Partita – author’s version for violin and orchestra with piano obligato
As time went by, Lutosławski worked more and more productively. In the Funeral Music period and slightly later, it took him about two years to write a 20-minute composition. In subsequent years this time became much shorter: one of his most important works, Partita for violin and piano, was written over the course of two months. He was able to speed up his work thanks to the invention in the late 1970s of methods of composition that – in the composer’s words – made it possible for him “not to think about every single note but simply to write music”. At that time Lutosławski’s style was enriched by important elements. Two of them, clarity of sound and expressive melody, are what make Partita so charming.
The work consists of five movements. The main musical content is carried by the odd-numbered segments, with the remaining segments acting as links. The shimmering sound of the latter results from the use of the aleatory technique, the ad libitum technique). This method is not used in the odd-numbered movements – with the exception of the climactic section of the finale.
The outer movements, Allegro giusto and Presto, are characterized by a quick tempo and a motoric rhythm that may bring baroque music to mind. They stand in sharp contrast to the central Largo, the most important, most moving part of the Partita. It opens with a lyrical melody carried by the violin above pulsating piano chords. The mood changes with the second section, inspired by birdsong. A return of the melody leads to an ecstatic climax; its emotional temperature, though not its style, brings to mind the music of Berg and Szymanowski. There is another connection between the work of the latter and the Partita: high, “glassy” notes of the violin in the middle section of the finale, the so-called flageolet notes, combine to create a strange, familiar melody. It is the “flageolet Pan horn” from Szymanowski’s famous Myths.
Lutosławski arranged the Partita for violin and orchestra in 1988. The main movements, with the exception of the main episode of Presto, involve the ensemble, while in the linking sections and the climax of the finale the violins are accompanied by the piano only – as in the original version. This stems from the use of the aleatory technique. Aleatory episodes in the original consist of two independent layers – the violin part and the piano part. Arranging the latter for orchestra, with ad libitum playing being preserved, would have multiplied independent parts and would have substantially changed the sound. Just as substantial a change would have been occurred had the composer given up this technique and the shimmering sound associated with it. Therefore Lutosławski made an unusual decision – he transferred ad libitum fragments from the chamber version to the orchestral version, retaining their original instrumentation.