Mini Overture

orchestration: brass quintet
dedicated to: Ursula, Philip Jones
year composed: 1982
about premiere
location: Lucerna
date: 11 III 1982
zespół: Philip Jones Brass Ensemble
edition: PWM, Chester Music

Mini Overture for brass quintet of two trumpets, French horn, trombone, and tuba, belongs to a series of small chamber works written by Witold Lutosławski after the Sacher Variation, i.e. between 1979 (Epitaph for oboe and piano) and 1992 (Subito for violin and piano). The importance of these works varies substantially. Some are functional in nature, while it is important to note that others are of significance to Witold Lutosławski's output as a whole. We may posit that it is beginning with Epitaph that the ‘late Lutosławski' begins, along with an intensive ‘reactivation' of melody due to the so-called ‘supple textures'. This opens the way to the Partita, Chantefleurs et chantefables, and Symphony no. 4.

The Mini Overture was originally to be the first piece in a suite ending in a Galop. The impulse for the creation of the Mini Overture (defined by Witold Lutosławski as a "small caricature of an overture") was provided by the fiftieth anniversary of the birth of Ursula Jones, wife of Philip Jones.

The barely three-minute composition, dedicated to Walter Strebi, who was the initiator of a project for a collection of pieces for this type of ensemble, does not occupy in Lutosławski's output a place as important as the Epitaph for oboe or Grave for cello. Rather, its rank could perhaps be compared to that of Slides or the two Fanfares - one for Cambridge University and the other for Lancaster University. Yet it has an irresistible charm, which clearly points to the Neoclassical aesthetic of a grotesque scherzo. Short ‘pugnacious' motives seem to resound with the pastiche idioms of Stravinsky from the Histoire du soldat, and where the instruments play unisono or where they resound with lively and regular chords, it would be difficult to recognize the hand of Lutosławski if not told what is being played. Why is that so? This is because here Lutosławski does not apply his special earmark - the technique of aleatoric counterpoint, which in his music from the 80s plays an ever lesser role. A special characteristic of this work is also the fact that it exhibits a particular contrariness: the sunny shine left by the French Neoclassicism is obtained with a construction based on two markedly contrasting 12-tone series which create the outline of sonata form. Thus, in the score composed of three continuously played segments we are dealing with something that is trifling and even entertaining, but also full of finesse and intelligence, like a smartly constructed toy.

ach / trans. mk