One of the strangest aspects of this centenary year, and indeed of the performance and recording history since Lutosławski’s death almost twenty years ago, is the neglect of some works which during his lifetime were held in high regard. The most notorious injustice relates to Livre pour orchestre, which I will return to in a later post. Another example is Mi-parti, which Lutosławski wrote in 1975-76 and whose premiere he conducted with the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam 37 years ago today.
During his lifetime, Lutosławski was the person who conducted Mi-parti most frequently. His domination of its performance history is also true of many of his other orchestral and concertante works, which made for composer-authentic concert experiences but in the long run delayed much of his music’s entry into the repertoire of a broad range of career conductors.
As to professional concert performances over the past ten years, there have been only seven (excluding immediate repeat concerts), including just three in 2013, the third and most recent being by the Berlin Staatskapelle under Daniel Barenboim. There have been five commercial recordings:
• WOSPR (NOSPR)/Lutosławski (EMI, rec. 1976; LP, reissued several times on CD)
• Prague Radio SO/Jacek Kasprzyk (Supraphon, rec. 1980; LP only)
• BBC PO/Yan Pascal Tortelier (Chandos, rec. 1993; CD)
• WOSPR (NOSPR)/Antoni Wit (Naxos, rec. 1997; CD)
• Warsaw National PO/Antoni Wit (CD Accord, rec. 2002; CD).
Chandos, with its magnificent 5-CD set of Lutosławski’s music, has inexplicably left out both works. At least the Opera Omnia CD series by the Wrocław PO under Jacek Kaspszyk and Benjamin Shwartz will release both pieces in the near future. On YouTube, Mi-parti has the thinnest of presences, with Lutosławski’s own recording accompanied by photographic artwork by the uploader: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=laFCR96RPO4.
I would be very interested to hear what readers have to say about Mi-parti. For me, it has a magical first section (although Lutosławski sometimes expressed doubts about it) whose essential idea he seems to have had in mind when composing the first section of the Fourth Symphony sixteen years later. The second section is one of his most pulsating, the climax interrupted by trumpets (echoes of the Cello Concerto). The coda is especially haunting. Perhaps the trouble is that it isn’t a ‘symphony’ so, like Livre, it is being left on the sidelines in the age of convenience programming.
When I was researching in Lutosławski’s house in 2002, I came across many fascinating items: marked-up books, his conducting scores, a folder of folk-tune materials and a particular folder headed “ŚCIĄGACZKI” (Crib Sheets). Inside were separate pieces of MS paper connected with his work on Livre, Les espaces du sommeil, Mi-parti and the Fourth Symphony. Here are the two relating to Mi-parti. They come from the second, fast section (apologies for the slightly fuzzy images).
The first is a ‘short-score’ reduction for the first eight bars of fig. 28. The two lines represent the trumpets and trombones, whose individual purchase on the melodic line is fully worked out in the score (07’59”-08’09” on the accompanying YouTube video).
The second is more sketchy. Indeed, it consists only of a (sometimes biforcated) rhythmic line. It tracks the score from fig. 29 (i.e., two bars after the first ‘crib sheet’ stops short) as far as the third bar of fig. 35. Although at times the link between sketch and score may seem tenuous, the sketch is consistent with the final product even if Lutosławski does use notational shorthand at times and darts from one instrumental group to another. Effectively, this ‘crib sheet’ presents the main rhythmic template, an aide-mémoire as he worked the idea up into this extrovert, hocketing passage that leads shortly afterwards to the work’s climax (08’12”-09’09” on the accompanying YouTube video).