• WL100/20: Dance Preludes, **15.02.55
Friday, 15 February 2013 Leave a comment
Here are a couple of previously unrevealed facts about this popular piece for clarinet and piano. The premiere of Lutosławski’s five Dance Preludes took place on 15 February 1955, although one of the set (unidentified) had already been played at a Polish Composers’ Union concert on 24 April 1954.
• In May 2002, I was doing some research in Poland when I came across some interesting information about the background of Dance Preludes which widens the chronology of its composition. Here’s a sample:
Lutosławski evidently wrote a single Preludium taneczne in 1953. In a letter to him dated 5 December 1953, his publisher wrote:
‘… we ask a kind favour of you: either agree to the publication of your one “Dance Prelude for clarinet and piano”, or write to us by the N. Year as to how things are with your plans for another two preludes – we would be very pleased with that.’
‘… zwracamy się do Ciebie z gorącą prośbą: Albo zgódź się na wydanie Twojego jednego “Preludium tanecznego na klarnet et fortepian”, albo napisz nam do N. Roku, tak, jak to jest w Twoich zamierzeniach jeszcze dwa preludia, z czego bardzo cieszylibyśmy się.’
Lutosławski replied by sending just the one prelude on 31 January 1954; this was almost certainly the one played in April 1954. It eventually became the last in the set. I have found no further correspondence about preludes in the plural until after the premiere in 1955.
• When exploring the musical and bibliographical contents of his house in September 2002 (with permission of the family), I discovered a folder marked ‘Mat. ludowe’ (Folk Mat[erials].), tucked away in a cupboard in the attic room. Among a wealth of MS examples in Lutosławski’s handwriting, there were several headed ‘Preludia tan.’ (Dan. Preludes), with tunes copied from another source. Here’s the tune at the top of the list (it’s not been seen before; photograph taken in poor light on site), and it provided him with the initial theme for the first of the Dance Preludes.
The insertion of differently-metred bars is characteristic of many Polish folksongs. The connection between the source and the prelude is clear (the tempo is greatly increased), but the straightforward yet imaginative way in which Lutosławski makes a paragraph out of a (relatively) simple tune through extension, repetition and a varied underpinning is a stroke of genius.