Witold Lutosławski’s Overture for Strings

Notes by TŌN cellist Cameron Collins

Witold Lutosławski’s Overture for Strings was written in 1949 and premiered in November of the same year in Czechoslovakia by the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra. This lesser known work by Lutosławski was written between two of his more famous works for orchestra, his Symphony No. 1, completed in 1947, and his Concerto for Orchestra, written in 1950. It is a rather short work, lasting only five minutes, which may be part of the reason it is not frequently played. Lutosławski said himself, “The work is enormously impractical, because it requires quite a bit of work, but lasts only 5 minutes. For the most part, after listening to it, the audience is completely disoriented, despite the long final chord which crowns the work. Evidently people expect the work to be longer.” Although the Overture for Strings never reached popularity, it is quite an interesting piece. After his first symphony, Lutosławski was reportedly unhappy with his own approach to the way he used pitches to create his melodies and harmonies. This forced him to start searching for a new “sound language,” and the Overture for Strings was his first symphonic work in this process. Lutosławski wrote the work in a traditional sonata form, and heavily relied on familiar compositional influences. The way in which the composer uses four-note cells as stand-alone motives and then also incorporates those cells into longer melodies is very similar to Bart.k’s compositional style. However, his use of chromatic and tetrachord scales to form a melody, as well as the technique of overlapping the introduction of a new musical idea as the previous idea is still happening, later to be known as his “Chain Technique,” is the start of Lutosławski finding his new musical language.

TŌN IN: Out of the Silence—Program Two

This Throwback Thursday, revisit the second program from our recent series Out of the Silence, presented with the Bard Music Festival, the Bard College Conservatory of Music, and the Fisher Center at Bard. In this video, TŌN’s assistant conductor, Andrés Rivas, leads Jessie Montgomery’s Strum; associate conductor James Bagwell conducts Alvin Singleton’s After Choice; resident conductor Zachary Schwartzman leads Adolphus Hailstork’s Sonata da Chiesa; and music director Leon Botstein conducts the Serenade for Strings by Antonín Dvořák, who was the subject of the 1993 Bard Music Festival.

AUDIO FLASHBACK: Verdi’s Requiem

Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi was born 207 years ago this month. We performed his profound Requiem last year with soprano Margaret Tigue, mezzo-soprano Chloë Schaaf, tenor Cooper Nolan, bass Wei Wu, the Bard College Chamber Singers, the Bard Festival Chorale, and members of the Bard College Conservatory Orchestra. You can now listen to the audio recording of that performance, conducted by Leon Botstein, and read the concert notes, written by TŌN clarinetist Ye Hu, by clicking here.

TŌN IN: Sunset Serenade at Old Dutch Church

This Throwback Thursday, revisit our Sunset Serenade concert from four weeks ago, when woodwind musicians from The Orchestra Now performed short pieces outside of Old Dutch Church in Kingston, NY for a physically distanced audience. Enjoy music by Benjamin Britten, César Vivanco Sanchez, and several others, performed on flute, oboe, clarinet, and bassoon.

View the video by clicking here.
View the concert information by clicking here.

AUDIO FLASHBACK: Stravinsky’s Funeral Song

Our second Audio Flashback today is our April 2018 performance of Igor Stravinsky‘s long-lost Funeral Song. This tender lament was written by a young Stravinsky in tribute to the passing of his teacher, Rimsky-Korsakov. The parts were thought to have been destroyed in a fire, and were discovered just five years ago. You can read the concert notes by clicking here.

AUDIO FLASHBACK: Stravinsky’s Requiem Canticles

Igor Stravinsky‘s Requiem Canticles premiered 54 years ago this Thursday. We performed the piece two years ago at the Fisher Center at Bard with conductor Leon Botstein, mezzo-soprano Katherine Pracht, baritone Jonathan Beyer, the Bard College Chamber Singers, and the Bard Festival Chorale. One of the TŌN musicians said, “In typical Stravinsky fashion, this piece is totally out there. It’s made up of dark, short vignettes with a sharp, crisp quality.” You can read the concert notes by clicking here.

TŌN IN: Out of the Silence—Program One

This Throwback Thursday, revisit the opening program from our recent series Out of the Silence, presented with the Bard Music Festival, the Bard College Conservatory of Music, and the Fisher Center at Bard. In this video, TŌN’s associate conductor, James Bagwell, leads the elegiac Lyric for Strings by George Walker, the first African-American winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Music. Then Music Director Leon Botstein conducts the exuberant String Symphony No. 8 by Felix Mendelssohn, who was the subject of the Bard Music Festival’s second season in 1991.