• Lutosławski’s ‘didlumdi, didlumdaj’

On my visit to the Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music in Katowice last week – and what a terrific institution it is, both in terms of staff and students and of its buildings, old and new – I took advantage of its library to check out a volume that furnished Witold Lutosławski with melodies for his Dance Preludes.  From transcriptions that I found in a folder of folk materials in his house in 2002, I knew that he had relied for the melodies of the first two preludes on the work of Łucjan Kamieński.  It was but a small step to guess that they came from Kamieński’s Pieśni Ludu Pomorskiego, I: Pieśni z Kaszub południowych (Pomeranian Folk Songs, I: Songs from Southern Kaszuby, 1936).

Sure enough, the melodies – one in the first prelude from Borsk, two connected tunes in the second prelude from Rybaki – were there, alongside the other eleven tunes that he’d selected but not used.  Lutosławski had transposed most of the melodies and sometimes modified them rhythmically.  I was hoping that the material for the other three preludes would be in the bulk of the volume that he had not apparently transcribed.  Frustratingly, they were not there, so the search for their sources goes on.

I was tickled by the text of the refrain of the melody for the first prelude, which was also the first tune in Kamieński’s volume.  Now I can no longer listen to Lutosławski’s version without mentally muttering the immortal words: ‘didlumdi, didlumdaj, didlum, didlumdaj!’.

Borsk 1

• 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!

• Panufnik, Penderecki, Zubel

To add to forthcoming Polish music events in the UK, there are two celebrations this month, in Glasgow and Manchester.  Next Saturday and Sunday (20-21 June), ‘Panufnik. A Celebration’ takes place at City Halls, Glasgow, with three concerts devoted almost entirely to his music.  A few days later (23-26 June), the RNCM in Manchester hosts ‘Seven Gates: The Music of Poland Explored’. Penderecki will conduct the first UK performance (!) of his Seven Gates of Jerusalem, only 18 years after it was premiered; his music and that of the much younger Agata Zubel (b.1978) take the foreground.  Lutosławski features at both events in a supporting role, with Górecki and Szymanowski also included in Manchester.  The Manchester repertoire has some little-known Penderecki works embedded in it, and of the three films Andrzej Wajda’s feature on Katyń and Wiktor Skrzynecki’s documentary about the ‘Warsaw Autumn’ will be well worth seeing.  For repertoire details, see below.

While I am delighted that these composers are being played and heard, I can’t help feeling that the repertoires of both events reinforce the impression in the UK that Polish music still consists of composers (Zubel excepted) who are either dead or reaching their creative dotage.  The one exception in this country, largely confined to sacred music, is Paweł Łukaszewski (b.1968), who has made a strong impact in choral circles here and was featured last year at the Presteigne Festival, which also promoted another Polish composer in his 40s but little-known in the UK, Maciej Zieliński (b.1971).  Zubel’s music is especially welcome this year in this context, and anyone wanting to hear her recent music, but who can’t get to Manchester, is recommended to seek out her CD ‘Not I’ on the Kairos label.

In case you missed it, Hyperion released a CD earlier this year of string quartets by Paweł Szymański (b.1954) and Paweł Mykietyn (b.1971), both of whom are well-established and no longer up-and-coming in Poland yet are virtually unknown here, despite Szymański having had some exposure with the London Sinfonietta some 25 years ago.  I am still waiting for high-profile performances of composers now in their 30s, like Szymański was when the BBC commissioned Partita IV for premiere at the Sonorities Festival in Belfast in 1987.  What about – and this is to name just a few composers in addition to Zubel, some deeply involved in multi-media work, who are headline figures in Poland and have international profiles elsewhere – Wojtek Blecharz (b.1981), Andrzej Kwieciński (b.1984), Dariusz Przybylski (b.1984), Marcin Stańczyk (b.1977) or Jagoda Szmytka (b.1982)?  There are dozens more (by focusing on those born in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I am not forgetting that there are older – even younger – composers equally worthy of investigation!).


Panufnik.  A Celebration
City Halls, Glasgow, 20-21 June 2015

BBC Scottish SO, conducted by Łukasz Borowicz, Alexander Sitkovetsky, Ewa Kupiec

Panufnik: Divertimento, after Janiewicz (1947), Lullaby (1947), Sinfonia rustica (1948), Polonia (1959), Piano Concerto (1961/several times revised), Sinfonia sacra (1963), Violin Concerto (1971), Symphony 10 (1988), unidentified piano music
Lutosławski: unidentified piano music


Seven Gates: The Music of Poland Explored
RNCM, Manchester, 23-26 June 2015

RNCM New Ensemble, Dominic Degavino, RNCM SO, Chamber Choir and Chorus, Piero Lombardi Eglesias, Maciej Tworek, Krzysztof Penderecki (other soloists and ensembles tba)

Penderecki: Violin Sonata no.1 (1953), Three Miniatures for clarinet and piano (1956), Brigade of Death (tape, 1963), Agnus Dei (1981, arranged for eight cellos), Cadenza for solo viola (1984), Entrata (1994), Symphony no.7 ‘Seven Gates of Jerusalem’ (1996), String Quartet no.3 (2008),
Górecki: Harpsichord Concerto (1980)
Lutosławski: Dance Preludes (1954), Chain 1 (1983), Piano Concerto (1988)
Szymanowski: Songs of a Fairytale Princess (1915), Masques (1916)
Zubel: Suite for percussion trio (2011), Streets of a Human City (2011), Shades of Ice (2011)

• Katyń (Andrzej Wajda, 2007)
• Górecki: The Symphony of Sorrowful Songs (Tony Palmer, 1993, not 2008 as given in the brochure)
• 50 years of [the] Warsaw Autumn (Wiktor Skrzynecki, 2007)

• Wartime Warsaw Recollections

Back in October 2014, I reported briefly on a new 4-CD boxed set of recordings of Polish music composed, for the most part, during World War II.  Now a book of recollections has been published by the Witold Lutosławski Society in Warsaw to commemorate the composers and performers who went through and, in some cases, died during the Nazi occupation.  It has been put together by Elżbieta Markowska, formerly Head of Music at Polish Radio 2, and Katarzyna Naliwajek-Mazurek, who is the foremost specialist on Polish musical life in 1939-45 and contributes a 30-page essay to introduce Okupacyjne losy muzyków (The Fates of Musicians during the Occupation).


Sadly, for non-Polish readers, it exists only in Polish.  But its photographic documentation more than makes up for any linguistic barrier.  There are photographs of daily life in Warsaw and of musical venues – the Warsaw Philharmonic, Grand Theatre and cafés – damaged during the war.  There are private photographs of the featured musicians, of their documents, letters and postcards (also transcribed alongside), posters, pages from scores and concert programmes, the vast majority of which have not been published previously.

The roster of composers, performers and writers is the most comprehensive yet assembled, although there are absences, possibly because of the lack of personal documentation.  The sources are varied and expertly marshalled, not least in the visual design of the volume, which runs to some 300 pages.  It is an intriguing and insightful compilation, and I hope it will sometime be published in English.  Here is the list of contributors in the order in which they appear:

Andrzej Panufnik (1914-91), composer, pianist and conductor: excerpts from his autobiography (already published in English and Polish), photos of rehearsals for the premiere of Tragic Overture (March 1944) and concert programmes, including one for the Lutosławski-Panufnik duo on 22 March 1942, when the repertoire of Mozart, Brahms, Schubert, Ravel and Albeniz was interlaced with Lutosławski’s Paganini Variations, a slow-fox by Cole Porter, paraphrases of Bizet and Johann Strauss and a jazzowa parafraza on Liszt’s Liebestraum no.3.
Witold Lutosławski (1913-1994), composer and pianist: mostly identity documents and family letters that mention Lutosławski; less extensive than Panufnik’s entry.
• Bolesław Woytowicz (1899-1980), composer (but not during occupation), pianist and initiator of one of Warsaw’s main musical cafés: various sources, including the diary begun while he was in Pawiak prison, plus recital schedules (he gave three complete cycles of the Beethoven sonatas).
Grażyna Bacewicz (1909-69), composer and violinist: mainly letters to her brothers.
• Halina Kowalska (1913-98), cellist, and her husband Henryk Trzonek (1912-43), viola player: Kowalska’s interview for Polish Radio in 1960, recollections by Włodzimierz Kusik of the street arrest and execution of Trzomek, plus reproduction of a poster naming the 100 victims of this police operation in December 1943.
• Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz (1894-1980), writer (cousin of Szymanowski): excerpts from published diary.
• Roman Padlewski (1915-44), composer and underground fighter: letters, accounts and documents; the most extensive entry in the volume.
• Eugenia Umińska (1910-80), violinist: documentation, recollections by Kazimierz Wikormirski (cellist) Stanisław Wiechowicz (composer), transcript (English) of brief interview for BBC radio in 1948.
• Grzegorz Fitelberg (1879-1953), conductor: letters to Stefan Spiess (1945).
• Edmind Rudnicki (1892-1957), pianist and underground organiser: recollections by others.
• Zofia Nałkowska (1884-1954), writer: excerpts from published diary.
 Roman Palester (1907-89), composer: fragments from typewritten memoirs.
• Zbigniew Drzewiecki (1890-1971), pianist: recollections.
Jan Krenz (b.1926), conductor and composer: recollections.
Marian Filar (1917-2012), pianist: recollections.
Andrzej Markowski (1924-1986), pianist and composer (later conductor) and underground fighter: documentation, Polish Radio archive; contributions from his wife Bogusława.  *The cover photo of Okupacyjne losy muzyków shows Andrzej Markowski playing at the Actors’ Café in Autumn 1944, during the Warsaw Uprising.
Jan Krzysztof Markowski (1913-80), composer (especially of underground songs) and pianist, brother of Andrzej: documentation and reproduction of two songs.
• Jerzy Waldorff (1910-99), writer and critic: excerpts from published diary.
• Władysław Szpilman (1911-2000), pianist and composer (subject of the film ‘The Pianist’): Polish Radio archive.


• WL100/1-81: The Complete List


• 2.01.15  WL100/1-81: The Complete List
• 1.01.15  WL100/81: Roussel 3, Lutosławski 3


• 31.12.14  WL100/80: Lutosławski’s Chair
• 30.12.14  WL100/79: Jeux vénitiens conducting score
• 29.12.14  WL100/78: Jeux vénitiens pitch designs
• 28.12.14  WL100/77: Lutosławski’s French Bookmarks
• 27.12.14  WL100/76: Lutosławski Learns To Drive
• 26.12.14  WL100/75: Lutosławski’s Bookshelves
• 25.12.14  WL100/74: Lutosławski Rules!
• 24.12.14  WL100/73: Lutosławski’s Batons
• 23.12.14  WL100/72: Lutosławski’s Desk


• 27.11.13  WL100/71: Lissa on Concerto for Orchestra
• 26.11.13  WL100/70: Concerto for Orchestra, **26.11.54
• 18.11.13  WL100/69: Livre, **18 November 1968
• 15.11.13  WL100/68: Nie oczekuję dziś nikogo
• 11.11.13  WL100/67: Notebook, 11 November 1961  on conducting
• 9.11.13  WL100/66: Overture, **9 November 1949

• 26.10.13  WL100/65: Mr and Mrs  Lutosławscy in Prague
• 24.10.13  WL100/64: Notebook, 24 October 1959  Webern
• 22.10.13  WL100/63: Mi-parti, **22 October 1976
• 19.10.13  WL100/62: Notebook, 19 October 1960  Pierre Schaeffer and objet sonore
• 15.10.13  WL100/61: Symphonic Variations
• 14.10.13  WL100/60: Cello Concerto, **14 October 1970
• 6.10.13  WL100/59: Lutosławski in Moscow (1951)

• 16.09.13  WL100/58: ‘old’ Derwid CDs
• 15.09.13  WL100/57: ‘el Derwid’ CD
• 6.09.13  WL100/56: Los Angeles (1985)  reposting of Lutosławski in Los Angeles (1985) (2.09.11)
• 5.09.13  WL100/55: Death of Lutosławski’s Father
• 3.09.13  WL100/54: Lutosławski and Panufnik (1945)
• 2.09.13  WL100/53: Trio, **2 September 1945

• 27.08.13  WL100/52: His Last BBC Prom
• 26.08.13  WL100/51: July Garland (1949) – the music
• 21.08.13  WL100/50: Volcano in Łowicz (1949)  Gałczyński
• 20.08.13  WL100/49: 22 July 1949 and a letter  July Garland
• 19.08.13  WL100/48: 22 July 1944 and after  Lutosławski’s medals
• 18.08.13  WL100/47: Folk Melodies, **22 July 1946
• 17.08.13  WL100/46: Notebook June-July

• 25.06.13  WL100/45: Trois poèmes, UK*25 June 1969
• 20.06.13  WL100/44: Paroles tissées, **20 June 1965
• 17.06.13  WL100/43: Variations, **17 June 1939
• 12.06.13  WL100/42: 33 ‘Derwid’ songs published

• 23.05.13  WL100/41: Symphony 4 (Polish premiere)
• 22.05.13  WL100/40: London Sinfonietta, 22 May 1993
• 18.05.13  WL100/39: Polar Music Prize, 18 May 1993
• 9.05.13  WL100/38: Les dessins de Michaux
• 9.05.13  WL100/37: Trois poèmes, **9 May 1963
• 8.05.13  WL100/36: Le songe de Desnos (1938)
• 4.05.13  WL100/35: Lutosławski in Riga

• 24.04.13  WL100/34: Jeux vénitiens, **24 April 1961
• 13.04.13  
WL100/33: Zanussi documentary (complete)
• 12.04.13  
WL100/32: Les espaces, **12 April 1978
• 9.04.13  
WL100/31: Notebook, 9 April 1969  on conducting (and Boulez)
• 7.04.13  
WL100/30: Notebook, 7 April 1960  on Cage
• 6.04.13  
WL100/29: Notebook, 6 April 1961  on ‘poor caricatures’
• 3.04.13  
WL100/28: Jazz Conversations (Lutosphere)

• 19.03.13  
WL100/27: Notebook, 19 March 1961  on rain and Jeux vénitiens
• 13.03.13  
WL100/26: Notebook, 13 March 1961 (2)  on electronic music
• 13.03.13  
WL100/25: Notebook, 13 March 1961 (1)  on feeling in music
• 11.03.13  
WL100/24: Notebook, 11 March 1961  on new instruments (and Jeux vénitiens)
• 9.03.13  
WL100/23: 9-10 March 1957  speech to Polish Composers’ Union
• 9.03.13  
WL100/22: Chain 1, figs 40-41

• 16.02.13  WL100/21: Funeral and Homily, 16.02.94
• 15.02.13  WL100/20: Dance Preludes, **15 February 1955
• 12.02.13  WL100/19: ‘Lutosławski live’, 12-19.02.93
• 12.02.13 WL100/18: Notebook, 12 February 1961  on his current music
• 6.02.13  WL100/17: Notebook, 6 February 1959  as a parachutist
• 2.02.13  WL100/16: Philharmonia Festival, 2-12.02.89

• 26.01.13  WL100/15: Thank-you note, 26 January 1993
• 22.01.13  WL100/14: Lutosławski at Polish Radio  new archival website
• 19.01.13  WL100/13: In Conversation with Zanussi
• 17.01.13  WL100/12: ‘Breaking Chains’, BBC 1997
• 16.01.13  WL100/11: ‘The Hidden Composer’  Witold Lutosławski and Polish Radio
• 13.01.13  WL100/10: ‘Breaking Chains’, GSMD 1997
• 12.01.13  WL100/9: Lutosławski’s Carpet
• 10.01.13  WL100/8: Musique funèbre, 10 January 1958
• 5.01.13  WL100/7: Lutosławski info online
• 3.01.13  WL100/6: Epitaph, **3 January 1980
• 2.01.13  WL100/5: Notebook, 2 January 1963  on Cymer the carpenter


• 31.12.12  WL100/4: Lutosławski Likenesses
• 20.12.12  WL100/3: Lutosławski in Belfast (gallery)
• 18.12.12  WL100/2: Lutosławski in Belfast (DMus)
• 17.12.12  WL100/1: Lutosławski in Belfast
• 17.12.12  WL100

• WL100/81: Roussel 3, Lutosławski 3

The commonly accepted score line is Roussel 3, Lutosławski 1.  Or, in musical parlance, Roussel’s Third Symphony is usually linked with Lutosławski’s First.  Lutosławski himself laid emphasis on the significance of the French composer’s work, especially with regard to symphonic form.  Charles Bodman Rae investigates this relationship more than others when he also finds motivic functional patterns linking the slow movements of the two symphonies.

In his conversations with Irina Nikolska (Stockholm, 1994; p.81), Lutosławski added another dimension:

I like this composition very much.  There was a period in my life when I was simply captivated by it.  Even today I consider it a chef-d’oeuvre.  What an inventiveness in the field of melody!  (A rare thing nowadays.)

I was reminded of this when I spent three days researching in Lutosławski’s house in late September 2002.  There on his shelves was his score of Roussel’s Third Symphony, which Lutosławski had heard in Warsaw as a teenager at the start of the 1930s.  It even had his name stamped on the cover (does the stamp help to date Lutosławski’s purchase of the score?).

Screen Shot 2015-01-01 at 09.56.49

More interestingly, tucked inside were three folded pieces of manuscript paper on which Lutosławski had transcribed some of the main themes of Roussel’s symphony.  (I did not come across any transcriptions of any other works by other composers.)  They are not in chronological order, and the scherzo is ignored.  It is quite possible that Lutosławski did this much later in his life, when he was preparing a lecture on Roussel’s symphony that he gave at the Academy of Music in Basle.  (The text is translated in Zbigniew Skowron’s collection Lutosławski on Music (Plymouth, 2007; pp.193-97); he thinks that it was probably delivered in June 1970.)

The ‘first’ sheet contains two themes: (i) the first six bars of the first movement, Allegro vivo, and (ii)  the opening ten bars of the finale, Allegro con spirito.


The ‘second’ sheet has just one theme: (iii) the first ten bars of the second movement, Adagio.


The ‘third’ sheet has two themes, both from the finale: theme (iv) picks up the fifth bar of fig.65 and takes it four bars, while theme (v) jumps to the very end of the movement (excluding the last two bars), starting at fig.80.


What struck me most was this ‘last’ sheet.  Combined with comments in his Basle talk, it reinforced something that I had perceived long ago and yet which – to the best of my knowledge – no-one has ever pointed out.  If correct, it sheds new light on Lutosławski’s relationship with Roussel’s Third Symphony.

In the second part of his Basle lecture (the first part covers issues such as the neglect of Roussel’s symphony and the definition of neoclassicism), Lutosławski goes through the key thematic material.  He gives page numbers and contextual musical information, although it is not a thoroughgoing analysis.  He does focus, however, on what he calls the ‘motto theme’.  This evidently intrigued him.

The theme inveigles its way into every movement, sometimes overtly, sometimes indirectly.  For example, it is incorporated into the violin line at fig.1, although Lutosławski does not mention this first instance.

Screen Shot 2015-01-01 at 11.33.09

In the first movement, he refers to page 10, where the flute figure embraces the theme (here it is on its recapitulation, on violins, six bars after fig.17, on p.30).

Screen Shot 2015-01-01 at 11.38.49

More obviously, the motto theme thunders out on page 27 (four bars before fig.16).

Screen Shot 2015-01-01 at 11.37.48

Lutoslawski begins his observations on the Adagio with the motto theme – see manuscript above, theme (iii).  He then cites the semiquaver fugato four bars after fig.31 (p.50) as beginning with the first five notes of theme, ignoring the fact that it is prefaced by a slow version in the first violins.

Screen Shot 2015-01-01 at 12.19.12

Screen Shot 2015-01-01 at 11.45.42

He reserves special delight for the end of the second movement.  He is captivated by the motto theme’s triple appearance, starting six bars after fig.38.  On pages 66-67, marked again Adagio, the theme is played in succession by solo flute, solo horn and solo violin.  Lutosławski comments: ‘These three entrances represent for me a particular, rare beauty’.  This is the flute entry.

Screen Shot 2015-01-01 at 11.46.46

When it comes to the third movement, Vivace, Lutosławski makes no explicit reference to the motto theme, although it is embedded in what he labels a ‘call to attention’ for the main theme that follows a bar after fig.41 (p.70).

Screen Shot 2015-01-01 at 11.48.02

For the finale, Lutosławski first cites the main theme  – (ii) above – and then a violin phrase ‘worthy of attention’ – (iv) above.  He highlights the motto theme at fig.71 (p.119) that comes just before the recapitulation: ‘This time it is played by the solo violin against a background of harmonies that are both simple and sophisticated, and it constitutes one of the most beautiful moments in the whole work’.  This is the start of a section that lasts for almost twenty bars.

Screen Shot 2015-01-01 at 13.31.16

Finally, Lutosławski comes to the peroration that crowns Roussel’s Third Symphony – theme (v) above: ‘The recapitulation ends with the motto theme; this time in a solemn version, but free of any pomposity.  It is a gorgeous completion of this extraordinary work’.

It is obvious from this text that Lutosławski’s enthusiasm for Roussel’s symphony was undiminished, from the Polish premiere at the start of the 1930s to his Basle lecture 40 years later and beyond, as when he spoke with Charles Bodman Rae in 1988 (see The Music of Lutosławski, p.28, fn.9).  In fact, his enthusiasm was not unconditional, as his Basle lecture reveals.  Nevertheless, it was ‘in his bones’, it was part of his musical life-history.

So one should not be surprised that its influence resurfaced more than 30 years after the First Symphony.  In addition to ‘Roussel 3, Lutosławski 1’ we may surely add ‘Roussel 3, Lutosławski 3’.  The reason is staring us in the face, although it appears to have passed unnoticed.  I would be extremely keen to hear if anyone has written about this already.

Let me cut to the chase by recalling Lutosławski’s admiring phrase: ‘What an inventiveness in the field of melody!’.

Compare the various versions of the motto theme in Roussel’s Third Symphony with the climactic melody in Lutosławski’s Third.  They share a descending succession of two intervals – variously minor 3rd/major 3rd followed by perfect 5th/minor 6th or major 6th.  They then rise, almost or exactly, to where they started (usually octave/minor 7th in Roussel, minor 7th or major 7th in Lutosławski).  The main anapaestic rhythmic kernel is the same in both. The principal difference lies in the conclusion of the motif, where Roussel, strange as it may seem, sounds more dissonant (it is because of the way in which he comes to rest not on the lowest pedal note, as Lutosławski does, but on the step above).


In the Lutosławski, the motivic seeds have been sown earlier, such as in the opening flute ‘bundle’, in the first trumpet at fig.63 and the violins five bars later.  Before fig.81, the descending minor third resurfaces in the first violins. But the first overt appearance of the ‘motto theme’ is in the first violins at fig.84.  In a manner parallel to the final statement of the motto theme in Roussel’s Third Symphony, Lutosławski gives his equivalent a climactic sweep at fig.97, just before the canonic coda.

I am not suggesting that Lutosławski was consciously referencing Roussel.  He may have been doing so, or he may have realised the connection later, or he may have been totally unconscious of his tribute.  The parallels are certainly uncanny, and I cannot now hear the concluding melody of his Third Symphony without recalling Roussel’s Third too.

• WL100/80: Lutosławski’s Chair

When the BBC Radio 3 Music Matters team was preparing for its profile of Lutosławski to mark the centenary of his birth (broadcast on 19 January 2013), its web page included several archive photos of the composer plus one taken on location by his stepson, Marcin Bogusławski.  This photo was of his studio, with his desk and bookshelves.


It is interesting to compare this photo from 2013 with the one taken by me in September 2002


and with the undated one taken much earlier by Malcolm Crowthers with Lutosławski at his desk.  It was used for the front cover and inside flap of O muzyce. Pisma i wypowiedzi (Gdańsk, 2011), the Polish version of Lutosławski on Music (Plymouth, 2007).

Scan 1

Crowthers’ photo is self-evidently the earliest of the three, with Lutosławski gazing out of the window from his desk, which is much fuller of materials than when I took my shot.  (See also my photos in WL100/72: Lutosławski’s Desk and WL100/74: Lutosławski Rules!.)  Bogusławski’s photo has many, but by no means all, of the same books on the shelves, often in a different order.  It also has the accoutrements of modern technology, in which Lutosławski had no interest: a computer and printer.  His typewriter is still there, as are the painting on the end wall and the wooden library steps underneath.  There is, however, a noticeably new office chair.

I cannot tell from Crowthers’ photo what Lutosławski was sitting on, but I would hazard a strong guess that it was the office chair that was still tucked into the desk in 2002.  Sadly, it was in a parlous state by then.  The padded seat was in a bad way and the adjustable back had lost its upright position and leaned impossibly towards the floor.


It was something deeply melancholic to see it in this state of disrepair, its occupant long absent.  It was a reminder of how much Lutosławski had written from this chair and how much he was missed.

Incidentally, on the seat in the background of my photo is the growing pile of materials that I and Nicholas Reyland made during our three days in the house in 2002.  It contained conducting scores and folders of manuscript materials etc..  On the top we put a note to suggest that they should all go to the Paul Sacher Foundation in Basle to join the rich array of other items that Lutosławski had deposited there.  I do not know if that was ever done; I hope so.

Tomorrow will bring the last of my WL100 posts.  (Better late than never.)  To give you a sporting chance of guessing what it might be, here is a choice of score lines (ho-ho):

• Roussel 3, Lutosławski 1
• Roussel 3, Lutosławski 3

Happy New Year!

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