• A Discarded Lutosławski Page

What happened to the first draft of Lutosławski’s Third Symphony?  (A numerically appropriate question for today, the third anniversary of his birth after the centenary in 2013.)  Charles Bodman Rae commented in The Music of Lutosławski on the gestation of the Third Symphony:

Initially, he envisaged a one-movement symphony in four sections: Invocation, Cycle of Etudes, Toccata, and Hymn.  This was plan was eventually rejected, however, and he temporarily abandoned the project.  Work was resumed in 1977, after the completion of Mi-parti, and extensive sketches made, only to be set aside once more as still unsatisfactory.  When he finally returned to the symphony in 1981 he began afresh, although some material from the earlier sketches was incorporated into the new scheme.

Lutosławski put it slightly differently, commenting in an interview published in Polish Music in 1983 to mark the world premiere of the final version that he ‘wrote the main movement which I then scrapped, disqualified it completely, and began a second time’.

Wherever the manuscript of this first ‘main movement’ now lies, it’s not going to be complete, because I have one page of it.  It was given to me as a present in 1995 – marking the 25th anniversary of my first visit to Poland – by the founder of the Polish Radio Experimental Studio, Józef Patkowski.  He in his turn had been given it by Lutosławski, along with some other score materials (although Józef did not specify what they were).  My apologies for the quality of the image – it was the best I could do through the glass – but it is mostly readable, even though the new WordPress format compresses photos.  I have posted a larger photo on my Facebook WL100 site:

IMG_8377 copy-2 copyAs was Lutosławski’s custom with rejected ideas, the page has a big X over it.  The page is actually half a page of (I suspect) 28 staves, now measuring 25×17.5 cms, and the music is notated in pencil.  It must have come some way through the movement as it is numbered ’96’.

The tempo marking is Meno mosso (crotchet = 90) and the music is scored for a ‘choir’ of 3 flutes, 3 oboes, 3 clarinets, joined shortly by 3 bassoons (playing at the top of their register and using Bb rather than the out-of-reach Gb as their starting point; the oboes soon join them).  The initial downbeat includes a semiquaver beat on 3 trumpets (although three further pitches are squeezed in, first and second violins (four pitches), violas and cellos combined (six pitches).  The resulting asymmetrical chord contains ten pitch-classes, all except D natural (which soon appears) and C natural (which is absent across the page).

The material for the woodwind choir (which evidently carries over onto the next sheet) is characteristically organised, with different versions of a basic idea overlapped to create a dense weave.  The core motif is a descending chromatic line, sometimes presented ‘straight’, sometimes developed into little curls and eddies, sometimes extending the semiquaver runs to as many as eleven notes.  Such ideas are already evident in the woodwind material at the start of the page.

Lutosławski has lettered the motivic variations ‘a’ to ‘l’, making twelve in all.  The disposition of the motifs across the twelve instruments is as follows (I have inserted three letters that he missed out on the score, in square brackets, in the parts for oboe 2, clarinet 1 and bassoon 3; and I have put into round brackets three motifs which begin at the very end of the staves in flute 2, oboe 1 and bassoon 3):

fl.1:  def
fl.2:  efg(h)
fl.3:  fgh
ob.1:  jbc(d)
ob.2:  [k]cd
ob.3:  lde
cl.1:  gh[i]
cl.2: hij
cl.3: ijk
fg.1:  kl
fg.2: la
fg.3: a[b](c)

The pattern for the most part is clear, but the sequence is disrupted occasionally, as in the placing of ‘j’, ‘k’ and ‘l’ in the oboes.  If one were to replace these three (jkl) with the regular pattern (abc), the sequence would be: flutes: def-efg(h)-fgh; oboesabc(d)-bcd-cde; clarinets: ghi-hij-ijk; bassoons: j?kl-k?la-l?ab(c) (these last three start later so putatively are each missing their first motif).  All the possible ‘forward’ combinations of the 12 letters in batches of three are now accounted for.  Yet, as often with Lutosławski, what might be presumed to be a regular pattern is subverted by substitution (oboes), by omission (bassoons), or by not sequencing it regularly down the page (the oboes in such a pattern would go above the flutes).

Of course, a single page like this tantalisingly whets the appetite for the preceding 95 pages and however many followed.  Now there’s a task for someone to round them all up and do a proper analysis!

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