Chain 2. Dialogue for violin and orchestra
Chain 2 is among Lutosławski’s finest compositions, on par with the Concerto
for Orchestra, the String Quartet,
Livre pour orchestre, Mi-parti and the Symphony No. 3. The
author ventured a compliment, unusual for him, saying with reference to the
piece that “This composition fully satisfies me”.
The Chain consists of four movements. The first and the third – slow and calm – are played ad libitum, while the second and fourth are more vivacious and are played in a traditional manner, a battuta. The exception is the climax of the finale and of the entire composition, which is treated as an ad libitum section.
In each movement the solo part and the orchestral part comprise a series of overlapping episodes in accordance with the “chain principle”: the solo violin parts begin and end when successive “lines” of the orchestra have already begun, thus the boundaries of both are shifted. Each of such episodes has a distinctive sonic profile, determined by the choice of pitches, rhythms and colours, and the kaleidoscopic changeability of musical ideas is truly amazing. Particularly beautiful in its sound materials is a fragment of the second movement with a lyrical melody played by the solo violin against a background of “sliding” sounds of the string section, “underscored” by vibraphone and glockenspiel. There is also an interesting allusion to Szymanowski’s music, introduced shortly after the beginning of the first movement – we hear the “flageolet Pan horn” from Myths for violin and piano, op. 30. That same melody – played, as in the original, with a characteristic “glassy” sound – also appears in the finale of Lutosławski’s Partita.
The premiere of Chain began a collaboration between Lutosławski and the eminent German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter. Impressed by her skill, the composer arranged his Partita for violin and ensemble, and in the last few months of his life he began writing a Violin Concerto, which, however, he did not manage to finish. With Mutter in mind, Lutosławski also allowed the Chain to be performed together with the Partita and composed an orchestral Interlude, separating the two pieces in the case of a joint presentation, thus giving the soloist a breather.