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LUTOSLAWSKI – LIVRE POUR ORCHESTRE (1968)
Livre pour Orchestre was written in 1968 for the Hagen Orchestra of Westphalia and dedicated to its conductor, Bertold Lehmann. The work is organised into four ‘chapters’ separated by three interludes (short melodic fragments ‘ad libitum’ and not conducted). Lutoslawski has said that the music of these interludes is deliberately insignificant, serving merely as points of relaxation for the audience. Each interlude lasts about twenty seconds; the first is scored for three clarinets, the second for two clarinets and harp, and the third for harp and piano.
In the first chapter, the strings predominate with plaintive, questioning glissandi framing an episode for brass and percussion. Chapter 2 is more dynamic: it begins with the glittering sounds of plucked strings and pitched percussion, followed by longer and more loquacious contributions from wind and brass. Chapter 3 incorporates aspects of both the preceding chapters.
Only gradually does one realise that the third interlude, far from being insignificant, is growing into something much larger – into the final chapter, which emerges as the interlude isntruments (harp and piano) begin to attract those sonorities which began the second chapter. There is a slow release of energy, with the main orchestra gradually taking over and the texture fanning outwards. The individual blocks get shorter and more active, until the whole texture is whipped up into a pulsating, brief scherzo just before the climax. But the climax does not have the last say: while it is still going on, a door is opening on to a new world. Perhaps this lyrical coda for two flutes, accompanied by a strung chorale, is Lutoslawski’s ‘unanswered question’.
© John Casken