Historical Development of Violin Concertos (XII) – Lutoslawski’s Chain 2

The composition that I will analyze this week is structured totally different from other violin concertos. Actually, Lutoslawski’s Chain 2 is a miniature violin concerto.

Firstly, I wanted to mention about Lutoslawski and his late period. Lutoslawski is one of the most significant composers in 20th century. Especially, the period after Stalin’s death, Lutoslawski did lot of innovations in his music. Between 1979- 94 he composed Epitaph which is a piece for oboe and piano in twelve tone technique with lucid harmonies. Moreover, he is influenced by the Baroque Era. So, utilizing formal and textural features of Baroque music, he composed the double concerto which is related with Concerto Grosso idea and Partita for violin.

Chain 2 is constituted from four movements. First and third one is ad libitum second movement is a battuta. In this work Lutoslawski used several techniques which are innovative. Firstly, Lutoslawski is influenced from John Cage’s aleatory technique. It can be concluded that there are signs of this technique in Chain 2.

‘’ The catalyst for chance came in 1960, when he heard a radio broadcast of the Concert for Piano and Orchestra by John Cage, which gave him an idea of using ‘chance’ procedures. In spite of the significance of this event as a breakthrough for Lutoslawski, one must beware of overstating the notion of direct influence; he was certainly stimulated by the ideas of Cage, but was not influenced by sound of the music itself.’’ (Chance and Polyphony, 75) Although this technique affects him, he transformed it according to his own perspective. He invented a new idea called limited aleatory. The new term used in Jeux Venitiens in which also improvisation technique within rhythmical organization and limitation is involved. In Limited Aleatory, all pitches are notated. Moreover, another important innovation, being a crucial feature of Chain 2, is the creation of “chain technique”. In the chain technique, form is constituted from overlapping sections rather than juxtaposition of parts using contrasts of intervals. Through the usage of the chain technique, Lutoslawski wanted to estrange his work from traditional concerto form which comes from Classical Period. Furthermore, another interesting feature of Chain 2, is using Ad Libitum with respect to the time aspect. In Ad Libitum movements, which are the first and third ones, solo violin has expressive passages like cadence. Thus, solo violin has a leading role in the first and third movements. While the violin has a soloist role, orchestra has quite different structures which cannot be seen as accompaniment. Instead of associating solo violin with orchestra, it can be concluded that they are in a dialog. Therefore, this structure enables solo violin to perform in a free way without requiring synchronized with the orchestra like in the traditional concerto forms.  According to my opinion, it can be concluded that Lutoslawski’s Ad Libitum style can be related with Limited Aleatory. Normally, when the audience hears the ad libitum passage, it can be thought of being like a cadence, but because orchestra has a rhythmic pulsation, it limits solo violin’s freedom.

Therefore, because of innovations such as chain technique in order to expend formal structure and ad libitum passages to transform the time aspect, Lutoslawski’s Chain 2 gains a crucial place in 20th century music and violin repertoire.


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