1. Allegro giusto
  2. Ad libitum
  3. Largo
  4. Ad libitum
  5. Presto
orchestration: violin and piano
year composed: 1984
about premiere
location: Saint Paul (Minnesota, USA)
date: 18 I 1985
soloists: Pinchas Zukerman, Marc Neikrug
edition: PWM, Chester Music
orchestration: violin and orchestra
  vn solo, 2(1 picc)02(1 clb)2(1 cfg), 0220, timp, batt, cel, ar, pf, archi
dedicated to: Anne-Sophie Mutter
year composed: 1988
about premiere
location: Monachium
date: 12 I 1990
orchestra: Müncher Philharmoniker
conductor: Witold Lutosławski
soloists: Anne-Sophie Mutter
edition: PWM, Chester Music

Witold Lutosławski played the violin till the age of nineteen and continued to perform as a concert pianist after the war. Interestingly, even though he had planned to compose a piano concerto for many years and had even begun work on it, it was late on in his career (after completing his Third Symphony) that he turned his attention to concerto forms of these instruments. This significant creative impulse came with a chamber work – a duo for violin and piano – which can be seen as the signature piece of Lutosławski’s music of the 1980s and one of the most important in his oeuvre. The composer then transcribed the chamber Partita for violin and orchestra with an obligato piano part. This became Chain 2: Dialogue for Violin and Orchestra, which is in fact a violin concerto. It is worth noting that the composer’s drafts include initial work on another violin concerto.

Commissioned by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (in St. Paul, Minnesota), Lutosławski wrote the Partita for Violin and Piano for Pinchas Zukerman and Marc Neikrug in 1984. The orchestral version was created in 1988 and dedicated to Anne-Sophie Mutter; its first performance took place on January 10, 1990 in Munich. Anne-Sophie Mutter was accompanied by the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Lutosławski himself.

The three main movements, serving as “pillars” of the work (Allegro giusto, Largo and Presto), are separated by two short movements ad libitum, which function as linking passages. In these movements it is the notation that determines the aleatoric non-synchronization of the parts of the two instruments, which – just as in Lutosławski’s Venetian Games and String Quartet from the early 1960s – are written in separate boxes.

The Partita is one of the compositions in which Lutosławski attempts a synthesis of his previous works, turning to, among other things, the sound gestures from the period before Funeral Music. They appear, however, in a new space, different from before. An expansive melodic line replaces the usually short, recurrent motifs of previous works. In the harmonic image of the music, chords comprised of thirds and fifths replace the more saturated secundal and tertian chords of former pieces, and frequently create an accompaniment for the melody. If such qualitative changes did not really spring from Lutosławski’s previous musical language, if they could be proved to be an attempted revival of some historical context, the major-minor system for example, then one could suppose a stylistic turning-point in the composer’s work. Perhaps an attempt to reactivate the past, a characteristic feature of European and American music in the 1980s. This, however, is not the case here (or, indeed, in Lutosławski’s later works); there is a shift of accents, but no significant change in the composer’s musical language. The above-mentioned melodic and harmonic traits simply become liberated and regain their long-lost sovereignty. In Partita we recognize not only the phrases and expressions that played a vital part in the Third Symphony and will continue to do so in the Fourth, but also the lyrical phrases, including birdsong motifs, which will appear in the orchestral songs Chantefleurs et chantefables.

“The name Partita, used by Bach with reference to some of his suite works, appears here to suggest a few allusions to baroque music, for example at the beginning of the first movement, in the main theme of the Largo and in the finale, which resembles a gigue” (Witold Lutosławski, 1988). The first, introductory movement (Allegro giusto) and the third, central Largo (extensive and carrying a particularly powerful emotional charge) each consist of four sections, the last of which contains the climax of each movement. This also happens in the penultimate, fourth section of the last movement (Presto), to be played ad libitum, forming the climax of the entire piece and is followed by a final section which functions as a coda.

ach / trans. aw