Ballet music for Janusz Makarczyk’s play “Haroun al-Rashid” for orchestra

Recording not available.

Opis materiału
  • Composer:Witold Lutosławski
  • Original title: Muzyka baletowa do dramatu „Harun al Raszyd” Janusza Makarczyka na orkiestrę
  • year of completion: 1931
  • instrumentation: orchestra
  • Premiere: Warsaw, 28.05.1933, Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, Józef Ozimiński – conductor
Janusz Makarczyk (1901-1960) is an almost completely forgotten figure today. His varied biography combines academic activity (Orientalist), many years of military service (artillery officer), diplomatic career (posts in Chicago and Jerusalem) and literary output. Makarczyk wrote several volumes of reportage and adventure prose, as well as the play Haroun al-Rashid (Caliph from Baghdad).  Lutosławski composed ballet music to one scene from the play in 1931 while studying mathematics, a pursuit he soon abandoned to devote himself entirely to studying composition and piano.

It is probably impossible to determine the circumstances behind the composition of the piece – we only know that the Makarczyk and the Lutosławski families were distantly related. The composer recalled the work in a later conversation: “It was a short [...] ballet fragment, which I wrote for a play [...] probably never staged, at least I did not know if it had ever been staged and the music was never used. I rewrote the ballet fragment for a full symphony orchestra – of course the whole illustration was written for a small ensemble – and this was performed during a morning concert [...].”

This performance was, in fact, Lutosławski’s debut as a composer of symphonic music, though later he did not give much weight to the event. The nature of the score, which was lost during the war, remains a mystery today. We can only conjecture that the music contained oriental elements, and that the young composer may have modeled it on the dance incorporated by Szymanowski in Act II of his opera King Roger. In his review (Kurier Poranny, 1 June 1933), Jan Maklakiewicz describes Lutosławski as an artist with “a masterful command of the compositional technique, able to effectively apply special orchestral colouring”.