a particular feature of this work is the character of the first movement. While built according to the principle of directed sections interspersed with aleatoric sections, its function can in no way be that of an introduction, a preliminary, indeterminate. There is here no consecutive formal procedure as in the Second Symphony (indeterminate -determinate) or in the Third, in which there is a consecutive series indeterminate - determinate - determinate. If the terms used by the composer for the Second Symphony are applied to the Fourth Symphony, then it is, in movements, determinate -determinate. The English composer and musicologist Charles Bodman Rae, author of the monograph The Music of Lutoslawski (London, 1994), remarks that the work gives the impression of the omission of the first movement, as if it only has a second and third movement.
The element of linear writing (cantilena, recitative, melody), set free, takes hold of most of the instruments of the orchestra and the work therefore becomes a series of instrumental songs. The solo instruments given prominence (clarinet, flute, harp, violin, viola, cello, trumpets, horns, trombones, piano, vibraphone with marimba, even bongos) give this feeling of chamber music that permeates the symphony very much more than it does the Third Symphony. That is not to say that the symphonic element is subordinate in any way to individual solos, nor that impact of the exact and distinct melody, of expressive and united rather than aleatoric harmony puts aside the collective ad libitum playing, although its role has been perceptibly reduced in the recent works of Lutoslawski.
The composer of the Fourth Symphony abandons nothing that had formed his symphonic idiom or of what could be described as his chain technique. since the exchange of material between diverse structures, passing through the technique of gathering together and breaking apart groups of sounds and of the conflict between determinate and indeterminate, to the idea of dialectical form. This world of the later compositions of Lutoslawski, the triptych Partita- Interlude-Chain 2, the Piano Concerto, Chantefleurs et Chantefables, as also Chain 3 and the two later symphonies, is based on the traditions of European music, assimilating this, while, on the other hand, losing nothing of its individuality. These scores give credit to the word "synthesis", the meaning of which has worn thin thanks to the use of the term during the last quarter century. The Fourth Symphony was commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, which gave the first performance on 5th February 1993 under the direction of the composer.
Andrzej Chlopecki (English version by Keith Anderson)
The Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra of Katowice (PNRSO)
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