Chain II. Dialogue for violin and orchestra

  1. Ad libitum
  2. A battuta
  3. Ad libitum
  4. A battuta - ad libitum - a battuta
orchestration: violin and orchestra
  vn solo 2(2 picc)2(1 ci)2(1 clb)1, 0220, timp, batt, pf (cel), archi (6-6-4-4-2)
dedicated to: Paul Sacher
year composed: 1984-1985
about premiere
location: Zurych
date: 31 I 1986
orchestra: Collegium Musicum
conductor: Paul Sacher
soloists: Anne-Sophie Mutter
edition: PWM, Chester Music

Between 1983 and 1986, Lutosławski wrote three pieces with the title Chain (Chain 1 for Chamber Orchestra, 1983; Chain 2: Dialogue for Violin and Orchestra, 1984-85; Chain 3 for Orchestra, 1986); yet these are independent pieces and do not form a cycle in any way The title refers to the composer’s technique, and particularly the form in which different strands overlap – one section continues as the next one begins.

The details of the technique involve the non-simultaneous commencement and cessation of parallel layers, the goal being to break the convention that requires the composer to move from one section to another, finishing each one with a cadence. In the Chains, musical ideas overlap and sometimes coexist, which is somewhat reminiscent of medieval motets.

Chain 2 is a piece in four movements, with alternate ad libitum and a battuta sections. It was first performed in Zurich on January 31, 1986, by Anne-Sophie Mutter with the Collegium Musicum ensemble, directed by Paul Sacher, to whom the composition was dedicated. The first Polish performance took place several months later, by the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra directed by Kazimierz Kord, with the solo part played by Krzysztof Jakowicz.

The technical, formal and aesthetic practice that became almost a principle in the Chains, was already evident in Lutosławski’s work in the 1960s, with its non-conducted (ad libitum) sections shifting to conducted ones, with metric notation (a battuta), where gradually diminishing aleatoric segments are interrupted with increasing frequency as they inconspicuously morph into non-aleatoric segments. Another similar technique was to introduce a rough-draft motif, phrase or segment during the early stages of a piece and later develop it into a full narrative quality, significant both in form and expression. The complementary nature of sounds – where sounds are assigned to specific registers, instruments or sections when they are absent in adjacent or contrapuntal registers, instruments or sections – can also be seen as characteristic of the “chain” technique, despite its being used by Lutosławski in the majority of his earlier pieces.

That is the case in Partita, where, from the very first segment of the first movement (Allegro giusto), the six notes assigned to the violin, which constitute the melody, are complemented by the remaining six notes of the full twelve-note spectrum, to create the harmonic orchestral accompaniment. Such is also the case in Interlude, where the eight-voice string part, which creates a dreamlike and progressively shifting harmonic landscape, is encrusted with four-note melodic arabesques played by wind instruments – always in such a way, so as to complement the twelve-note spectrum of a given segment. This is also the case in Chain 2, where the principle of overlapping linkage applies to the dialogue of the solo violin and the orchestra, the integration of adjacent movements, and to the complementary relationship between pitch and intervals. Even in the first movement of the composition, Ad libitum, with its introductory, undecided, hesitant character – so typical of the composer’s strategy of construction in cyclic forms – the violin part seems formally to have nothing in common with the orchestral part. However, whereas four tones are consistently assigned to the orchestra to create a harmonic background, the remaining eight are used for the violin’s melodic figuration. The second movement, the metrically notated A battuta, consists of three segments and leads to the first climax, developing from the opposition of denser intervals (marked ruce in the score) and less dense intervals (marked soave). The third movement, again Ad libitum, with its dominant violin part, constitutes a break in the narrative, as if to take a breath before starting the narrative again in the next, fourth movement, which is the climax of the whole piece and consists of subsequent sections: A battuta – Ad libitum – A battuta.

Interlude was written as a kind of orchestral link between two other compositions, with a stylistically emphasized violin part (the composer’s intention was to create a certain meta-form allowing each piece to be incorporated into a whole during concert performance). The end result is a triptych of independent pieces for violin and chamber orchestra, which may form a cycle: Partita – Interlude – Chain 2. These were written after several chamber compositions – a version of Partita for violin and piano, Epitaph for oboe and piano (1979) and Grave for cello and piano (1981). Lutosławski’s interest in chamber forms brought about a qualitative change in the overall stylistics of his music, including his symphonic works, such as the Third Symphony, and especially the Fourth Symphony. This change forms the characteristic melodic language which emerged in the final stages of Lutosławski’s career, and which combined all of his creative techniques, resulting in a poetics that can be seen as his own, independent “late style” musical system.

In this piece it is possible to discern the traces of thought in terms of a twelve-note series, which had its beginnings in Funeral Music, but which was then “functioning” in a different aesthetic sphere. Yet despite its use in Chain 2, one of the piece’s most important elements is unquestionably the rich, varied and emotional melody, suggestive of the romantic idiom in its expression, which consigns the twelve-note technique to a secondary role – not only for building expression of a piece, but also in its strictly technical aspects

ach / trans. aw