Witold Lutoslawski: Partita for Violin and Piano (1984)
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Witold Lutoslawski: Partita for Violin and Piano (1984)

A discussion of the duo version of Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski\\\\\\\'s 1984 Partita, one of the lesser played works by the great Polish composer of the 20th century.

The composer in 1985

Witold Lutoslawski was born in Warsaw to a musical and distinguished family. He attended the Warsaw Conservatory, where he studied with Jerzy Lefeld and composition with Witold Maliszewsky, receiving both diplomas in 1937; later, he went to Paris for further studies. He also studied higher mathematics at the University of Warsaw for two years. While attending the Warsaw Conservatory he wrote a piano sonata (1934), and soon after graduation he completed a major work for orchestra, the Symphonic Variations, introduced by the Polish Radio. During the war, Lutoslawski served in the Polish army as chief of a field radio station. After the war, he became active in the musical life of Poland by becoming a member of the Union Polish Composers and of "Autumn of Warsaw" festivals; he also served with the Radio Council and the Polish Musical Publications. Lutoslawski first attracted international attention with his Symphony No. 1, which was introduced on April 6, 1948. In 1955, he received his first prize from the government for his contributions to Polish music.

A grouping of Lutoslawski's scores, courtesy of the Polish Music Center

Lutoslawski composed his Partita for violin and piano in the autumn of 1984 for Pinchas Zuckerman and Marc Neikrug at the request of The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. They first performed it during a concert of Lutoslawski's works which the composer conducted on January 18, 1985. A new version for violin and orchestra (and piano obligato) was especially composed for Anne-Sophie Mutter and was dedicated to her. Regarding the orchestral version, the composer has said: "The idea of composing this new version was the result of the very strong impression made on me by Anne-Sophie Mutter's performance of my Chain 2. Her extraordinary art has been a true inspiration for my compositional work, and I hope to write something more for her."

Speaking of the original version for violin and piano, he adds: "The work consists of five movements. Of these, the main movements are, the first (Allegro giusto), the third (Largo), and the fifth (Presto). The second and fourth are but short interludes to be played ad libitum. A short ad libitum section also appears before the end of the last movement.

"The three major movements follow, rhythmically at least, the tradition of pre-classical (18th century) keyboard music. This, however, is no more than an allusion. Harmonically and melodically, Partita clearly belongs to the same group of recent compositions as the Symphony No. 3 and Chain 1."

Regarding his choice of title Lutoslawski has explained: "The word 'partita,' as used by Bach to denominate some of his suite-like works, appears here to point out a few allusions to Baroque music, e.g. at the beginning of the first movement, the main theme of the Largo, and the gigue-like Finale."

* Author's addendum

* The embedded audio-video files above are a very authentic performance of this 1984 composition, played by an unlikely duo.  The violinist is Dutch and the pianist is Iraqi.  However they paired that up apparently doesn't matter once they read a score together.  The music of Lutoslawski is very modern and can be inaccessible to many Western ears, but it is worth adjusting to the aleatoric style of this great Polish composer, possibly the finest from his country after Chopin.  Listening to this twice can ease a listener into a better harmonic comfort zone.  These are only examples.  Please support working artists by purchasing music and art legally.  Thank you.

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Comments (5)

Wow, this is some exciting music! For some reason it reminds me of Schoenberg. Very nice choice!

Thanks, James.

An interesting rendition of violin and piano Ileen. Truly classical and timeless.

Great listening pleasure as always IIeen, relieving the anxiety of earthquakes and tsunami issue, thank you for the share.

A blanket thank-you to all who voted and commented. Sorry, I have been very busy lately!

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