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Witold Lutosławski

Publisher: Chester Music

Symphony No. 1 [1.Symfonia] (1947)
Work Notes
Chester Music is the publisher of this work in all territories except Poland, Albania, Bulgaria, China, countries of the former Czechoslovakia, countries of the former Yugoslavia, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, Romania, Hungary and the whole territory of the former USSR, where the copyright is held by Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne (PWM).
Publisher
Chester Music Ltd (Polish Works)
Category
Orchestra
Sub Category
Large Orchestra
Year Composed
1947
Duration
25 Minutes
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Programme Note
Witold Lutosławski Symphony No. 1 [1.Symfonia] (1947)
The composer started working on his first symphony just before the war which made it significantly difficult to continue. During that time only some separate parts of the opus were created, eventually the year of 1947 brought the final version of Symphony No. 1. This composition is built according to the classic four-part symphonic model with scherzo in the third place. The forms of particular parts also refer to tradition, especially of the first, which was shaped as a dual-theme sonata-allegro form (Allegro giusto).

Apart from numerous references to the past - there are distinct inspirations from Prokofiev, Bartók and Roussel - the opus doesn't lack new and individual solutions which are heard not only in the orchestral colouring but also in the developed counterpoint technique connected with motif work. In Symphony No. 1 a listener is hit with its unusual vitality, especially in the utmost parts. Ebullient energy characterises all rapid fragments and the intricate metro-rhythmic changes highlight the impetus of the music. The source of these outstanding rhythmic effects which intensify the spontaneity are either added or subtracted rhythmic values and irregular accents. It is superbly demonstrated in the preparation of the culmination of the first part. Many of these ideas were implemented by Lutosławski later - in an even more striking form - in Concerto for Orchestra. In spite of the general tonal frames (D-major), in Symphony No. 1 there are harmonies and melodic passages indicating that its author was already looking for new and unique solutions in the domain of sound material organisation. Therefore, immediately in the first bar appear peculiar harmonies consisting of two tetrads (in the future Lutosławski will be building twelve-note chords similarly). Furthermore, the sequences of sounds are equally interesting; for example the third part (Allegretto Misterioso) begins with mysteriously sounding pizzicati played by double basses which perform the twelve-note row - the first of that kind in Lutosławski's music. The texture of the opus is penetrated throughout by the imitation technique. It relates to both whole themes appearing in the canon (e.g. the second theme of the first part) and to small motifs betraying their affinity to Bartók's polyphonic technique.

Symphony No. 1 is dedicated to Grzegorz Fitelberg who was its first performer on April, 1st 1948 in Katowice along with Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra. At the moment of its birth, this symphony was not only one of the greatest achievements of the 35 year old Lutosławski, but also the best symphonic opus of those years. [Krzysztof Meyer]



  • Ensemble
    Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra
    Conductor
    Witold Lutoslawski
  • Ensemble
    Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra
    Conductor
    Witold Lutoslawski
  • Ensemble
    Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra
    Soloist(s)
    O. Pasiecznik, soprano
    Conductor
    Antoni Wit
    Naxos:
  • Ensemble
    BBC Symphony Orchestra
    Soloist(s)
    Michael Collins, clarinet; Tasmin Little, violin
    Conductor
    Edward Gardner
    CHANDOS:
  • Ensemble
    Los Angeles Philharmonic
    Conductor
    Esa-Pekka Salonen
    Sony Classical:
Performances
Date
Title
  • 29 MAY 2020
    Auditorio Adan Martín Tenerife, Spain
    Orquesta Sinfonica de Tenerife
    Daniel Bjarnason , conductor
  • 29 MAY 2020
    Auditorium of Tenerife "Adán Martín" of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain
    Orquesta Sinfonica de Tenerife
    Daniel Bjarnason , conductor

Reviews
The BBCSO rounded off their Polish night with Lutosławski’s First Symphony. It kicks off as an uplifting firecracker whose daring, wit and verve allowed the ever-energetic Nesterowicz to showcase the taut, bright and finely articulated playing of the BBCSO. After a harrowing war (he survived as a Warsaw café pianist), Lutosławski premiered the piece in 1948, only to have Poland’s blockheaded artistic Stalinists suppress it for alleged “formalism”. These days, however, the brisk and witty neo-classical allegro sounds like a real crowd-pleaser. Think Stravinsky or even Prokofiev at their bounciest – or even, as jazzy trumpet and flute dance skittishly over lush swooning strings, Bernstein far across the ocean. Brooding, keening cellos anchor a slow movement that then sets haunted wood and brass off to explore a post-traumatic age of anxiety. This shadowed, spooky quality deepens into an “allegretto misterioso”, the conflictual fragments of a macabre waltz only half-resolved by otherworldly brass. If the dotted rhythmic hubbub of the finale let the BBC players say farewell in scintillating style, all this upbeat bustle still had a manic, even panic-stricken, air. This vibrant, committed account of a deeply expressive piece reminded me that Lutosławski deserves a much higher profile in Britain’s concert mainstream. That, alone, made this non-chauvinistic tour of musical Poland a cause for celebration.
Boyd Tonkin, theartsdesk.com,03/11/2018
The evening ended in an all too infrequent revival of Lutosławski's First Symphony (1947), a work whose protracted gestation across the Second World War is balanced by that innate classicism which informs even the most radical of his later works. If the Third of Roussel's Symphonies was its likely starting-point, the ingenuity by which Lutosławski modifies the sonata format in the outer Allegros, along with the finely wrought eloquence of its slow movement, then interplay of the ironic and ominous in its intermezzo, already proclaim a composer in full command of his resources.
Richard Whitehouse, ClassicalSource.com,02/11/2018
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