Concerto for violin and orchestra, 1939-41.

Concerto for violin and orchestra

Violin ConcertoAllegro non troppo. Eugenia Umińska - violin, Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, Grzegorz Fitelberg - conductor, 1947.

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Palester started working on the violin concerto in the winter of 1939. In hisFragmenty wspomnień z lat 1939-1945 (Fragments of Memories from 1939-1945) he wrote: "[...] in March or thereabout [1940] I had a sketch of the whole thing ready". But he had to suspend the work as there were no prospects for the composition to be performed and because he was arrested. Only during his stay in Jędrzejów in 1941 was he able to complete this work.

This is how the author himself describes his composition: "In the end it came out as a large, forty-minute long piece, more of a sinfonia concertante than a classical concerto, but this was what I wanted at the time. It was an exceptionally clear synthesis of all the components of my new style. A broadly sketched form in which various themes would grow into whole groups of themes, frequent and numerous changes of tempo and the character of the music, a characteristic romantic breadth, still not quite expressionistic but already carried decidedly on the wave of atonality and integral chromaticism (though without serialism yet) – all these features were characteristic of almost all my works written during the war, but they are at their most evident in this concerto the fortunes of which were rather strange. Ochlewski made two copies of the score and hid them in two different places during the Warsaw Uprising. My original manuscript burnt down at Górczewska Street, and after my return to Warsaw the hidden copies could not be found either. It was not until several months after the liberation of Warsaw that Wawrzyniec Żuławski found one of the copies among some music-related materials thrown into a dustbin in the Ujazdowski Hospital. The composition, so luckily found, was first performed on 14 July 1946 at Covent Garden during the first post-war ISCM Festival in London. Eugenia Umińska was the soloist and the BBC orchestra was conducted by Fitelberg. The English press made a vital contribution to the success of the composition by presenting a touching story of the loss and recovery of the score in the ruins of Warsaw. Soon afterwards, Umińska performed this concerto at Fitelberg’s first concert after his return to Poland. The work was to have been published by the PWM; I had even revised the piano score, but this plan never materialised in the years of Stalinist repressions. Some 20 years later I made a new, completely restructured version of the concerto. In this version it is indeed a true concerto, with a drier and more ascetic orchestral part. The whole thing sounds sharper."

Let us add some details to the information provided by the composer. The original version of the concerto was preserved in the form of a piano score, officially withdrawn in 1950. The second revision of Violin Concerto was made in 1957-1959 and published by Suvini Zerboni. That version was premiered by Krzysztof Bąkowski with the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Adam Natanek in 1996. The composer, always dissatisfied with the final form of his works, introduced some more changes in the concerto short before his death. This last version, written in 1984-1985, has never been published and is available in manuscript only.

Violin Concerto consists of three movements. In the first version they are marked as follows: Allegro ma non troppo, Andante misterioso and Allegro giocoso. In the second version (much shorter one) the tempo markings are a little different: Allegro non troppo, Lento misterioso and Allegro giusto. In the third version, the composer changes the marking of the first part into Allegro moderato and comes back to a more extended original version.