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8.553625 - LUTOSLAWSKI: Cello Concerto / Livre pour orchestre / Novelette / Chain III
Witold Lutoslawski (1913-93)Livre pour orchestre
Concerto for cello and orchestra
The titles of the three symphonic works of Witold Lutoslawski included in the present recording suggest extra-musical inspiration, literary, fable or narrative, Livre, Novelette and Chain, the first suggesting, perhaps, Couperin, the second Schumann and the third the only one with a direct Polish translation, a title used by Lutoslawski for a series of works. Surprisingly the final work included, the Cello Concerto, with its less evocative, purely technical title, has strong extra-musical connections. It was written in 1969-1970 for a commission from the Royal Philharmonic Society and the Gulbenkian Foundation, and first performed on 14th October 1970 at the London Festival Hall by the cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, to whom it is dedicated, and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under Edward Downes. The work, because of its dedication, has suggested association with the position of Rostropovich at the time as a dissident in the Soviet Union, but the composer, in spite of the sufferings of his own family at the hands of Russian Communists, denied this, although the Soviet authorities banned its broadcast performance in Russia and in Poland, after Rostropovich had been awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Philharmonic Society.
In the Concerto, typically, the soloist is the ubiquitous hero of the work, varied in contrasting moods and forms of expression that follow the request of Rostropovich to take no account of technical problems for the soloist but only of musical problems. The whole work is built on the principle of conflict, in form and in expression. It begins with an introduction for the soloist that develops from the note D, repeated. This provides an inner dialogue between phrases that make a firm statement of belief and those that oppose it.
The cello-writing is as polyphonic as that for unaccompanied violin by Bach or Bartók, but here the polyphony is a matter of craftsmanship, of ambience and of types of expression. Soon, however, conflict begins with the first interruption by the brass. This continues in four phases, the second with four outbursts from the brass, the third a lyrical cello solo with strings, again interrupted with greater intensity and the fourth the climax of the work. The Concerto, in fact, consists of four linked movements, Introduction, four Episodes, a Cantilena and a Finale. The soloist, after the brusque interruption of the Introduction, moves on to the first of the four Episodes, which all involve dialogue with other instruments and are all to be interrupted by the 'serious' brass. The cello, relatively unconcerned, turns to weightier matters when it comes to the Cantilena, interrupted by the whole orchestra. In the Finale the cello is, as it were, attacked by smaller groups of instruments, leading to what might appear defeat. This is contradicted by the final coda, recalling the opening and allowing a triumphant rather than a despairing conclusion.
Livre pour orchestre was commissioned for the city of Hagen in 1962 by the Hagen director of music, Berthold Lehmann, to whom Livre is dedicated. It was first performed there on 18th November 1968. The work is strictly constructed, with the three first movements or Chapters relatively short and condensed, separated by shorter interludes played ad libitum that provide moments of relaxation, like some sections in the Concerto. The last of these, after the third movement brings surprises, as it leads to the final movement. The strings are the principal narrators of the first movement, with solo instruments and the use of glissando and of quarter-tones. The second section brings opposition to the strings from the brass and there is an aleatoric passage that hints at what is to come. The second Chapter allows the strings considerable use of pizzicato, with the harp and with the entry of trumpets in playful mood. The third has the character of a scherzo, the whole summarised in the final movement, with its references to what has passed, bringing together material that had earlier appeared in interrupted and fragmentary form.
Novelette was written in the years 1978 and 1979 and was dedicated to Mstislav Rostropovich and the Washington National Symphony, who gave the first performance on 29th January 1980 in a programme that included the Cello Concerto. Although, as always with Lutoslawski, there are fundamental differences, nevertheless the work is analogous in structure to the Livre, with four introductory movements followed by a fifth that is the most developed. There is an opening Announcement and a final Conclusion, in a work that might also be described as in arch form. Between these are three Events, the first in measured time, but the others allowing fragments that are to be played ad libitum and others that are conducted. The work finds a place for an element that suggests French neo-classicism in the first Event Here, as elsewhere, Lutoslawski is sparing in his use of the full orchestra, preferring to make use of individual solo voices or smaller groups of instruments in music that makes use of serialism, of major and minor and other elements in characteristic style.
Chain No 3 was written in 1986 and was first performed on l0th December that year by the San Francisco Symphony under the direction of the composer at the Davies Hall. The work could be regarded as a form of symphonic overture and is in three sections. In the first small instrumental groups mesh with each other, playing ad libitum in an ensemble of contrasts. The second part brings a contrast between sections that are conducted and sections that are again ad libitum. The work ends, a reflection of Poland in the 1980s, in a cello glissando fading into the darkness, a symbol of resignation. Although Lutoslawski's music only has a musical meaning, it always suggests other interpretations.
Keith Anderson based on information supplied by Andrzej Chlopecki
Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, Katowice
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