The great Polish composer Witold Lutosławski was an important conductor of his own highly expressive music. With Chain 1 he developed a new compositional method linking contrasting musical ideas into a satisfying whole. Partita, Interlude and Chain 2
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Excellent collection by an important Polish master!Nov. 22 2010
Daniel R. Coombs
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Format: Audio CD
Witold Lutoslawski (1913-1994) was one of Poland's preeminent composers. He became the best known and most important name in post-World War II eastern Europe and, along with Andresz Panufnik and Karol Szymanowski, paved the way for some composers whose music, ultimately, became better known abroad (such as Penderecki and Gorecki). Lutoslawski grew up watching his country suffer, survive and evolve during Nazi occupation as well as Soviet puppetry. This collection highlights some off Lutoslawski's best works and very sensitively and accurately conducted by himself. (Not all composers develop the technical capability or podium presence to successfully conduct their own works; not so with Lutoslawski) The booklet notes explain well that one technique that the composer relied on a great deal was what he called "chain music". "Chain music" for Lutoslawski was the construction of music that - regardless of its medium or length - could be analyzed in two distinct halves. A new section of material (motivic, melodic, harmonic) would appear during the second half of a piece which would then serve as the primary strand in the next movement of multi-movement works or in a new piece, which is now structurally "linked" to the piece of origin. This structuring and "chain" developing also lends itself to programming and performance alignments, as is present in the selection on this disc. In this case, Lutoslawski's "Chain 1" (1983) is structurally linked, as described, to "Chain 2" (1985), followed by "Interlude" (1989) and then to the "Partita" from 1984. The "chain" is built within and formally, and not always built chronologically, sequentially as this series indicates. The "Partita" for violin,piano and orchestra was first composed as a work for violin and piano in 1984 and given its presentation transformation in 1988.It is built on some very attractive chromatic figures and features a middle section that showcases a very pretty violin melody. This is a very engaging work! The "Interlude" is a short, quiet, somewhat mysterious work built on strings in nine groupings playing a slowly shifting harmonic pattern. The very eery chordal progressions in the strings are interrupted several times by little frenetic, asymmetrical bursts from the woodwinds and brass. The overall effect is actually slightly reminiscent of Ives' "Unanswered Question" (just for a frame of reference) "Chain 2" for violin and orchestra is built as a "dialogue" for the solo and whole and is structured as two halves with two inner sections (it is not structurally four 'movements' either by length or structure) The two types of sections, that appear twice, are called, by the composer, 'ad libitum', implying a somewhat improvised, "controlled aleatory" and 'a battuta', characterized by a serialist, strictly notated approach. The work is dramatic throughout and has an attractive flow to its effect. The last example of the "chain" on this disc is the "Chain 1". Written for fourteen instruments and playing music that revolves around the initial pitch of 'A' and, later, 'B', there is a bit of ad libitum to the overall sound and the work dissolve into a twelve-tone, quite explosive closure. Aside from the impressive "chain musics", I found Lutoslawski's "Chantefleurs er Chantefables" for soprano and orchestra a highlight. This small song cycle is based on poems by Robert Desnos (1900-1945), who was a member of the French "Resistance" and died in Theresienstadt after being captured by the Nazis. The cycle is nine short "fables" written for the children of a close friend of Desnos' and cover much topical ground, as does the music. The songs are beautiful ("The Rose", "Angelique"), surreal ("Sauterelle", "Tortue") and a bit humorous ("L'alligator" "Papillon") The net effect is gorgeous but, Naxos, I would have liked to see the text in the package notes. On this disc, the New Music Concerts Ensemble of Toronto performs under the able direction of Lutoslawski himself, in his last recorded concert, and under the artistic direction of Robert Aitken. Both soloists, violinist Fujiko Imajishi and soprano, Valdine Anderson, are splendid. Kudos and gratitude to the Canadian Council for the Arts and the City of Toronto for supporting this kind of recording and for bringing music of this calibre to larger audiences!