1. Allegro vivace
  2. Allegro sostenuto, poco rubato
  3. Allegro molto
  4. Andantino
  5. Allegro marciale
orchestration: piano
dedicated to: Zbigniew Drzewiecki
year composed: 1952
about premiere
date: 1953
soloists: Witold Lutosławski
edition: PWM, PWM(2), PWM(3),Chester Music
orchestration: two violas
year composed: 1962
about premiere
date: 1970
soloists: Stefan Kamasa
edition: PWM, Chester Music
transcription by: Bogusława Hubisz-Sielska
orchestration: viola and piano
edition: PWM

Witold Lutosławski was no doubt an able pianist. To this testifies even the diploma concert program crowning his pianistic studies at the Warsaw Conservatory. In spite of vistas for a promising career, Lutosławski had long announced that he wishes above all to be a composer.

However, the post-war times were not kind to artistic creators. Countries which served as factotums to the USSR celebrated the concept of social realist art, fervently heralded in Poland from the end of the 1940s by the Minister of Culture Włodzimierz Sokorski. The communist party deciders forced composers to assume a specific aesthetic stance, which postulated drawing inspiration from folklore and composing pieces “friendly” to the wider public and devoid of avant-garde progressivism.

Also, only great talents knew how to combine the regime’s demands with true creativity, turning to the Neoclassicism popular from the time of the 1920s and strongly suffused with folklore. An example: Witold Lutosławski’s Bucolics, or five children’s miniatures based on Kurpian folk melodies dedicated to Zbigniew Drzewiecki. Fitelberg assessed these musical bits in the following manner: “Listen to this music – this is a true master, one of the kind which had been long absent from here! Szymanowski was great – that’s for sure, but he did not possess such skills as Lutosławski – I assure you! For this one has to be born a musician!”.

The cycle was created on commission by the PWM Edition in 1952. The composer named the particular links of the cycle with the use of Italian tempo specifications: Allegro vivace, Allegretto sostenuto, Allegro molto, Andante, and Allegro marziale. Kurpian melodies from the collection of father Władysław Skierkowski served as the basic melodic material, sedulously hidden under the original arrangement.

Odd-numbered movements are characterized by quick tempo, rhythmic vitality and melody which barely make reference to the folkloric original. From time to time, raw-sounding fifths in the outer movements contrast with the refined harmonic arrangement of the slow movements. An almost impressionistic texture, slow narration, and a kind of suspension of energy already herald the musical-colour-oriented sensitivity of the composer.

The work’s rather simple texture, though not devoid of inventive solutions to compositional problems, as well as the moderate demands in performance skills, determined its practical application. Alongside the Folk Melodies (1945), Three Pieces for the Youth (1953), and the Miniature for Two Pianos (1953), the Bucolics constitute rewarding pedagogical material for use by young pianists. The cycle received its premiere in a performance by the composer in Warsaw, December, 1953.

dc / trans. mk