Chain 1 for chamber ensemble
Chain 1 was composed immediately after Lutosławski completed work on his Symphony No. 3. Perhaps the proximity of this great effort and a desire to relax made the composer write a fairly trivial piece, decidedly less significant than the Symphony, and than his other two Chains, for violin and orchestra (1985) and the purely orchestral piece (1986). This time, Lutosławski’s intention was to compose a work for about a dozen virtuosos, giving each of them a chance for a solo display. The musicians he had in mind were ensemble members of the excellent London Sinfonietta.
The title of the work points to the “chain technique” that made it first appearance in the Concerto for Orchestra (1954). The technique consisted in pairing two parallel strands divided into sections, with sections of one strand not beginning and ending at the same time as those of the other strand – they overlap like links of a chain.
This is how Lutosławski connects sections in the first part of the work. Each highlights a selected instrument or a group of instruments, with one of the overlapping sections containing the melody and the other the accompaniment. In the second , the instruments play cantabile melodic lines using the ad libitum technique – playing independently of each other. Their overlapping leads to a climax, emphasized by strikes of cymbals, gong and tam-tam. A short epilogue is filled with a “chatter” of wind instruments, to which the violins, viola, cello and double bass respond with a “scattered” chord played pizzicato.