• WL100/61: Symphonic Variations

75 years ago today, Lutosławski put the finishing touches to his Symphonic Variations, his first surviving orchestral work.  I wrote about the premiere in an earlier post (WL100/43: Variations, **17 June 1939).  Since then, the Symphonic Variations featured in the Lutosławski strand of the 2013 BBC Proms, with same forces – the BBC SO under Edward Gardner – which give such a scintillating performance on Chandos CHSA 5098 (2012).  Here’s a YouTube upload of the Polish Radio broadcast of the Proms performance on 7 August … plus Lutosławski’s own, third-person comment (undated):

This is the work with which the author (then 26) made his debut in 1939 at a musical festival in Kraków.  The style of the work is, maybe, far from being definitively crystallised and yet on the basis of the Symphonic Variations one might speak of the artistic maturity of its then young author, principally thanks to the richly developed orchestral palette as well as the compact and balanced structure.

Są utworem, którym autor (wówczas dwudziestosześcioletni) zadebiutował w 1939 roku na festiwalu muzycznym w Krakowie.  Styl utworu jest, być może, daleki od ostatecznego skrystalizowania i jeśli na podstawie Wariacji symfonicznych można by mimo to mówic o dojrzałości artystycznej ich młodego wówczas autora, to przede wszystkim dzięki bogato rozwiniętej palecie orkiestrowej oraz zwartej i zrównoważonej architekturze.


Today is also the anniversary of the partial premiere of the Second Symphony, whose second movement ‘Direct’ was performed on 15 October 1966, in Hamburg, with the Sinfonie Orchester des Norddeutschen Rundfunks conducted by Pierre Boulez.  For Lutosławski, Boulez’s conducting on this occasion was not entirely satisfactory (WL100/31: Notebook, 9 April 1969), but I have never fully understood Boulez’s subsequent lack of interest in Lutosławski’s music.

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