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8.553423 - LUTOSLAWSKI, W.: Symphony No. 3 / Paganini Variations (Polish National Radio Symphony, Wit)
Witold Lutoslawski (1913 - 1994)
Orchestral Works Vol. 3
Variations on a Theme of Paganini
Les Espaces du sommeil
Witold Lutosfawski started regular study of the piano at the age of six and the violin when he was thirteen. He did not become a concert violinist, but he was a concert pianist. Witold Maliszewski, professor at the Warsaw Conservatory, who deeply influenced the young Lutostawski's musical thought, gave him lessons in composition, after his future pupil had presented him with the Poem for piano, written at the age of fifteen. When he was seventeen he wrote, under his teacher's supervision, his Dance of the Chimera for piano, the first work of his to receive public performance. As with a series of other pieces, written since
1922, when Lutostawski was only nine, the two compositions mentioned were destroyed in 1944 during the Warsaw rising. The flames spared, however, the
Piano Sonata of 1934 and the two-piano Wariacje na temat Paganiniego (Variations on a Theme of Paganini) of 1941. The post-war years brought other works for piano, Melodie ludowe (Folk Melodies) in 1946 and Bukoliki (Bucolics) in 1952 and some pedagogical pieces. The piano, the role of which in Lutostawski's chamber and orchestral works was often important, only appeared as a solo instrument in the Piano Concerto of 1988, except for the Variations on a Theme of Paganini, a composition for piano and orchestra, after the two-piano Variations, one of the most popular works in the piano duo repertoire and one of the most frequently performed of Lutostawski's compositions.
In Warsaw under Nazi occupation, Lutostawski earned his living by playing the piano in cafes, from 1940 to 1944 with Andrzej Panufnik (1914-1991), one of the most famous Polish composers. The Lutostawski-Panufnik duo had a repertoire of nearly two hundred pieces, with arrangements of classical music from Bach to Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, as well as, among other works, an elaboration by the composer of Debussy's L'Apres-midi d'un faune and a transcription of Paganini's solo violin Caprice No.24 in A minor. It was only the score of the Variations, out of the whole Lutostawski-Panufnik collection, that was not destroyed during the uprising. Lutostawski returned to this work in 1978, slightly enlarging it in an arrangement for piano and orchestra. The new version was first performed on 18th November 1979 in Miami by Felicja Blumenthal and the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra, under Brian Priestman.
The theme, marked Allegro capriccioso, and the twelve variations that constitute the work are written with exceptional bravura virtuosity. In a masterly way, one might say, he juggles with three elements, violin music, piano music and orchestral writing, allotting these in alternation or in counterpoint to the solo instrument and to particular sections of the orchestra. The principle of alternation of melodic and harmonic material in the score for two instruments is enriched, in the orchestral version, by instrumental colouring. The piano part has its origin in the best models of virtuosity stemming from Liszt and Rachmaninov, enriched, always, by the influence of Bartok and, to some extent, of Prokofiev. The orchestral part owes its brilliance to the fact that its neo-classical vitality is embellished by elements of colour and articulation that come not only from the orchestra of Ravel but also from twentieth century scores that draw on folk traditions and the sonorities of the modern orchestra. The harmonic system of the work rests naturally on the original A minor theme, in relationship with chords that have very little in common with major-minor tonality, becoming a sort of atonal variation purely in sound. The mood of Vigore in the Tempo allegro that dominates the score only changes in the sixth variation, marked poco lento, a lyrical cantilena, where one can observe a reference to the lyrical work of Karel Szymanowski, who wrote in 1918 variations on the same theme of Paganini. This contrasting variation at the centre of the work and a miniature cadenza for the piano at the end of the last, twelfth variation, give the impression, elsewhere hardly apparent, of a miniature piano concerto.
Apart from a setting of the Lacrimosa of the Requiem Mass, written as a student, there are only five works for voices and instruments among the compositions of Lutoslawski, four of which were based on texts by French surrealist poets of the twentieth century. Paroles tissees (Woven Words) for tenor and Les Espaces du sommeil (The Spaces of Sleep) for baritone are included in the present recording. The three others are Chantefleurs et Chantefables for soprano, Three Poems for chorus and orchestra and Five Songs for female voice, settings of poems by the Polish poet Kazimiera Illakowicz.
In his comments on the suggestion that his music goes far beyond the "texture of words" of Jean-Francois Chabrun, which served him as a basis, Lutoslawski referred to the famous remark of Debussy, that music begins where the words finish. He added that he did not believe in any way that music was able to transmit unequivocally any kind of extra-musical content. For Lutoslawski the text was a source of inspiration and in no way the subject of the musical work, which, paradoxically, is not inconsistent with another statement of the composer, that the text had never been for him purely an element of sound and that he had never reduced the content to a futile excuse for composing. It should be added that with Lutoslawski, at the start of the development of a vocal-instrumental work, it was not a question of a text that might stimulate him to set it to music but rather a general sketch of the composition, written without any relationship with any text. Lutoslawski sought for words for a musical idea already sketched, which was realised and shaped by contact with the words and the contents chosen. He was principally concerned with French poetry and had a particular feeling for this language: I like particularly French sung, above all because of its nasal sounds that give pleasure to my ear, a pleasure that is purely in sound. It is because of these that French songs sound different from poems sung in any other language, because of the large number of vowels, but above all nasal vowels. Similarly the tonic accent on the last syllable determines a certain way of rhythmic writing. It is not by chance nor through his preference for the surrealists who, on the one hand, often give importance to the richness of sonorities in the language and, on the other hand, avoid, as a matter of principle, any concrete and unequivocal meaning, but rather the poetic of the surrealists that corresponded best with Lutoslawski's ideas on composition and his artistic opinions.
Lutoslawski sought a poem for his idea of a work for tenor and orchestra. In the review Poesie 1947 he found the poem Quatre tapisseries pour la chatelaine de Vergy (Four Tapestries for the Lady of Vergy). I wanted a shorter title, Lutoslawski said, and... the writer suggested to me, answering my wishes, two other titles, of which I chose Paroles tissees ...The work is written for tenor and string chamber orchestra, with harp, piano and percussion. Completed in 1965, it was first performed on 20th June in the same year by Peter Pears, to whom it is dedicated, and the Philomusica of London under the direction of the composer at the Snape Maltings in the Aldeburgh Festival.
In the title of his poem the poet alludes to the medieval French roman that tells the beautiful and sad story of the guilty love of the Lady of Vergy and the Duke of Burgundy. It is there, however, that connection with the secular story ends. The title of Chabrun's poem could be considered a dedication to the
Lady of Vergy .The title of the composition chosen by Lutoslawski refers to the formal structure of the poem. In the four consecutive movements the same motifs are repeated, mingled, as it were, with other threads:
Une ombre I'ensorcelle celui de l'arbre mort celui des btes prises
(a shadow casts a spell on it of the dead tree of creatures caught).
The title of the composition, nevertheless, does not reveal another quality in this poem, of which Lutoslawski made masterly use, notably a narrative element, impalpable and unreal, suggested in allusions that follow a dream logic, which, with purely lyrical aspects, introduces into Lutostawski's work a dramatic character.
While it is clear that Chabrun's poem is one work in four parts and not a collection of four poems, it is clear too that Lutoslawski's composition is not a cycle of four songs but a poem in four movements which, by the aid of purely musical means, depicts an unreal story to which the poet alludes without showing it. Lutoslawski even openly admitted that his way of treating Chabrun's text was false, since I wrote music for a story that does not exist in Chabrun's text. Nevertheless, according to Lutostawski's confirmation of Debussy's remark, music begins where the words end. This story cannot be put into words.
Lutoslawski understood the first passage of Chabrun's poem as information, expressed without any feeling. The whole movement continuously respects the aleatoric technique of ad libitum.
The second section represented for him a lullaby hummed in mezza voce. The orchestra, using the collective ad libitum technique, accompanies the tenor and the harp, which share a common beat of semiquavers. The third part of the text represented for the composer a conflict and a catastrophe, a sensual and dramatic cry. The vocal line here is aleatoric in character and where it dies out the composer introduces conducted orchestral passages. A kind of dramatic climax to the whole work is the longer instrumental fragment and the tenor phrase mille coqs hurlent ma peine (a thousand cocks cry out my pain), with a long melisma on the word peine (pain). The fourth section brings peace to the conflict with an extended lyrical cantilena, the nocturnal climax of which punctuates the flow of the music, again ad libitum, using the aleatory contrapuntal technique so characteristic of Lutostawski. The whole work consists of four different passages, with the vocal scheme ranging from recitation on one note to a syllabic and even melismatic vocal line.
The subtle colouring of this impressionist lyrical world, the studied and carefully worked instrumentation, the accent put on the interval of a third in twelve-note harmony, a drama hidden by sound happenings that are played out essentially in the shadow, the euphoria in the sound itself that is dominant, these are the things that make Paroles tissees one of the finest, that is to say one of the most attractive of Lutoslawski's works, though not without strongly expressive and dramatic elements.
The way in which Lutoslawski reacted in his musical scheme to the poetic descriptions of the sounds is worthy of attention, and this as much in Chabrun's text in Paroles tissees as in the verses of Robert Desnos in Les Espaces du sommeil. In the first passage of Chabrun's poem there is
le cri du bateleur et celui de la caille celui de la perdrix celui du ramoneur celui de l'arbre mort celui des bi!tes prises.
(The cry of the clown and of the quail of the partridge of the sweep, of the dead tree of creatures caught).
The text is accompanied by chords of twelve notes, played very softly. In his analysis of the poem by Desnos, Lutoslawski raised the question in this little passage:
Un air de piano, un eclat de voix, une porte claque, une horloge (A piano tune, a voice's bright sound, / A door bangs. A clock.) What can be done with that? Clearly not imitative music... These words are sung or rather recited on one note, with short note values, and particular phrases are separated by pauses. A motionless chord accompanies the soloist, like a foundation over which nothing happens in the music. We hear, in turn, the recited text and silence. The interpretation is as follows: the artist recounts his dream to the audience. The text is, then, the relation of events in the inner life of the singer and the pedal-point, the silence, is for him the moment to capture sounds inaudible to the audience. Neither he, nor the hearer, hear anything real - it is only a dream - and the motionless chord here becomes the symbol of the inaudible.
Les Espaces du sommeil for baritone and symphony orchestra came ten years after Paroles tissees, in 1975, composed on a poem by Robert Desnos of the same title. It appeared for the first time in 1926 in a collection of work by surrealist poets, A la mysterieuse (To the mysterious), and later, in Paris in 1930, in the collection Corps et Biens (Bodies and Goods). The poem comes from the period when Desnos, associated among others with Andre Breton, Louis Aragon and Paul Eluard, took part in sessions of hypnosis, which were thought to reveal, through sleep, the state of the subconscious. Desnos, a member of the Resistance, was arrested by the Gestapo and died of typhoid in the Theresienstadt (Terezin) concentration camp in Bohemia, in the last moments of the Second World War. The work, dedicated to Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, was first performed by him on 12th April 1978 in Berlin, with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by the composer.
Les Espaces du sommeil, unlike Paroles tissees, is in one movement, but its inner structure reveals a three-movement scheme, realised without visible breaks. Like the woven words of Chabrun, the pictures that arise from the dreams of Desnos repeat key motifs which give order in a refrain to the dream visions, the surreal images, the pictures from the subconscious, notably dans la nuit (in the night) and il ya Toi (there is you). The composer was attracted by the feelings expressed in the poem, the images and the impressions - as opposed to the poetry of ideas. He felt himself attracted by the rhythmic freedom of the verse that offered him a place for his music, rather than a rigid metrical scheme, which would have excluded it. Lutoslawski said that Les Espaces du sommeil was not a song or songs, but a symphonic poem with a baritone solo.
The first section of the composition is the introduction and four episodes, a sort of gentle, calm Allegro, sung in a murmur: visions of a forest in which the silhouette of a woman appears, where the dream image notes the steps of a walker, of a murderer, of the constable, the light of the street-lamp - and She: where trains pass and boats and fantastic images of unknown countries – and She; where doors bang, the piano sounds, a voice bursts out, the clock ticks. The second section of the composition is an Adagio, the third again an Allegro, in which, after going through the characteristics of this silhouette of a woman, heroine of his dreams, comes the climax of the work with words that evoke les poumons de millions et millions d'etres (the lungs of millions and millions of beings) with the final Dans la nuit il y a Toi. Vans le jour aussi (In the night there is You. In the day too.) - as if in the last words and the last bars night, with sometimes its nightmares, opened on a day of hope.
The baritone part, in almost the whole work, does not often diverge from syllabic writing, a narration in recitative, corning from the speaking voice that more often expresses itself in hurried sections of recitative and sections of slower cantilena reflective in character. Another lyrical subject of this poem is the orchestral part, the colour of which delights with its sensual beauty coming from the union of the abstract twelve-note harmonic material with the sensual feeling of the instrumental material.
I had already written the first sketches for the Third Symphony in 1972; later I totally abandoned a part composed in the following years. The score was only definitively completed in January 1983; meanwhile I wrote a number of other pieces, such as Les Espaces du sommeil Mi-parti and Novelette. In composing the Third Symphony I always had in mind the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and its exquisite sound. It was a powerful stimulus to my imagination. At the same time always, in writing for such an interpreter, I felt the weight of responsibility that had forced me to be more exacting with myself. This was perhaps the reason that work on the Third
Symphony went on so long.
The form of the Third Symphony is the result of my experiences over several years as a listener to music, in particular to larger forms. I was always fascinated by the extraordinary strategy of Beethoven in this field, and this was also for me the best lesson in musical architecture. My model for the large form, perfectly balanced, was, however, the pre-Beethoven symphony, above all the symphonies of Haydn. I have not ceased to be an admirer of the large-scale forms of Brahms in symphonies, concertos and chamber music, but I must admit that, after having listened to a symphony, a concerto or even a sonata by Brahms, I always feel exhausted, probably because with him there are always two large-scale movements, the first and the last. All these reasons have inclined me to research into other possibilities. I found in the end a solution in the large-scale form in two movements, where the first is only a preparation for the second. Its function is only to draw the attention of the listener, to awaken his interest, without giving him complete satisfaction. It is necessary for the listener, in following the performance of the first movement, to be waiting for something more important to come. He may even be impatient. And it is at this precise moment that the second movement appears, bringing the principal idea of the work. Such a way of arranging the musical substance of the work in time seems to me natural, in conformity with the psychology of listening. I have used a form of this kind in a number of compositions, the String Quartet and the Second Symphony are the most typical examples.
In the Third Symphony the first "preparatory" movement appears after a short introduction. For some time the music does not move forward from here, and its course is interrupted by pauses. This movement consists of three episodes, the first of which is quicker and the last slower. To be exact, the tempo remains the same to the end, the apparent difference only comes from the use of longer rhythmic values. A short slow passage leads to the second movement, the main part of the symphony.
The form of the second movement could be defined as "a reference to the "sonata-allegro" with its thematic contrast. The climax of the work comes towards the end of a series of tutti passages. There is still a distinct epilogue, an Adagio, where dramatic tring recitatives mingle with a broad cantilena. (Witold Lutoslawski. 1988.)
The four Es that open the symphony, like the four blows at the door of
Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, promise the dramatic development of the work.
In stating a motif so simple and, at the same time, so strong in expression, intense in its fortissimo, Lutosfawski seems to say "Stop your false dreams, an end to your illusions, something really important, vital, is beginning, equal in importance to the symphonies of Beethoven or Brahms, going right to the limits". The same four-note motif, always in unison, closes the symphony, providing a conclusion for the coda. It is from this that the second movement develops and it is this that gives form to the first. These movements are not so named in the score and are not separated. In performance they overlap, without any break, in conformity with the "chain" principle that marks his formal developments, a principal characteristic of Lutoslawski's work.
The Introduction starts with a short passage that last a little over a minute.
This develops over the note E, in the strings, divisi and then together in a blaring statement of the four-note main motif. The woodwind, the piano and the harp, free in their expressive contour, reveal the forms and processes that will give life to the sections of the first movement. Lutosfawski would not have been unhappy to learn that the introduction is considered a continuation of the sounds of the instruments tuning up, although, it is true, on motifs already indicated and composed, music that invites further attention.
Even if it always engages the attention of the hearer, the first movement continues to bear the character of an introductory prelude. It consists of a sequence of three episodes, longer sections of three to four minutes. These constitute procedural happenings which at first seem not in narrative order, a sequence of events that evolves. These are states of musical material rather than its development, states of material for strings, for woodwind, for brass and for the piano, harp and percussion. Each of the episodes is slower than the one that precedes it, the first in quavers, the most sparkling and busy, the second in crotchets, where the motifs appear in musical figures and begin to take on a certain consistency, solidifying into more concrete shapes, the third in minims, where the sound material takes on a continuous line, a cantilena. This development into a cantilena grows more intense in the ethereal Adagio that follows the third episode, distinct in form, which reveals the idea of the movement, the idea of music that becomes slower and finds its resolution in an Adagio.
The three episodes are divided by two refrains, a third of which closes the first movement, after which the Adagio dies out in a pianissimo. These are the slow exchanges of clarinets and bassoon, in short melodic figures, lyrical in character. The principal motif of the four Es in the trumpets and trombones tells us each time that an episode is beginning or, after the Adagio, that the second movement is starting. We are unaware that through the first movement, capricious and barely consistent, of less "importance" because of the melodic contours that appear and disappear again, with its patterns that sometimes seem to us anaemic, tame and unfinished, open and unfulfilled, Lutosfawski has prepared us for the second movement of his symphony. We do not know and there is no need for us to know that in the first movement the composer has suggested the principal idea of the whole symphony, its fundamental elements, had sketched them, suggested them, prepared them, and had directed the subconscious attention of the listener to them.
The second movement is the main part of the whole symphony. The idea of the sonata-allegro dominates, in the sense that the dualism of two fundamental thematic groups can be detected, with their abridged repetition, the stretto before the great climax that ends the movement, could be described as a repeat; the development as a principle and not as a separate section on the classical model is present in the whole movement, from beginning to end. The first thematic group, to continue with classical terminology, consists of the repetition of the main motif, the repeated Es that open the movement and of a broadly extended fugato episode in the strings, with the harps. The second subject begins polyphonically, with the strings mainly pizzicato. The second movement of the symphony, unlike the first, is a development, a dramatic narration in which there are varied forms and interruptions, details shaded as in chamber music and symphonic explosions of the whole orchestra which call for a deeper and more developed analysis. There is no need for that here: an attentive listener, in tune with the composer in the first movement, is seized in the second by the form of the symphony and no guidance is necessary in order to appreciate the work.
In his commentary Witold Lutosfawski wrote that the second movement ends with a developed Epilogue. This could, however, easily be regarded as a third movement, beginning after the end of the climax of the second. The third movement, therefore, would be a slow movement, treated by the composer on the formal and expressive scheme of a unison string recitative and a rhythmic cantilena. Some melodic patterns from the first movement appear and we find again the intensified expression of the Adagio with which it ends, the ethereal character of a vision here becomes one of ardour. After the climax that crowns the second movement, it might be supposed that there would be only a conclusion to the form, an acceptance of our lot. The third movement, Lutoslawski's Epilogue, reveals itself as something quite different, an alternative principal movement, a completion of the world of this work. A form analogous to the Introduction, but different in expression, pathetic in spite of its character, is the Coda, stemming from the second movement. The last bar of this is a tutti of four fortissimo quavers. All is completed.
After the first performance of the Third Symphony in Chicago on 29th September 1983 by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Sir Georg Solti, to whom the work is dedicated, one of the critics wrote that this symphony was exactly what might be expected at that time from a Polish composer. It must be remembered that at the time the effects of the introduction of martial law in Poland on 13th December 1981 were always apparent. Witold Lutostawski, who, after December 1981, took no part in the official life of the country, in the course of a meeting of the inner committee of musicologists in Warsaw, expressed his view of the American criticism. In accordance with his artistic principles, he did not confirm the supposition that he could have intended to express in his music the lot of the Polish people, and yet, he went on, if we agree, all the same, that music can signify anything extra-musical, we should also recognise that we must consider music to be an art of many values. Man has, nevertheless, one single soul and events lived through must have some infiuence on him. If man has a psyche, then the world of sounds, while keeping its autonomy, is a function of this psyche. That is why I should like to associate myself here with a puzzling enough proposition, that if the last movement of this symphony produces an impression of this kind and if it keeps the audience in suspense, it is not the effect of chance. I must admit that I should feel myself honoured to have expressed something that could have relevance to the events lived through not only by me personally but also by other people. If that is true, I should regard it as a mark of the highest esteem. (Witold Lutosfawski. 1983).
(English version by Keith Anderson)
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