20.00 Inaugural symphonic concert
Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall
Because of a sudden health problem Dang Thai Son will be replaced by Nelson Goerner.
- Musique funèbre for string orchestra
- Piano concerto in E minor, Op. 11
- Piano concerto Resurrection
About the programme [+]
Concert under the patronage of His Excellency Alexander Alexeev, Russian Ambassador to Poland.
Witold Lutosławski’s Musique funèbre was written in 1958, to a commission from Jan Krenz, to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the death of Béla Bartók. This small work for strings was the fruit of four years’ intensive work, on account of ‘serious technical difficulties’, as Lutosławski put it. Although such an admission may seem surprising coming from the composer of the Concerto for Orchestra, the work’s lengthy gestation is understandable when we bear in mind that it brought a turning point in his creative output. The new principles governing the ordering of notes were based on a twelve-note organisation created by Lutosławski: a tritone and a falling minor second appear in alternation on the horizontal plane, lending the melody an elegiac character. In the harmony, meanwhile, the introduction of successive intervals leads to a full twelve-note harmony in the culmination. The work comprises four sections following on from one another attacca: Prologue, Metamorphosis, Apogeum and Epilogue. Its principle is the gradual heightening of the tension from the opening delicate canon of two solo cellos, through the ecstatic Apogeum, to the tension-relieving Epilogue, which forms a sort of mirror-image of the opening. The principles elaborated in Musique funèbre, later enhanced with discoveries in the areas of controlled aleatory technique and binary form, formed the bedrock for nearly all Lutosławski’s later work. One might say that with this work he proclaimed the creation of his own musical language to the world. That is confirmed by a declaration of Lutosławski’s published in connection with Musique funèbre: ‘[…] for many long years, my work was of a dual character: the elaboration of a new language proceeded in parallel to output in which I used techniques that I was familiar with and had mastered. Hence I would readily consign some of my works to the category of interim output. […] Interim output arises according to the principle: “I write as I can, not being able at that particular moment in time to write as I would wish”. […] As for my mental state on such a forked road (a dangerous subject!), I bore it somehow, even though I was far from a state of inner peace. I am glad that I can speak of it now in the past tense’. Formal discipline and powerful expression, achieved through purely musical means, without any extra-musical associations, place Musique funèbre among the ranks of the masterworks of the twentieth century, and today it is the subject of studies on the part of further generations of young composers around the world.
Chopin composed his Concerto in E minor, Op. 11 directly after the Concerto in F minor, Op. 21, completed just a few months earlier, and he presented it for the first time in Warsaw on 11 October 1830, during his farewell soirée before leaving the country forever. The hall was full and the reception enthusiastic. His genius was acknowledged. From our presentday perspective, Irena Poniatowska regards Chopin’s two piano concertos as ‘the loftiest incarnation of the style brillant’. Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger distinguishes the E minor Concerto as being more carefully wrought than the F minor, and ‘the second subjects of each exposition sing with the loftiest lyricism, which borders on ecstasy in the ardent E major of Opus 11. Here, the passagework is even more ingenious, more elaborate and more perilous than in opus 21. But Lenz’s testimony puts us on our guard: “the pianist must become a first tenor or a first soprano, but always a singer, and a singer di bravura in the passages, about which Chopin wished the pianist to strive to render them all in cantabile style”.’ Within the chorus of admiration, some voices of critics contemporary to Chopin sound quite intriguing. Antoni Woykowski (1836) numbered the E minor Concerto among Chopin’s most outstanding compositions – an opinion that he justified with an original conclusion: ‘Earlier composers can be compared to the stars – they shone at night; but can stars shine when the sun is sparkling?’ We find testimony to the concert culture of those times in a review by Friedrich August Kanne of Chopin’s fourth concert in Vienna, in June 1831: ‘its dignified style arose from the very key of E minor. The composer complemented it with his great inventiveness and expertise in the art of harmony. Its motives are marked by originality and depth, its phrases are interesting usually thanks to the beautiful bass, and its passagework is furnished with figures new to the art of piano […]. After the conclusion of the first movement, the pianist received applause and was called out. The same honour met him when he later performed the Adagio and Rondo’. Jan Kleczyński (1870) knew where the work’s originality lay: ‘the second theme, instead of being in the dominant, is made from E major, which was also an impertinence, but the use of a krakowiak and mazur for the finales to the two concertos must have shocked the old snuff-snorting Classics of the German school’. Did Kleczyński have in mind Ludwik Rellstab, an influential critic and author of historical bunkum on the subject of Chopin’s music? His review of the German edition of the Concerto (1834) begins thus: ‘On the title page […] it is printed Executé par l’Auteur dans ses Concerts à Paris. It appears as if that had to be added in order to prove that there was someone capable of going to so much futile trouble’. A few years later, however, even Rellstab changed his views…
In June 2001, Krzysztof Penderecki set about writing his Concerto for piano and orchestra (originally intended as a Capriccio), which represented the realisation of an earlier project and the fulfilment of a commission for a work to mark the jubilee of Marie-Josée Kravis. But the 9/11 attacks changed everything. As the composer admitted: ‘I decided to write a darker, more serious work. I withdrew part of the material, returned to a certain point in the structure and added a chorale. It first appears around a third of the way through the work, then returns twice. The last time, towards the end of the concerto, it is played rather slowly, allegro moderato, and then all at once, after a few quick bars, the concerto ends’. On another occasion, he explained: ‘This is not a work devoted to the victims of 11 S eptember. I was in the process of writing a Capriccio for piano, but after that shock, which we all experienced, I decided not to carry on writing a Capriccio’. After the premiere, given in May 2002, in New York, by Emanuel Ax and the Philadelphia Orchestra under Wolfgang Sawallisch, Penderecki made some changes that were so crucial that the work given its public premiere in Cincinnati by Barry Douglas, with the composer conducting, should be regarded as the second, and final, version. Mieczysław Tomaszewski traces the lineage of this work’s form back to the nineteenth-century rhapsody, represented by Liszt, Brahms and Rachmaninov, and up to Bartók. Such a classification is supported by the rhapsodic changeability of the textures and expression, characteristic of a dense, dramatically complex tale. The successive phases of this onemovement composition, lasting more than thirty minutes, carry the following designations: Allegro molto sostenuto, Largo, Allegro molto, Adagio, Allegro con brio, Allegro moderato molto, Adagio, Allegretto capriccioso, Grave. Adagio, Andante con moto, Allegro sostenuto molto, Molto largamente e capriccioso, Andante maestoso, Allegro con brio. Of course, the profound link with the past allows us to find a reference to the Chopin tradition, albeit indirect. Like his great predecessors, Penderecki draws on the free, epic flow to the musical narrative, perfectly embedded in an individual style of compositional utterance, in which ballades and scherzos were once narrated in the language of Chopin. Yet the essence of this work’s sound is not the openwork sound of the piano, but the highly differentiated orchestra, into which is merged the piano – at times strongly exposed. Ever since its premiere, the Concerto has continued to arouse heated debate, which has not yet – as the composer sees it – led to it being properly assimilated and understood. It is apt, therefore, to invoke the familiar truth that an artist’s intuition is usually ahead of his time. Doubtless in this case as well…