Personalities | Witold Lutosławski | Contemporary | Classical
(Ve’-told Loo-to-slwaf’-ske) 1913–94
A talented violinist and pianist, Lutosławski studied composition with Witold Maliszewski (1873–1939). Early works (such as the Little Suite, 1950) demonstrate his interest in folk sources, a preoccupation that became all but obligatory with the advent of socialist realism in Poland in the late 1940s. But while publicly he followed the party line with works such as the highly successful Concerto for Orchestra (1954), he also experimented privately with 12-note rows and chord formations (though without following serial principles). The cultural thaw in the late 1950s enabled the performance of works that expressed those preoccupations – such as Musique funèbre (‘Music of Mourning’, 1954–8) – as well as, later on, those that involved limited aleatory techniques (freedom in the timing of individual instrumental entries within the confines of a static harmony, a device first used in Venetian Games, 1960–61). His later works display an alluring sound world, associated with surrealism in works such as the Robert Desnos setting Les espaces du sommeil (‘The Intervals of Sleep’, 1975). Among his best-known works is the Third Symphony, commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1972 and completed in the 1980s.
Concerto for Orchestra, Symphony No. 3, Chicago SO (cond) Daniel Barenboim (Erato/Warner)
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