Symphony No. 4
The opposition between the introductory and main movements, typical of Lutosławski’s music, does not occur in Symphony No. 4, although the work clearly consists of two parts. The first movement is filled with ideas of greater significance than those the composer usually included in introductory parts of his works. Against a background of chords pulsating steadily in strings and harp, clarinet and flute weave an elegiac theme. The mood of this introduction is particularly moving. It is destroyed by an intervention of trumpets and clarinets, but the interrupted thread returns, grows and is cut again, this time by flutes and oboes. The expansion of the elegiac motif leads to a painful, unfulfilled climax. Sharp chords emerge from the entire orchestra as does a lively movement these provoke in the woodwinds and strings. Here the second movement of the Symphony begins.
A series of lively episodes finds its outlet in a “hot” cantilena of the strings and a singular “concerto of birds” (the association is inescapable), the roles of which are taken by selected instruments of the orchestra: first the piccolo, glockenspiel, one cymbal and four violins, then also oboe, the remaining violins, vibraphone and another cymbal and, toward the end of the episode, bassoon with harp, cellos and the third cymbal. The scattered “chirping” sound matter becomes increasingly dense until sharp chords by the strings close the entire section.
From this moment until the climax the composer maintains three parallel strands, differing in their selection of notes, instrumentation and degree of mobility. The slowest is a cantabile melody in the higher-sounding string instruments. It is accompanied by lively playing of the lower strings, bassoons and trombones and – the liveliest in this setting – figures from the rest of the wind section and the percussion. Shortly before the climactic chord of the orchestra, the initiative is seized by the brass – the solemnity of this fragment is almost a complete novelty in Lutosławski’s music. There is an exceptional epilogue to the Symphony: the marimba and the clarinets weave a quavering background against which three violins “kick around” the climax with capricious melodies, and then a daring charge by the orchestra closes the work in an impressive, by no means triumphant manner.