With a short, direct first sentence, Keller gains his readers’ attention (Keller, “Lutoslawski,” 2016). However, the rest of this paragraph risks losing this attention. Keller mentions three (potentially unfamiliar) people who have conducted Lutoslawski’s concerto; he then lists the scoring of the work, in a long sentence (Keller, “Lutoslawski,” 2016). Fortunately, the opening statements of the next paragraph refocus the audience’s attention (Keller, “Lutoslawski,” 2016).
Instead of limiting himself to a list of facts about the performance, Keller broadens the reader’s understanding of Lutoslawski, outlining the key events of his career. He briefly describes Lutoslawski’s significance and the recognition he received. He also describes Lutoslawski’s style and the impact of the political scene (Keller, “Lutoslawski,” 2016).
Keller explains that Lutoslawski’s concerto is “more a virtuoso vehicle for the ensemble as a whole than a work devoted to spotlighting individual members over extended periods” (Keller, “Lutoslawski,” 2016). He points out what to listen for in the first movement, noting the presentation of the main theme by different instruments, and describing the importance of fourths and fifths. He also describes the structure of the other movements (Keller, “Lutoslawski,” 2016).
Keller’s notes contain some facts that would not be obtained from a performance of the concerto. Keller considers the extent of Stravinsky’s influence, and explains how the work utilizes folk melodies (Keller, “Lutoslawski,” 2016). He also provides some context for the concerto, giving the story behind its composition and describing how its style relates to Lutoslawski’s style throughout his career (Keller, “Lutoslawski,” 2016).
In contrast to his notes on Beethoven’s Eroica and Mozart’s Symphony No. 31 (each of which focus on biographical information only as it relates to the work in question), these notes assume little or no knowledge of Lutoslawski (Keller, “Beethoven,” 2016; Keller, “Mozart,” 2016; Keller, “Lutoslawski,” 2016). I found this appropriate, since I had heard only one other work by Lutoslawski and knew very little of his life.
Keller assumes some musical knowledge, using terms such as “pedal point” and “intervals of the fourth and fifth”; however, he does define a passacaglia (Keller, “Lutoslawski,” 2016). Other San Francisco Symphony programme notes assume similar knowledge. For instance, when writing about Handel, Keller mentions “imitative counterpoint” and a “modulating passage,” but explains the French overture style (Keller, “Handel,” 2016). Michael Steinberg’s description of Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique uses the terms pizzicato and pianissimo but avoids detailed thematic and harmonic analysis (Steinberg, “Berlioz,” 2016). These programme notes, intended for music lovers with some musical knowledge, are probably appropriate for many of the attenders of the San Francisco Symphony’s concerts.
Keller’s notes about Lutoslawski’s concerto are sometimes rather informal and subjective in tone. He mentions musicians who “toss material back and forth,” and describes “an expanse of pastoral beauty” that appears in the first movement (Keller, “Lutoslawski,” 2016). He also speaks (incorrectly) of an “endlessly sustained chord” (Keller, “Lutoslawski,” 2016).
These programme notes enriched my understanding of Lutoslawski’s music. However, I found that they did not prompt a conversation, either internal or external.
—Keller, James M. “Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 in E-Flat Major, Opus 55, Eroica.” San Francisco Symphony, 2016. Accessed May 3, 2017, http://www.sfsymphony.org/Watch-Listen-Learn/Read-Program-Notes/Program-Notes/BEETHOVEN-Symphony-No-3-in-E-flat-major,-Opus-55,.aspx.
—Keller, James M. “Handel: Royal Fireworks Music.” San Francisco Symphony, 2016. Accessed May 3, 2017, https://www.sfsymphony.org/Watch-Listen-Learn/Read-Program-Notes/Program-Notes/HANDEL-Royal-Fireworks-Music.aspx.
—Keller, James M. “Lutoslawski: Concerto for Orchestra.” San Francisco Symphony, 2016. Accessed May 3, 2017, https://www.sfsymphony.org/Watch-Listen-Learn/Read-Program-Notes/Program-Notes/LUTOS%C5%81AWSKI-Concerto-for-Orchestra.aspx.
—Keller, James M. “Mozart: Symphony No. 31 in D Major, K. 297 (300a), Paris.” San Francisco Symphony, 2016. Accessed May 3, 2017, https://www.sfsymphony.org/Watch-Listen-Learn/Read-Program-Notes/Program-Notes/MOZART-Symphony-No-31-in-D-major,-K-297(300a),-Par.aspx.
—Steinberg, Michael. “Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique (Fantastic Symphony: Episode in the Life of an Artist, in Five Parts), Opus 14.” San Francisco Symphony, 2016. Accessed May 3, 2017, https://www.sfsymphony.org/Watch-Listen-Learn/Read-Program-Notes/Program-Notes/BERLIOZ-Fantastic-Symphony-Episode-in-the-Life-of.aspx.
Photograph by Lauren Giddy.