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Witold Lutosławski

Year 2013 was announced as Witold Lutosławski Year by the Sejm. Born on 25 January 1913 in Warsaw, Witold Lutosławski remains one of the most prominent Polish composers of all times, and his works are key to the understanding of the trends, directions and changes in the 20th century music.

Drawing on the great European tradition – the achievements of Haydn, Beethoven and Chopin, and also Debussy and Bartók – Lutosławski created his own musical language, and his works are equally appealing to the intellect and emotions of listeners.

Lutosławski’s compositions underwent numerous transformations, from the neoclassical to a mature individual style, and the many masterpieces by Lutosławski include Concerto for Orchestra (1954), his groundbreaking work Funeral Music (1958), avant-garde Venetian Games (1961) and Trois poèmes d’Henri Michaux (1963), vocal works, piano and cello concertos or Symphonies 3 and 4 and Chantefleurs et Chantefables (Songflowers and Songfables) composed towards the end of his life. Awarded with numerous honoris causa titles and major decorations, also Poland’s highest decoration – Order of the White Eagle, Lutosławski, enjoying international fame, remained sensitive to the needs of others and those of his homeland. Throughout his life, he was involved in discrete charity, and also in important social movements, e.g. through participating in the “Solidarity” activities of the 1980s.

He died in Warsaw on 7 February 1994. In the often quoted, very accurate reflection on Lutosławski’s significance for Polish musical culture, an outstanding musicologist, Michał Bristiger wrote on 8 February 1994, just after the composer’s death: “His departure was very painful to us, and it was a seismic vibration of all our culture. (…) And what was the Artist to the world? What is he? What will he remain? A benchmark for the entire development of music in our century (…)”.

Kamila Stępień-Kutera