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String Overture - Witold Lutosławski

Witold Lutosławski wrote his String Overture (which he initially titled "Intermezzo") in 1947, dedicating it to Mirko Očadlik. The work was first performed in Prague by the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra under Grzegorz Fitelberg on 9th November 1949 and had its Polish premiere the following year, on 6th January 1950, in Cracow, by the Cracow Philharmonic Orchestra under Witold Krzemieński. Afterwards it almost completely disappeared from concert halls.

String Overture is often regarded as a "less interesting" work, one which is "not very innovative", "over-intellectual" and excessively influenced by Béla Bartók. In fact, similarity with Bartók's music lies mostly in the way Lutosławski handles the three- and four-sound melodic cells which he uses both to build long melodic lines as well as short motifs. The motif of four sounds, h-ais-gis-a, starts the Overture and recurs as many as 132 times in what is just a five minutes' long work. Lutosławski's first attempt in his search of a new harmonic language, the Overture contains a number of elements which would be developed in his later music.

This is how Andrzej Chłopecki commented on String Overture:

"Although remaining the in shadow of 'Symphony No. 1' (completed in 1947) and 'Concerto for Orchestra' (completed in 1954), the 'Overture' is, in many respects, Lutosławski's most interesting composition prior to 'Musique funèbre'. While having some broadly understood neoclassical features which relate it to the music of Albert Roussell on one hand and Béla Bartók on the other, the 'Overture' heralds, in many ways, the things that will happen with Lutosławski's music after 'Musique Funèbre' and even 'Jeux vénitiens'. One could say that it is in this work that the composer uses what would later become his very characteristic 'chain' technique involving an overlapping and gradual exchange of various elements." (Andrzej Chłopecki, from the programme of the 5th Polish Radio Festival "Lutosławski", 2001).

Preared by the Polish Music Information Center, Polish Composers' Union, January 2005.

Tags: witold lutosławskistring overture

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