• WL100/70: Concerto for Orchestra, **26.11.54

For all Lutosławski’s protestations, his Concerto for Orchestra, premiered on this night 60 years ago, remains his most popular work.  It is his most recorded and performed composition and has deservedly entered the orchestral repertoire worldwide.  That is notwithstanding his subsequent reservations about having to work, in the early 1950s, in ways which were inimical and with material with which he claimed to have little innate sympathy.  Yet his approach to Polish folk tunes was ingenious and natural, innovative and subtle, and the Concerto for Orchestra (1950-54) was undoubtedly the Polish masterpiece of the post-war decade.

Six folk tunes were itemised by the Polish musicologist, Zofia Lissa (‘Koncert na orkiestrę Witold Lutosławskiego’, Studio Muzykologiczne, 1956, pp.196-299), no doubt with Lutosławski’s assistance.  Over 20 years later, Steven Stucky added two more (Lutosławski and His Music, 1981, p.50), again aided by Lutosławski.  Lutosławski indirectly led to the discovery of three more tunes when I came across a forgotten folder of folk materials in the attic room of his house in 2002.  I wrote a short paper on these tunes and the Concerto for Orchestra for the 2004 Symposium of the International Musicological Society, held in Melbourne (Marginal Tincturing?).

There are therefore eleven identifiable folk tunes in the Concerto for Orchestra.  They all come from the Mazowsze region of Poland and were taken from Oskar Kolberg’s multi-volume collection of folk sources, volume 25 (Mazowsze, vol.2) with one theme taken from volume 28 (Mazowsze, vol.5) – no.7 in the list below.

One phrase that has been used to describe this folk material is the bizarre ‘rough stuff’.  This is how Lutosławski reportedly described it in Irina Nikolska’s Conversations with Lutosławski (1994).  Although Lutosławski’s original Polish is not available for this particular part of the conversations, and given that the English translation is at times very odd, I have little hesitation in saying that ‘rough stuff’ would be more accurately understood as ‘raw material’. So here, for the first time in public print, are the eleven pieces of ‘raw material’, taken directly from Kolberg.  I have placed them in the order in which they first appear in the finished composition.

1.  Lissa (p.244): Kolberg, Mazowsze, vol.2, no.421 (p.181) – including variants:

Homma 1993

2.  Stucky: Kolberg, Mazowsze, vol.2, no.463 (p.192) – including variants:

WL KO:Kolberg 463

3.  Stucky: Kolberg, Mazowsze, vol.2, no.502 (p.201) – first phrase:

WL KO:Kolberg 502

4.  Thomas: Kolberg, Mazowsze, vol.2, no.673 (p.241) – concluding 2 bars:

WL KO:Kolberg 673

5.  Thomas: Kolberg, Mazowsze, vol.2, no.452 (p.189) – second beat of b.3 to (sharpened) start of b.5:

WL KO:Kolberg 452

6.  Lissa (p.242): Kolberg, Mazowsze, vol.2, no.10 (p.5) – complete (the only tune to be used in more than one movement):

WL KO:Kolberg 10

7.  Lissa (p.245): Kolberg, Mazowsze, vol.5, no.333 (p.299) – first phrase:

WL KO:Kolberg 333

8.  Lissa (p.241): Kolberg, Mazowsze, vol.2, no.131 (p.54) – elaborated:

WL KO:Kolberg 131

9.  Lissa (p.245): Kolberg, Mazowsze, vol.2, no.43 (p.17):

WL KO:Kolberg 43

10.  Thomas: Kolberg, Mazowsze, vol.2, no.22 (p.9):

WL KO:Kolberg 22

11.  Lissa (p.245): Kolberg, Mazowsze, vol.2, no.103 (p.42):

WL KO:Kolberg 103

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