LUTOSLAWSKI – CONCERTO FOR ORCHESTRA
It was in 1950 that Witold Rowicki, as Musical Director of the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, asked Lutoslawski to write a work especially for this newly formed ensemble. It was to be based to some extent on folk music and display the orchestra’s qualities without being too difficult. The resulting Concerto for Orchestra took nearly four years to complete. While much of the material used is folk orientated, no attempt was made to reproduce folk idioms. Lutoslaswki felt free to treat his basic ideas in a manner that did not put any curb on his creativity. Free use is made of all twelve notes, while sometimes the part writing suggests several simultaneous tonal planes.
The Concerto departs from convention in the matter of architecture, for no movement approximates, even remotely, to sonata form. The structure of the opening ‘Intrada’ is A-B-A, the whole of the first section being played over a reiterated pedal on F sharp – the work’s tonal centre. Whereas this first paragraph stems form a single idea that is handed over from one group of instruments to another, the texture gradually becoming more and more complex, the larger central panel is less limited in its material.
The final section provides a much condensed, quiet reprise of the opening one, the pedal F sharp now sounding in the high register. The second movement is also in tripartite form and it displays a similar contrast between its outer sections based on the same material. The first climax of any size introduces the central ‘Arioso’ which, far from being a slow section, maintains the same tempo as the ‘Capriccio’. The very condensed reprise of the first part finally peters out on divided double basses and drums of different sizes.
By far the longest movement is the third, which consists of three main sections, the ‘Toccata’ and ‘Chorale’ making up the first and second, while the substantial coda that follows constitutes the third. During the opening ‘Passacaglia’, the superimposed structures do not necessarily coincide with the basic theme which, because it is cyclic (its ending is also its beginning), can be said to start at more than one point. As the ‘Toccata’ draws towards its close, the ‘Chorale’ begins to emerge out of it, but later the two become ingeniously intertwined. The last part of the movement – a finale in all but name – refers back to the previous material, the theme of the ‘Passacaglia’ returning in a varied form.
© Malcolm Rayment
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Listening Guide: Lutosławski's Concerto for Orchestra from Philharmonia Orchestra on Vimeo.