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Witold Lutosławski

Publisher: Chester Music

String Quartet (1964)
Work Notes
Chester Music is the publisher of this work in all territories except Poland, Albania, Bulgaria, China, countries of the former Czechoslovakia, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, Romania, Hungary and the whole territory of the former USSR, where the copyright is held by Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne (PWM). I. Introductory Movement; II. Main Movement
Chester Music Ltd (Polish Works)
Small Ensemble (2-6 players)
Year Composed
25 Minutes
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Programme Note
Witold Lutosławski String Quartet (1964)

My String Quartet lasts approximately twenty-four minutes, and contains two parts: introduction and main movement. The introduction opens with a recitative by the first violin followed by several separate episodes – as if framed – by groups of octaves (C – C). A short allusion to the opening recitative (this time in the cello) ends the movement in a kind of suspense. The main movement starts with a ‘furioso’; its violent character dominates for quite a while culminating finally in a ‘crisis’ played in the highest registers of all four instruments. A kind of chorale in ‘pianissimo’ follows, then a longer section marked ‘funebre’. The final episodes of the work constitute a commentary, as it were on what went on before.

In this Quartet I have sought to develop and enlarge the technique employed in the two preceding works, Jeux Venitiens and Trois Poèmes d’Henri Michaux the technique of what I call controlled aleatorism. It employs the element of chance for the purpose of rhythmic and expressive enrichment of the music without limiting in the least the full ability of the composer to determine the definitive form of the work.

The String Quartet was commissioned by Swedish Radio for the tenth anniversary of its New Music programme ‘Nutida Musik’. The World Premiere was given by the LaSalle Quartet in Stockholm on 12 March 1965.

© Witold Lutoslawski

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