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Witold Lutosławski

Publisher: Chester Music

Concerto for Orchestra [Koncert na orkiestre] (1954),
Work Notes
Chester Music is the publisher of this work in all territories except Poland, Albania, Bulgaria, China, countries of the former Czechoslovakia, countries of the former Yugoslavia, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, Romania, Hungary and the whole territory of the former USSR, where the copyright is held by Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne (PWM).
Publisher
Chester Music Ltd (Polish Works)
Category
Orchestra
Sub Category
Large Orchestra
Year Composed
1954
Duration
29 Minutes


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Programme Note
Witold Lutosławski Concerto for Orchestra [Koncert na orkiestre] (1954),
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.





  • Ensemble
    Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra / Camerata Silesia
    Conductor
    Antoni Wit
    Naxos:
  • Ensemble
    Chicago Symphony Orchestra
    Conductor
    Daniel Barenboim
  • Ensemble
    Oregon Symphony Orchestra
    Conductor
    James DePreist
    Delos:
  • Ensemble
    Suiss Romande Orchestra / London Sinfonietta / Royal Philharmonic Orchestra / Cleveland Orchestra
    Soloist(s)
    P. Pears, tenor P. Jablonski, piano
    Conductor
    P. Kletzki / Witold Lutoslawski / V. Ashkenazy / C. von Dohnanyi
  • Ensemble
    Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra
    Conductor
    Witold Lutoslawski
  • Ensemble
    Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra
    Conductor
    Witold Lutoslawski
  • Ensemble
    Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra / Polish National Philharmonic Orchestra / Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra / Polish National Radio Orchestra
    Soloist(s)
    H. Schiff, celloM. Argerich, piano / N. Freire, pianoD. Fischer-Dieskau, baritone
    Conductor
    Witold lutoslawski / W. Rowicki / W. Lutoslawski / W. Rowicki
    Philips:
  • Ensemble
    BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
    Conductor
    Yan Pascal Tortelier
    Chandos:
  • Ensemble
    Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra
    Conductor
    Sir Andrew Davis
    Finlandia:
  • Ensemble
    Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra
    Soloist(s)
    Andrzej Bauer Krzysztof akowski Piotr Paleczny
    NAXOS:
  • Ensemble
    Warsaw Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra
    Conductor
    Antoni Wit
    Dux:
  • Ensemble
    Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
    Conductor
    Paavo Järvi
    Telarc:
  • Ensemble
    BBC Symohony Orchestra
    Conductor
    Christian Ehring
    Chandos:
Performances
Date
Title
Reviews
This brittle but brilliant work is enormously direct. It was given a slightly cool but very persuasive performance here. The ebullient first movement seemed a perfectly constructed arch, and the second seethed and scurried with a precision that was almost effortless. Always an elegant conductor, Mariss Jansons began the Passacaglia poised like a cat about to pounce on the double bass section, then kept a tight rein on this movement's menacing turbulence, effecting a beautifully calm transition into the simple wind chorale at the centre, and winding up the acceleration at the end excitingly.
Erica Jeal, The Guardian,9/5/2005
The folklike Intrada, arresting in its propulsive rhythms, yields to the gossamer textures of the Capriccio notturno e Arioso. The lengthy concluding Passacaglia, Toccata e Corale, an intricate study in regenerating and reshaping primary materials, may be the most invigorating 16 minutes in contemporary music.
Allan Ulrich, The San Francisco Examiner,3/7/1991
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