1913 - 1994

Witold Lutosławski

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Iconic Polish Composer and Conductor
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WITOLD LUTOSŁAWSKI (1913-1994), Polish composer and conductor, is known as one of the greats of 20th-century music. During the Nazi occupation of Poland, Lutosławski performed as a pianist in Warsaw cafés, either solo or with collaborator Andrzej Panufnik. His early works are influenced by classical Polish folk music, followed by a subsequent departure from traditional tonality and a movement towards serialism.

By the late 1950s ("Funeral Music"), Lutosławski's musical language had fully evolved as he developed his technique of controlled 'aleatorism', in which chance dictates the creative process ("Venetian Games").  His signature two-part composition structure (Symphony No. 2, "Livre pour orchestre"), was soon accompanied by the so-called 'chain form' ("Chain I-III").

Lutosławski’s uncompromising personal and artistic demeanor in the era of the Polish People’s Republic, along with his manifold social and musical engagements, earned him universal esteem as a figure of indisputable moral and creative authority.

"Music is the domain of an ideal world." - Witold Lutosławski

"I derive much satisfaction from contact with the audience. (...) The fact that my works are included in the programmes of ordinary, run-of-the-mill concerts convinces me that my music is not shut off in any ghetto but is functioning normally." - Lutosławski in conversation with Elżbieta Markowska

"I must say that I have been very fortunate to have had excellent performers. The very prospect of writing a piece for the Chicago orchestra, as is the case with the Third Symphony, helped me in my work. The same is true of the compositions commissioned for great soloists, such as Mstislav Rostropovich." - Lutosławski in conversation with Elżbieta Markowska

"I would also mention Peter Pears, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Heinz Holliger and his wife, the LaSalle Quartet, Pinchas Zukerman and musicians of the younger generation, such as Krystian Zimerman and Anne-Sophie Mutter. Imagining the music performed by such musicians is incredibly inspiring. After concerts with these soloists and wonderful orchestras, I experience periods of extraordinary stimulation of my musical imagination." - Lutosławski in conversation with Elżbieta Markowska

"I had already started to write a piano concerto before the war, having myself in mind as its first performer, but I threw the sketches into a waste-paper basket." - Lutosławski in a conversation with Elżbieta Markowska

"In later years I did not manage to write the piano concerto for Małcużyński, who was a very good friend of mine and whose artistry I much admired. I think I was not yet ready. It has happened only now." - Lutosławski in conversation with Elżbieta Markowska

"I do not conceal the fact that Krystian Zimerman’s profound interest in the piece, manifested in many ways, provided a very strong inspiration for me. The piano is an instrument which does not hold too many secrets for me; after all I once was a pianist." - Lutosławski in conversation with Elżbieta Markowska

"He was a very cheerful man. Lutosławski was a man you wanted to have in, surround yourself with, because you knew that not only would he add importance to your entourage but he would also be a companion who beamed with buoyancy and balance." - Ryszard Kapuściński 

Witold Lutosławski with Andrzej Panufnik (1990).

"Music does not exist to make people wonder how it is "made". It exists to be directly experienced." - Lutosławski in conversation with Elżbieta Markowska

"Let me quote Tchaikovsky’s famous remark. When asked by a certain lady: "Maestro, do you work regularly or do you wait for inspiration?", he responded: "Dear Madam, I work regularly, because inspiration doesn’t come to lazy people"." - Lutosławski in conversation with Elżbieta Markowska

"Novelty is the feature of a work of art that grows old quickest of all. The goal of my search in the area of musical language is not novelty for its own sake. I look for the kind of technical solutions that can be employed many times and endure in a new repertoire of expressive ideas. Overall, I search for lasting values which do not expire immediately." - Witold Lutosławski (Zbigniew Skowron, "Lutosławski on music",  The Scarecrow Press, Lanham 2007)

Witold Lutosławski and his wife Danuta on the terrace of their house in 39 Śmiała street, Warsaw (September 1969).

"It has become a habit to me and my wife Danusia to read the same book simultaneously. I read out loud, rather quickly, I am quite adept at it. We read the book twice a day: after lunch and in the evening, before going to sleep. Concurrently, I tend to read another book, or should I say, books — two, three of them — on my own." - Witold Lutosławski in a conversation with Zofia Owińska [in:] "Lutosławski o sobie", Gdańsk 2010

"As becomes a megalomaniac, I am a modest man. For indeed, only someone convinced of his own gifts can afford modesty. Showing off often hides the conviction that one’s own value is small." - Witold Lutosławski (Zbigniew Skowron, "Lutosławski on music",  The Scarecrow Press, Lanham 2007)

"Sailing commands one’s attention and engages one’s mind, enabling an intensity of leisure I have found incomparable to anything save for mountain climbing." - Witold Lutosławski in a conversation with Zofia Owińska [in:] "Lutosławski o sobie", Gdańsk 2010

"I do have an outstanding crew in my wife, but although we prefer to sail on our own, we often have difficulty ballasting the boat, since our combined weight is only slightly over one hundred kilograms. That is why we sometimes invite a third party: not merely for socializing purposes." - Witold Lutosławski in a conversation with Zofia Owińska [in:] "Lutosławski o sobie", Gdańsk 2010

"To become a classic is most probably every composer’s dream. I think that, if anyone has the courage to use this term in reference to me, he must have in mind the broadest meaning of the word. Evidently, he must have found something lasting in my music." - Lutosławski in conversation with Elżbieta Markowska

Credits: Story

CURATOR — Ewa Bogusz-Moore, Polska Music Programme manager 
COORDINATOR — Zofia Barańska
EDITOR — Agnieszka Sawicka
CONSULTANT — Elżbieta Markowska
TRANSLATION — Józef Jaskulski, Michał Kubicki, Alicja Baczyńska, John Beauchamp, John Comber
PHOTO EDITOR — Grzegorz Korzeniowski
FILM EDITOR — Marek Sokołowski
QUOTES —
* —  Witold Lutosławski in a conversation with Elżbieta Markowska
** — Ryszard Kapuściński about Witold Lutosławski [in:] Grzegorz Michalski. "Lutosławski w pamięci", Słowo/obraz terytoria, Gdańsk 2007
*** — Witold Lutosławski (Zbigniew Skowron, "Lutosławski on music",  The Scarecrow Press, Lanham 2007)
**** — Witold Lutosławski in a conversation with Zofia Owińska [in:] "Lutosławski o sobie", Gdańsk 2010
PARTNERS —
Towarzystwo im. Witolda Lutosławskiego — www. lutoslawski.org.pl
Polskie Centrum Informacji Muzycznej — www.polmic.pl

Credits: All media
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