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Witold Lutosławski

Born: 1913

Died: 1994

Nationality: Polish

Publisher: Chester Music

Photo © Morten Krogvold


Witold Lutosławski was indisputably one of the major composers of the twentieth century. Born in Warsaw in 1913, he showed prodigious musical and intellectual talent from an early age. His composition studies in Warsaw ended at a politically difficult time for Poland so his plans for further study in Paris were replaced by a period which included military training, imprisonment by the Germans and escape back to Warsaw, where he and his compatriot Andrzej Panufnik played in cafes their own compositions and transcriptions. After the war, the Stalinist regime banned his first symphony (1941-47) as 'formalist', but he continued to compose and in 1958 his Musique Funèbre, in memory of Bartok, established his international reputation. His own personal aleatoric technique whereby the performers have freedom within certain controlled parameters was first demonstrated in his Jeux Venitiens (1961) and is to be found in almost all the later music Over the years, Witold Lutosławski was frequently inspired by particular ensembles and artists including the London Sinfonietta, Sir Peter Pears, Heinz and Ursula Holliger, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Mstislav Rostropovich and Anne-Sophie Mutter. His Symphony No. 4 was commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and received its world premiere in February 1993 under the baton of the composer. A powerful work, it reflected his increasing concern with expansive melody. Among many international prizes awarded to this most modest man were the UNESCO Prize (1959,1968), the French order of Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres (1982), Grawemeyer Award (1985), Royal Philharmonic Society Gold Medal (1986), in the last year of his life, the Swedish Polar Music Prize and the Inamori Foundation Prize, Kyoto, for his outstanding contribution to contemporary European music, and, posthumously, the International Music Award for best large-scale composition for the fourth symphony. Lutosławski's contribution to the musical world was enormous and his loss in February 1994, at the age of 81, will continue to be deeply felt.

© Chester Music


Below are a series of videos taken from the Philharmonia Orchestra website celebrating the Lutosławski Centenary Woven Words  

Early Life
This film focuses on the composer's early life and beginnings in music. Series Advisor, Steven Stucky and Philharmonia Orchestra Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor, Esa-Pekka Salonen travelled to Poland to discover how tragic and traumatic events in Lutosławski's early life shaped his compositions and personality. 


 



World War II
This film focuses on the composer's struggle for survival in Warsaw during World War II. Series Advisor, Steven Stucky and Philharmonia Orchestra Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor, Esa-Pekka Salonen traveled to Poland to find out more. Lutosławski expert Charles Bodman Rae also helps bring this terrifying moment in history to life.


 



Stalinist Years
Series Advisor, Steven Stucky and Philharmonia Orchestra Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor, Esa-Pekka Salonen visited Polska Radio in Warsaw to talk about Lutosławski's work during Soviet rule. They view manuscripts of his compositions for radio and also pop music, which he composed under the pseudonym, Derwid.






Maturity
Series Advisor, Steven Stucky and Philharmonia Orchestra Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor, Esa-Pekka Salonen visit the Filharmonia Narodowa (National Concert Hall) in Warsaw and talk about the composer's later life. In his later years, Lutosławski flourished and finally found his distinctive musical voice.


 
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