Witold Lutosławski is an emblematic composer of the 20th century. Alongside his career as a composer and an orchestra conductor, he always paid close attention to the reception of contemporary creation: he is the co-founder of the Warsaw Autumn Festival and acted for a long time as a pedagogue.
Witold Lutosławski studied the piano, the violin and composition (under Witold Maliszewski) at the Warsaw Conservatoire but decided to dedicate himself to composition after hearing the Symphony No. 3 of Karol Szymanowski, discovering the first period of Stravinsky’s work and the Symphonie no 3 of Roussel.
While the Poland campaign in 1939, Lutosławski is made prisoner by the Germans but managed to escape. Back in Warsaw where he would stay during the years of occupation, he earned his living by playing piano in the cafés. After the war, the composer turned to music for theatre and radio pieces while arranging many folkloric melodies of his country music tradition that he was studying. He would look into Polish folklore to put up with his educational works.
After a first tonal period, Lutosławski turned to serialism and aleatoric music. He mainly composed for orchestras and often for vocals, most of the time from poems in French. During the 1960’s, the relations are more peaceful between the East and the West. Lutosławski took that opportunity to spread his popularity and established himself at the front of the musical scene: he got many orders, traveled, taught all around the world and created many pieces as an orchestra conductor.
He dedicated some of his compositions to the greatest performers of his time: Mstislav Rostropovich, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Paul Sacher, Anne-Sophie Mutter… Honorary member of several academies, Lutosławski got a lot of rewards for his work in many countries.
Five landmark dates in the life of Witold Lutosławski
• 1927: student at the Warsaw Conservatoire
• 1939: is made prisoner by the Germans
• 1945: appointed secretary of the new Polish Composers Union
• 1956: co-founder of the Warsaw Autumn Festival, dedicated to contemporary creation
• 1963: Lutosławski honors the Zagreb Music Biennale’s order with his Trois poèmes d'Henri Michaux; it will bring him international recognition
Six pieces by Witold Lutosławski
• 1936 Symphonic variations
• 1958 Musique funèbre for strings orchestra
• 1948 First Symphony, proscribed of “formalism” and prohibited during the Stalinist period
• 1963 Trois poèmes d'Henri Michaux for 20 parts chorus and instrumental ensemble
• 1968 Livre pour orchestre
• 1970 Cello Concerto dedicated to Mstislav Rostropovitch