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Witold Lutosławski: A Centennial Tribute
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This project is funded by the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, through the generous support of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

+ About the Performance
This program was recorded 12/13/2013 at Symphony Space.

A centennial tribute to the Polish composer Witold Lutosławski (1913 - 1994) featuring American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME), "one of New York's brightest new music indie-bands" (Time Out New York), and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and Lutosławski scholar, Steven Stucky (author of the critical biography Lutosławski and His Music, recipient of the Lutosławski Society's medal and an ASCAP Deems Taylor Award).




Witold Lutosławski (1913-1994)

Bukoliki for viola and cello (1952, arr. 1962)

I. Allegro vivace

II. Allegretto sostenuto

III. Allegro molto

IV. Andantino

V. Allegro marciale


Witold Lutosławski

Sacher Variation for solo cello (1975)


--Discussion with Steven Stucky and Laura Kaminsky--


Steven Stucky (1949-)

Nell’ombra, Nella Luce (In Shadow, In Light) for string quartet (1999-2000)


Steven Stucky

Dialoghi for solo cello (2006)


--Discussion with Steven Stucky and Laura Kaminsky--


Witold Lutosławski

String Quartet (1964)

I. Introductory Movement

II. Main Movement

+ About the Artists

One of the most prominent Polish composers of all time, Witold Lutosławski was born on January 25, 1913, in Warsaw and died on February 7, 1994, in Warsaw. He studied composition under Witold Maliszewski and piano performance under Jerzy Lefeld at the Warsaw Conservatory (1932-1937). His first success was the 1939 world premiere of the Symphonic Variations, directed by Grzegorz Fitelberg. The war years hampered Lutosławski's career as he played in Warsaw coffee houses along with Andrzej Panufnik and arranged some 200 pieces for two pianos. In these times he created the celebrated Variations on a Theme by Paganini. 

Lutosławski's creativity underwent numerous stylistic transformations, from Neoclassicism and folkloristic inspirations of the first period to the unique musical language of the mature years. First in a long line of masterworks came the Concerto for Orchestra (1954), which is the most frequently performed composition worldwide by Lutosławski. The growing international fame of Lutosławski was fortified by such works as Funeral Music (1958), Venetian Games (1961), which introduced controlled aleatoricism, Trois poemes d'Henri Michaux (1963), with which he commenced his activity as conductor of his own compositions, String Quartet (1964), Livre pour orchestre (1968), and Preludes and fugue (1972). He wrote many works with great performers in mind, e.g. the Cello Concerto for Mstislav Rostropovich, Chain II for Anne-Sophie Mutter, Piano Concerto for Krystian Zimerman, vocal pieces for Peter Pears and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Masterworks from the last period include the Third and Fourth Symphony as well as Chantefleurs et chantefables.

Starting as early as the 1950s Lutosławski benefited from a growing international fame and was invited to participate in prestigious festivals and juries of composition competitions, and obtained requests to give lectures and compositional workshops. He received commissions from world-leading orchestras and institutions. His achievements won him numerous awards (which include the Jurzykowski, Siemens, Herder, and Queen Sophia awards, the Polar Music Prize and the Kyoto Prize), and doctorates honoris causa of well over a dozen prestigious institutions of higher learning in Poland, Europe and North America (e.g. the University of Warsaw, Jagiellonian University, as well as universities in Cambridge, Strasbourg, Chicago, Montreal, and institutions of higher musical learning in Cleveland and Boston). He was an honorary member of numerous artistic and scholarly academies and musical societies. Sensitive to the needs of others, he discreetly led a charitable activity, an example of which was his founding of scholarships for young composers and performers. Being a citizen who felt matters of social importance to be close to his heart, he became actively engaged in the various operations ofSolidarity in the 1980s.

Lutosławski's works exerted an immense influence upon the development of music in our times. His consistency in discovering new areas of music in connection with his creative use of tradition, a masterly compositional technique and originality of musical language have placed him firmly within the ranks of the most outstanding composers of the twentieth century.

The American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME) is dedicated to the outstanding performance of masterworks from the 20th and 21st centuries, primarily the work of American composers. The ensemble presents cutting-edge music by living composers alongside the classics of the contemporary. Since its first New York concert season in 2004, the ensemble has performed works by John Adams, John Luther Adams, Louis Andriessen, Gavin Bryars, Caleb Burhans, John Cage, Elliott Carter, George Crumb, Jacob Druckman, Jefferson Friedman, Philip Glass, Charles Ives, Donald Martino, Olivier Messiaen, Nico Muhly, Michael Nyman, Steve Reich, Terry Riley, Frederic Rzewski, Arnold Schoenberg, Caroline Shaw, Toru Takemitsu, Kevin Volans, Charles Wuorinen, Iannis Xenakis, Chen Yi, and more. ACME has also collaborated with bands and artists including Grizzly Bear, Low, Matmos, Craig Wedren, Micachu & The Shapes, and composers/performers Hauschka, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Max Richter, and Dustin O'Halloran.

ACME was founded in 2004 by cellist Clarice Jensen, conductor Donato Cabrera, and publicist Christina Jensen, and has received support from The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, the Cary New Music Performance Fund, and the Greenwall Foundation. ACME's instrumentation is flexible, and includes some of New York's most sought-after, engaging musicians. Core ACME members include violinists Caleb Burhans, Ben Russell, and Caroline Shaw (winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Music), violist Nadia Sirota, cellist and artistic director Clarice Jensen, flutist Alex Sopp, pianist Timo Andres, and percussionist Chris Thompson.

ACME adds a third album to its discography in May 2014 – Jefferson Friedman’s song cycle On in Love with rock vocalist Craig Wedren, which was commissioned for ACME by The Greenwall Foundation and Miller Theatre in 2009-2010. In 2013, ACME released the first commercial recording of the music of American composer Joseph Byrd on New World Records. ACME’s recording of William Brittelle’s electro-acoustic chamber work Loving the Chambered Nautilus was released on New Amsterdam Records in 2012.

Steven Stucky is one of America’s most highly regarded and frequently performed living composers, and winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for his Second Concerto for Orchestra. He is a trustee of the American Academy in Rome, a director of New Music USA, a board member of the Koussevitzky Music Foundation, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is also active as a conductor, writer, lecturer, and teacher.

Notable recent premieres include the Violin Sonata (2013) by Cho-Liang Lin and Jon Kimura Parker, Symphony (2012) by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Silent Spring (2011) by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Concerto (2010) by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and Rhapsodies (2008) by the New York Philharmonic at London’s BBC Proms. Stucky’s August 4, 1964 (2007-08), a Dallas Symphony Orchestra commission, was nominated for the 2013 Grammy Award for "Best Contemporary Classical Composition." The Choral Arts Society of Washington opens its 2013-14 season with the East Coast premiere of Take Him, Earth (2012). For the 2011-12 season, Stucky was the Pittsburgh Symphony’s Composer of the Year, and in 2012-13 he was the Berkeley Symphony’s Music Alive Composer-in-Residence and Composer-in-Residence of the Curtis Institute of Music.

An active teacher and mentor to young composers, Stucky has served on the Warsaw jury of the Witold Lutoslawski Competition for Composers. His highly-esteemed expertise on the late composer’s music has been recognized with the Lutoslawski Society’s medal and an ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for his critical biography, Lutoslawski and His Music (1981). He is consultant to the Philharmonia Orchestra’s 2013 centennial celebrations of the composer in London.

For more than 20 years, he served as resident composer and new music advisor at the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and from 2005 to 2009 he was host of the New York Philharmonic’s "Hear and Now" series. Stucky’s Cradle Songs and Whispers were commissioned and recorded by Chanticleer. The two discs were Billboard-charting bestsellers, and both won Grammy Awards. Stucky has taught at the Eastman School of Music, UC Berkeley, Temple, and, since 1980, Cornell University, where he serves as the Given Foundation Professor of Music. He is Composer-in-Residence of the Aspen Music Festival and School.

+ About the Music

Witold Lutosławski: Bukoliki

It was in 1952, while he was working on the Concerto, that Lutosławski composed a set of five short pieces for solo piano that he called Bukoliki, or “bucolics.” These pieces were based on Polish folk-melodies, and in that sense they were acceptable to Soviet authorities. The Bucolics are pleasing pieces, not so difficult as to be beyond the reach of young performers, and the entire set lasts only about five minutes–these pieces should be thought of as miniatures. Lutosławski himself was the pianist at their formal premiere in Warsaw in December 1953. In 1962, the composer came back to this music and arranged it for viola and cello, and that is the version heard at this concert. In their duo-form, these pieces become pleasing little exercises in two-part counterpoint, enjoyable for their attractive tunes, their rhythmic energy, and the precision and clarity of Lutosławski’s writing. 

--Eric Bromberger


Witold Lutosławski: Sacher Variation

Among the many tributes paid to Paul Sacher, the founder and conductor of the Basle Chamber Orchestra and Choir, on his 70th birthday in 1976 was a short work for unaccompanied cello, composed the previous year by Witold Lutosławski. 

It is not, as its title might suggest, in variation form, but a piece in which a six-note sequence gradually comes to the fore and takes precedence over other ideas which, besides being of an entirely different nature, are restricted to the remaining six notes of the chromatic scale and their neighbouring quarter-tones. The principal sequence consists of the notes E flat, A, C, B, E and D. If we regard the E flat and B as S (Es) and H, as in the German and the D as R (Re), as in French, we get the name ‘Sacher’. The order of these notes does not vary, although to begin with the sequence is broken up by the intervention of other material. For instance, the very first note is E flat (Es), but there is a gap before the A and C are reached and another one afterwards. Even so, there is no mistaking the two groups, for they are strongly contrasted both in register and dynamic levels, the ‘Sacher’ motif being restricted to the bass at this point. 

Sacher Variation differs from all the other works of Lutosławski since his Jeux Venitiens of 1961, in that it contains no aleatory passages. There is a good reason for this. His aleatory technique is essentially a contrapuntal one that gives performers a limited degree of freedom in the precise placing of notes in time. As such it is not applicable to a work consisting of a single line, although the performer’s use of rubato adds up to virtually the same thing. Apart from the two quiet pizzicato notes at the end (the final statement of the ‘Sacher’ motif), Lutosławski makes no use of double stopping or chords. Nor does he call for those extremely high notes beloved by many modern composers; as in his superb Cello Concerto he is content with the cello’s normal compass. 

-Malcolm Rayment, 1977


Steven Stucky: Nell’ombra, nella luce

Nell’ombra, nella luce (“In Shadow, in Light”) is based on simple oppositions between “bright” and “dark” musics – between music of high register, forceful gesture, clear harmony, optimistic tone on the one hand, and of low register, mysterious manner, and denser, less clear harmony on the other.

These contrasts are exposed almost immediately: the opening idea, gioioso (joyous), alternates with another idea, soave (gentle), but very soon these musics of the light are suddenly replaced by a shadowy, furtive music marked oscuro (dark). Throughout the 17-minute course of the piece, all these ideas and others like them will return several times, continually transformed but always in the service of the fundamental opposition between light and dark. At the same time, the rough outlines of a familiar formal layout may be glimpsed, especially something like a slow movement, and something like a scherzo (with trio!).

As often happens in my music, all the ideas are defined as much by factors like register, dynamic, instrumental texture, and expressive character, as by traditional thematic markers such as melody, rhythm, and motive. In this sense, like much of my work, Nell’ombra, nella luce is a composition of colors more than a composition of lines.

The work was commissioned by the Institute of American Music at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester and composed between August 1999 and January 2000. The first performance was given by the Cuarteto Latinoamericano in Pittsburgh on 12 February 2000.

--Steven Stucky


Steven Stucky: Dialoghi

Among composers there is an old tradition of honoring patrons or friends by incorporating their names into the fabric of the music. One version is the soggetto cavato (carved subject) of Renaissance music. Later examples include the BACH motif, D.Sch. as the personal symbol of Shostakovich, and the coded names in Schumann's piano music.

Dialoghi (Dialogues) was written as a gift to a friend, the American cellist Elinor Frey. Its theme is the six letters of her first name, translated into notes: E, L (= la, or A), I (= mi, or E), N (= G, according to one often-used system), O (= do, or C), and R (= re, or D) - hence the work's subtitle, "Studi su un Nome," studies on a name. The music unfolds in seven short, vividly contrasting variations. Since the name-theme uses only five different notes, namely the pentatonic C, D, E (twice), G, and A, many of the variations juxtapose these five with other, contrasting combinations drawn from the remaining seven notes of the chromatic scale. The last variation leads to a grand restatement of the theme but then subsides into a serene coda.

Why "dialogues"? Partly because the theme notes and the non-theme notes so often engage in "conversation" throughout, but more importantly because the friendship being recognized in this piece rests not only on my musical collaborations with Elinor but also on our wonderful conversations about books, music, paintings, films, psychology, religion, food, and all things Italian (hence the Italian title).

Dialoghi was composed in October 2006 and was given its first public performance by its dedicatee in Cazenovia, New York, on 14 July 2007.

--Steven Stucky 


Witold Lutosławski: String Quartet 

My String Quartet lasts approximately twenty-four minutes, and contains two parts: introduction and main movement. The introduction opens with a recitative by the first violin followed by several separate episodes – as if framed – by groups of octaves (C – C). A short allusion to the opening recitative (this time in the cello) ends the movement in a kind of suspense. The main movement starts with a ‘furioso’; its violent character dominates for quite a while culminating finally in a ‘crisis’ played in the highest registers of all four instruments. A kind of chorale in ‘pianissimo’ follows, then a longer section marked ‘funebre’. The final episodes of the work constitute a commentary, as it were on what went on before. 

In this Quartet I have sought to develop and enlarge the technique employed in the two preceding works, Jeux Venitiens and Trois Poèmes d’Henri Michaux the technique of what I call controlled aleatorism. It employs the element of chance for the purpose of rhythmic and expressive enrichment of the music without limiting in the least the full ability of the composer to determine the definitive form of the work. 

The String Quartet was commissioned by Swedish Radio for the tenth anniversary of its New Music programme ‘Nutida Musik’. The World Premiere was given by the LaSalle Quartet in Stockholm on 12 March 1965. 

-- Witold Lutosławski

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