Lutoslawski, Witold

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Lutoslawski, Witold

Lutoslawski, Witold, eminent Polish composer and conductor; b. Warsaw, Jan. 25,1913; d. there, Feb. 7, 1994. He began to play the piano when he was 6, and studied that instrument with Helena Hoffman, Józef Śmidowicz, and A. Taube. He received training in violin from Lidia Kmitowa (1926-32) and in theory and composition from Witold Maliszewski (1928-31). From 1931 to 1933 he studied mathematics at the Univ. of Warsaw. In 1932 he entered the Warsaw Cons. to continue his studies in composition with Maliszewski, and also studied piano with Jerzy Lefeld. In 1936 he graduated as a pianist and in 1937 he received his degree in composition with his Requiem for Soprano, Chorus, and Orch. He then served in the Polish Army, and, at the outbreak of World War II in 1939, he was taken prisoner-of-war by the invading Nazi Army but managed to escape shortly thereafter. During the Nazi occupation of his homeland, he earned his living playing piano in various venues. After the liberation in 1945, he made Warsaw the center of his activities. He helped to found the Polish Composers’ Union, with which he remained active for the rest of his life. For the most part, however, he devoted himself mainly to composing. He also taught numerous master classes at home and abroad. From 1963 he made appearances as a conductor, becoming especially known as the authoritative interpreter of his own works. Lutostawski was accorded numerous honors, including the Polish State Award, first class, in 1955, 1964, and 1978, the Polish Composers’ Union Award in 1959 and 1973, the Minister of Culture and Arts Award, first class, in 1962, the Gottfried von Herder Prize and the Léonie Sonning Music Prize in 1967, the Maurice Ravel Prize of Paris in 1971, the Sibelius Prize in 1973, the Ernst von Siemens Prize in 1983, the first Grawemeyer Award of the Univ. of Louisville in 1985, the Gold Medal of the Royal Phil. Soc. of London in 1985, the Polar Music Prize and the Kyoto Prize in 1993, and Poland’s highest honor, the Order of the White Eagle in 1994. He also was made an honorary member of Hamburg’s Freie Akademie der Künste in 1966, an extraordinary member of West Berlin’s Akademie der Künste in 1968, a corresponding member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1975, and an honorary member of London’s Royal Academy of Music in 1976, among many other memberships. In 1990 the International Witold Lutostawski Competition for Composers was organized in his honor by the National Phil. in Warsaw. From the beginning of his career as a mature composer, Lutoslawski’s output demonstrated a consummate craftsmanship. After composing in a folk-inspired style, he developed his own individual 12-tone method. His growing mastery led him to employ aleatorie procedures with traditional techniques to create works of remarkable creativity and lasting significance in the orchestral, chamber, and vocal genres.


orch.: Symphonic Variations (1936-38; Kraków, June 17, 1939); 4 syms.: No. 1 (1941-47; Katowice, April 6, 1948), No. 2 (1966-67; Katowice, June 9, 1967), No. 3 (1981-83; Chicago, Sept. 29, 1983), and No. 4 (1988-92; Los Angeles, Feb. 5,1993); Overture for Strings (Prague, Nov. 9, 1949); Little Suite for Chamber Orch. (1950; also for Orch., Warsaw, April 20, 1951); Concerto for Orchestra (1950-54; Warsaw, Nov. 26, 1954); Muzyka żatobna (Musique fenèbre) for Strings (1954-58; Katowice, March 26, 1958); Preludia tanceczne (Dance Preludes) for Clarinet and Chamber Orch. (1955; Aldeburgh, June 1963; also for Clarinet and Piano, 1954; Warsaw, Feb. 15, 1955, and for 9 Instruments, Louny, Nov. 10, 1959); Trzy postludia (Three Postludes; 1958-60; rev. 1963; Kraków, Oct. 8, 1965); Gry weneckie (Venetian Games) for Chamber Orch. (Warsaw, Sept. 16, 1961); Livre pour orchestre (Hagen, Nov. 18,1968); Cello Concerto (1969-70; London, Oct. 14, 1970); Preludia i fuga for 13 Solo Strings (1970-72; Graz, Oct. 12, 1972); Mi-parti (Amsterdam, Oct. 22, 1976); Wariacje na temata Paganiniego (Variations on a Theme of Paganini) for Piano and Orch. (1977-78; Miami, Nov. 18, 1979; also for 2 Pianos, 1941); Novellette (1978-79; Washington, D.C., Jan. 29, 1980); Double Concerto for Oboe, Harp, and Chamber Orch. (1979-80; Lucerne, Aug. 24, 1980); Grave for Cello and Strings (1981-82; Paris, Aug. 26, 1982; also for Cello and Piano, Warsaw, April 22, 1981); Lańcuch (Chain) 1 for 14 Players (London, Oct. 4,1983), 2 for Violin and Orch. (1983-85; Zürich, Jan. 31, 1986), and 3 (1985-86; San Francisco, Dec. 10, 1986); Fanfare for (the Univ. of) Louisville for Winds and Percussion (Louisville, Sept. 19, 1986); Piano Concerto (1987-88; Salzburg, Aug. 19, 1988); Partita for Violin and Orch. (1988; Munich, Jan. 10, 1990; also for Violin and Piano, 1984; St. Paul, Minn., Jan. 18, 1985); Prelude for the G.S.M.D. (Guildhall School of Music and Drama) (London, May 11, 1989); Fanfare for (the Univ. of) Lancaster for Brass Ensemble and Side Drum (Lancaster, Oct. 11, 1989); Interludium (1989-90; Munich, Jan. 10, 1990); Fanfare for the Los Angeles Philharmonic for Brass and Percussion (Los Angeles, Nov. 4, 1993). chamber: Trio for Oboe, Clarinet, and Bassoon (1944-45; Kraków, Sept. 1945); Recitativo e arioso for Violin and Piano (1951); Preludia taneczne (Dance Preludes) for Clarinet and Piano (1954; Warsaw, Feb. 15, 1955; also for Clarinet and Chamber Orch., Aldeburgh, June 1963, and for 9 Instruments, Louny, Nov. 10, 1959); Bukoliki (Bucolics) for Viola and Cello (1962; also for Piano, 1952); String Quartet (1964; Stockholm, March 12, 1965); Sacher Variation for Cello (1975; Zürich, May 2, 1976); Epitaphium for Oboe and Piano (1979; London, Jan. 3, 1980); Grave for Cello and Piano (Warsaw, April 22, 1981; also for Cello and String Orch., 1981-82; Paris, Aug. 26, 1982); Mini-uwertura (Mini-overture) for Brass Quintet (Lucerne, March 11, 1982); Partita for Violin and Piano (1984; St. Paul, Minn., Jan. 18, 1985; also for Violin and Orch., 1988; Munich, Jan. 10, 1990); Fanfare for CUBE (Cambridge Univ. Brass Ensemble) for Brass Quintet (Cambridge, June 11, 1987); Slides for 11 Players (N.Y., Dec. 1, 1988); Subito for Violin and Piano (1992; WFYI-FM, Indianapolis, Sept. 16,1994). piano: Sonata (1934; Warsaw, Feb. 1935); 2 Studies (1940-41; Kraków, Jan. 26, 1948); Wariacje na temat Paganiniego (Variations on a Theme of Paganini) for 2 Pianos (1941; also for Piano and Orch., 1977-78; Miami, Nov. 18,1979); Melodie ludowe (Folk Melodies; 1945; Kraków, July 22,1946); Bukoliki (Bucolics; 1952; Warsaw, Dec. 1953; also for Viola and Cello, 1962); Inwencja (Invention; 1968). vocal:Lacrimosa for Soprano, Chorus ad libitum, and Orch. (1937; Warsaw, Nov. 1938); Pieśni walki podziemnej (Songs of the Underground Struggle) for Voice and Piano (1942-44); Dwadzieścia koled (Twenty Polish Christmas Carols) for Voice and Piano (1946; Kraków, Jan. 29, 1947; also for Soprano, Women’s Chorus, and Chamber Orch., 1984; in Polish, London, Dec. 15, 1985; in Eng., Aberdeen, Dec. 14, 1990); O Panu Tralalińskim (About Mr. Tralalinski) for Chorus and Piano (1947; also for Voice and Piano, 1947-48; Kraków, Jan. 26,1948); Dwa stowiki (Two Nightingales) for Chorus and Piano (1947); Spózniony slowik (The Belated Nightingale) for Voice and Piano (1947-48; Kraków, Jan. 26, 1948; also for Voice and Chamber Orch., 1952); Sześć piosenek dziecinnych (Six Children’s Songs) for Voice and Piano (1947; Kraków, Jan. 26,1948; also for Mezzo-soprano and Chamber Orch., 1952-53, and for Children’s Chorus and Orch., Warsaw, April 29, 1954); Stomkowy tancuszek i inne utwory (Strawchain and Other Songs) for Soprano, Mezzo-soprano, Flute, Oboe, 2 Clarinets, and Bassoon (1950-51); Wiosna (Spring) for Mezzo-soprano and Chamber Orch. (1951); Tryptyk ślqski (Silesian Triptych) for Soprano and Orch. (Warsaw, Dec. 2,1951); Pióreczko (Little Feather) for Voice and Piano or Chamber Orch. (1953); 5 Songs for Woman’s Voice and Piano, after Kazimiera Iłłakowiczówna (1956-57; Katowice, Nov. 25, 1569; also for Mezzo-soprano and Chamber Orch., 1958; Katowice, Feb. 12, 1960); Bajka iskierki i inne piosenki dia dzieci (The Tale of the Little Spark and Other Songs for Children) for Voice and Piano (1958); Trzy poematy Henri Michaux (Three Poems of Henri Michaux) for Chorus and Orch. (1961-63; Zagreb, May 9, 1963); Paroles tissées (Woven Words) for Tenor and Chamber Orch. (Aldeburgh, June 20, 1965); Les espaces du sommeil for Baritone and Orch. (1975; Berlin, April 12, 1978); Chantefleurs et Chantefables for Soprano and Orch. (1989-90; London, Aug. 8, 1991); Tarantelle for Baritone and Piano (London, May 20, 1990).


B. Varga, L. Profile: W. L. in Conversation with Bálint András Varga (London, 1976); S. Stucky, L. and His Music (Cambridge, 1981); T. Kaczyńnski, Rozmowy z W. L. (Conversations with W. L.; Wroclaw, 1993); idem, L.:Żzycie i muzyka (L.: Life and Music; Warsaw, 1994); K. Meyer, W. L. (Poznań, 1994); I. Nikolska, Conversations with W. L. (1987-92) (Stockholm, 1994); C. Rae, The Music of L. (London, 1994); M. Homma, W. L: Zwölfton-Harmonik, Formbilding “aleatorischer Kontrapunkt”: Studien zum Gesamtwerk unter Einbeziehung der Skizzen (Cologne, 1996); J. Paja-Stach, W.L. (Kraków, 1996); idem, L. i jego styl muzyczny (L. and His Musical Style; Krakow, 1997).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire