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Witold Lutosławski

Publisher: Chester Music

Variations on a Theme by Paganini [Wariacje ne temat Paganiniego] (1978)
Work Notes
Chester Music is the publisher of this work in all territories except Poland, Albania, Bulgaria, China, countries of the former Czechoslovakia, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, Romania, Hungary and the whole territory of the former USSR, where the copyright is held by Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne (PWM).
Chester Music Ltd (Polish Works)
Soloists and Orchestra
Year Composed
6 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)
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Programme Note
Witold Lutosławski Variations on a Theme by Paganini [Wariacje ne temat Paganiniego] (1978)
During the German occupation of Poland, Andrezj Panufnik and I played unofficial concerts of two-piano music in Warsaw. This was the origin of these Variations which we first performed in 1941. As a basis I took Paganini’s 24th Caprice for solo violin and my Variations follow closely his model. In each Variation I translate the violin line for keyboard. Polyharmony often occurs between the two keyboards but tonality remains a clear force with frequent traditional dominant-tonic cadences.

In 1977, I was asked by the pianist Felicja Blumental for a composition and revised these Variations as a Concerto for Piano and Orchestra. It expands the piano-duo piece by repeating each section (apart from the theme itself and Variations 10 and 11) with the soloist and orchestra exchanging roles for the second playing of each Variation. Otherwise there is very little change in the musical substance. Blumental gave the first performance of the new version in Miami on 18 November 1979 with Brian Priestman conducting the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra.

© Witold Lutoslawski

Preview the score

  • Ensemble
    Suiss Romande Orchestra / London Sinfonietta / Royal Philharmonic Orchestra / Cleveland Orchestra
    P. Pears, tenor P. Jablonski, piano
    P. Kletzki / Witold Lutoslawski / V. Ashkenazy / C. von Dohnanyi
  • Ensemble
    Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra / Polish National Philharmonic Orchestra / Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra / Polish National Radio Orchestra
    H. Schiff, celloM. Argerich, piano / N. Freire, pianoD. Fischer-Dieskau, baritone
    Witold lutoslawski / W. Rowicki / W. Lutoslawski / W. Rowicki
  • Ensemble
    Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra
    A. Kruszewski, baritone P. Kusiewicz, tenor Glemser, piano
    Antoni Wit
  • Ensemble
    BBC Symphony Orchestra
    Louis Lortie (piano)
    Edward Gardner
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