Symphony No. 2
second symphony is at the same time the composer’s first to represent his
mature style, mastered since the time of Funeral Music. In Symphony
No. 2, Lutosławski makes extensive use of 12-note chords and controlled aleatory
technique, that is the ad libitum technique. We have here, as in the String
Quartet, a model of the two-movement form, in which a discontinuous,
deliberately trivial first section precedes the main part with significant
content and distinctive dramaturgy. An important characteristic of Symphony
No. 2, which it shares with Venetian Games, Trois poèmes and
the Quartet, is its nearly constant use of dense masses of sounds and
not, as happened later in his work, a single melodic line, a melody with an accompaniment
or several melodies simultaneously.
According to the idea of a two-movement form, the first part of the composition, Hésitant or hesitantly, is a noncommittal introduction. It is filled by a fanfare of trumpets, trombones and horns, followed by a series of episodes played by small groups from the orchestra. After each such episode, there is a refrain for a woodwind trio. Two chords of the string section stop the drama at a point when it is beginning to be clearly felt. This intervention is followed by the last refrain. A barely audible entry of double basses initiates the second movement, Direct.
The nature of the music changes discreetly but decisively: The strings now play not very loudly, the players using their bows, not playing pizzicato as before. Tension rises with the entry of the wind section, which soon takes the initiative. The next section gives us a polyphonic, gentle playing in the strings, accompanied by brief “calls” of the winds. The dialogue between these groups, with a significant participation of the percussion, becomes increasingly violent. At the decisive moment ad libitum gives way to traditional playing, all parts sharing the same pulse given by the conductor, which relaxes again only just before the climax. It is followed by “murmurs” of cellos and double basses – the last line of this musical drama.