In 1954, Jan Krenz asked Witold Lutosławski to compose a work to honor the 10th anniversary of the death of Béla Bartók, which was to occur the next year. Work on the piece lasted longer, however, and the Trauermusik was finally completed in 1958. The works premiere took place on 6 March 1958 in Katowice. At this time, the work was performed by the Great Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of J. Krenz.
The work bears the dedication a la memoire de Béla Bartók and is a sort of epitaph devoted to the memory of the Hungarian composing genius.
The work is scored for string orchestra, divided into 10 voices (Violins I, II, III, IV; Violas I, II; Celli I, II; Double bass I, II). It is in one movement, but one can distinguish in it four clear phases. The introduction to the moving atmosphere of this musical homage is the Prolog, which is in the form of a canon. Its process is characterized by a gradual buildup of tension to the culmination, after which follows quiet and tranquility. Metamorphosen - the dynamic 2nd part - is initiated by nervous pizzicati. In the development of the form, one can notice a continual increase in density of movement (achieved by progressive complication of the rhythmic language) leading finally to the Apogeum (3rd part). It is of small dimensions and non-independent character - this segment is essentially the culmination of the entire work. The main culminating point was constructed on the basis of a 12-note chord complex. The Epilog, closing the whole, brings a reminiscence of the mood of the Prolog.
This work is not only one of the most important in the post-war history of Polish music, but also a significant turning point in the artistic development of the composer himself. Lutosławski admitted that: what I have worked out in this piece is rather a set of means which permit me with some measure of meaning to move within 12 tones, obviously outside of the tonal system and outside of dodecaphony... For me, it represents the beginning of a new period, it is the result of lengthy experiments. I was trying to create a set of means which would become my property. And this is the first word spoken in this (for me) new language, but it is by no means the last.
In 1959, the work was awarded the Annual Polish Composers' Union Prize. In May 1959, Trauermusik received the highest ranking at the International Composers Tribune, organized in Paris by the UNESCO Music Council.
T. Chylińska, S. Haraschin, M. Jabłoński
Przewodnik po muzyce koncertowej [Guide to Concert Music]
(Part I, PWM Edition, Kraków 2003)
Library of Miniature Scores
- ISMN 9790274014780
- Language of edition: pol
- Number of pages: 32
- Cover: softcover
- No. of edition: 6
- Published: 1996
(175 x 245 mm)