Silesian Triptych

  1. Allegro non troppo
  2. Andante quieto
  3. Allegro vivace
words: śląskie pieśni ludowe
orchestration: soprano and orchestra
  sop solo, 2(1picc)23(1clb)2, 4331, timp, batt(3), cel, ar, archi
year composed: 1951
awards: I Nagroda na Festiwalu Muzyki Polskiej (1951),
Nagroda Państwowa II Stopnia (1952)
about premiere
location: Warszawa
date: 2 XII 1951
orchestra: Narodowa Orkiestra Symfoniczna Polskiego Radia
conductor: Grzegorz Fitelberg
soloists: Maria Drewniakówna
edition: PWM, Chester Music
transcription by: Jerzy Kornowicz
orchestration: soprano and piano
year composed: 2009

The Silesian Triptych is a piece by Lutosławski the citizen of a Poland subjected for a few years (1949-1955) to the dictates of social realism, and it was brought into being in 1951 as an arrangement of Silesian folksongs drawn from an inter-war anthology, which itself was arranged by the Polish ethnomusicologist Jan Bystroń. Thus, the cycle of songs for soprano and orchestra does not introduce, as does the Little Suite, titles stemming from the authentic folk music. The lyrics are presented as the words of a Silesian girl, who - otherwise not making use of the Silesian dialect - talks in the outermost movements of searching for a suitable candidate for a husband, and in the centre movement paints a genre scene (a water source springing from a well).

On one hand, the use of folkloristic melodies for the compositional arrangement doesn’t seem to be at odds with the directives of social realism, and even meets them halfway, while on the other hand it strays from the same directives through the particular orchestral arrangement. In reality, the composition is not obviously a ‘popular’ type of music, its sonority approaching what Lutosławski was tending toward in the Symphony no. 1 and in the Concerto for Orchestra, rather than the aesthetics of his pieces written for social commissions and simply for remuneration, a series of which is to be found in the catalogue of his works from the first half of the 50s. Nevertheless, the piece was honoured with two prizes by the Polish cultural authorities of the time. Within two weeks of the premiere given on December 2, 1951, by Maria Drewniakówna and the Great Symphony Orchestra of the Polish Radio under its artistic director, Grzegorz Fitelberg, it received the State Prize of the second rank, accorded on the occasion of the state holiday of November 22, which symbolized the creation of the People’s Republic of Poland.

ach / trans. mk