There are various conclusions to be drawn from my week of analysis of Lutoslawski’s Cello Concerto. I think the most important thing to take away from this piece is the importance of this linear way of thinking, and this is something that becomes more and more important in late Lutoslawski. The other idea that is certainly of primary importance is Lutoslawski’s use of gesture, and especially his use of gesture in a way that manages to tie together a formal structure in a way that is clear and cohesive. For me Lutoslawski was certainly influenced by the dramaturgy within the theatre. This idea of the music unfolding through time is clearly an important element of his structural thinking in many of his works.
It is clear throughout the piece that the transformation of the character of the cello is Lutoslawski’s primary concern. Rostropovich is quoted as saying that he believes that the work is programmatic and that Lutoslawski’s work is about the struggle of the individual (the soloist) against society (the orchestra). Lutoslawski wrote a letter to Rostropovich giving him performance instructions, and this seems to suggest a similar idea, although in just about every interview since he has categorically denied that the work is in any way programmatic, despite many interviewers trying to push this point emphatically.
Lutosławski did not hold the view that such extra-musical influences had a direct effect on his music, although he acknowledged that they impinged on his creative world to some degree. Whether or not the work was initially conceived with the idea of rebelling against the regime in mind, Lutoslawski clearly did not want to be pigeon holed as the type of composer that was trying to make such a statement about his surroundings, so he shouldn’t be placed in this Shostokovian box. Lutoslawski was clearly a composer drawn to trying to speak through his music, in the abstract language that music is. It seems an incredibly crude idea that the immediate mental state of a composer, if it be a bad one, would make him write music that is sorrowful or angry. Therefore, programmatic or otherwise, what matters in this piece is the musical statements Lutoslawski is making: the importance of linear composition, the use of gesture to translate into a larger form, the new developments of the concerto form, and the use of contrast within the musical material, whether it be representative or not, holds the same musical value.