Witold Lutosławski

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Witold Lutosławski 1991

Witold Lutosławski ( [ˈvitɔld lutɔsˈwafski] ; born January 25, 1913 in Warsaw ; † February 7, 1994 ibid) was a Polish composer and conductor .


Lutosławski grew up in a musical family. He received private piano and violin lessons at an early age , then regular music theory lessons at the Warsaw State Conservatory (now Fryderyk Chopin University for Music ) . He learned composition from Witold Maliszewski , a student of Rimski-Korsakow . In parallel to his musical education, Lutosławski studied mathematics and science. He found a lot in common in music and mathematics , which did not remain without consequences for his compositional career.

Composer and musician

Witold Lutosławski

Lutosławski chose the path of professional composer. The first outstanding compositions are the Symphonic Variations (1938). His plan to study in Paris failed when the Second World War broke out . After escaping from German captivity, he made his way as a pianist in Warsaw . Together with his composer colleague Andrzej Panufnik , he founded a piano duo with which he performed in the Warsaw cafés and thus participated in the only possible form of public music-making during the war.

After the war, the First Symphony was written , which in Stalinist Poland was described as formalistic and banned. To stay afloat, Lutosławski wrote a lot of everyday music ; Works for radio , film , theater and numerous songs for children.

The year 1954 and the cultural and political thaw in Poland opened up new possibilities for experimentation for Lutosławski. He used u. a. serial (e.g. in funeral music ) and aleatoric techniques (e.g. in Jeux vénitiens ). With his compositions he not only made regular guest appearances at the Warszawska Jesień Festival (Eng. "Warsaw Autumn"), but was also a member of the jury for composers' competitions in Moscow , East Berlin , Helsinki , Salzburg , Strasbourg , Donaueschingen , Rome and Liège .


Lutosławski began working as a conductor in the 1960s . By working with the orchestra, he hoped on the one hand that his works would be better adapted to the possibilities of the orchestral apparatus, on the other hand he found new impulses for his compositional practice.


In 1962, during his stay in the USA, Lutosławski directed composition courses. There he met composers such as Edgar Varèse , Milton Babbitt and Lejaren Hiller .

In the 1970s and 1980s, Lutosławski increasingly restricted his activities to conducting his own compositions. Until the end of his life he was a regular guest on concert stages around the world and died as an internationally recognized composer and musician who was honored with many awards.

Prizes, awards and honors


Honorary awards

Honorary doctorates

Honorary memberships

Corresponding membership

Works (selection)

  • Piano Sonata (1934), premiered on February 16, 1935 in Warsaw
  • Symphonic Variations (1936–1938)
  • Variations on a Theme by Paganini for two pianos (1941)
  • Two studies for piano (1941)
  • Twelve Folk Melodies for Piano (1945), premiered on July 22, 1946 in Warsaw
  • First Symphony (1941–1947)
  • Mała suita (“Small Suite”) for chamber orchestra (1950); for symphony orchestra (1951)
  • Tryptyk śląski ("Silesian Triptych") for soprano and orchestra (1951)
  • Bukoliki for piano (1952)
  • Concerto for orchestra (1950–1954)
  • Three pieces for the youth for piano (1953)
  • Dance preludes for clarinet and piano (1954); for clarinet and chamber orchestra (1955)
  • Funeral music (1954–1958)
  • Jeux vénitiens (1960–1961)
  • Trois poèmes d ' Henri Michaux for choir and orchestra (1961–1963)
  • String Quartet (1964)
  • Paroles tissées for tenor and chamber orchestra (1965)
  • Second symphony (1965–1967)
  • Inwencja ("Invention") for piano (1966)
  • Livre pour orchester (1968)
  • Concerto for violoncello and orchestra (1969–1970)
  • Preludes and Fugue for 13 solo strings (1970–1972)
  • Sacher Variation for cello solo (1975)
  • Les espaces du sommeil for baritone and orchestra (1974–1975)
  • Mi-parti for orchestra (1975–1976)
  • Novelette for orchestra (1978–1979)
  • Double concerto for oboe, harp and string orchestra (1979–1980), a work commissioned by Paul Sacher
  • Grave  - Metamorphoses for cello and piano (1981)
  • Mini-Overture for Brass (1982)
  • Third Symphony (1981-1983)
  • Chain I for chamber ensemble (1983)
  • Partita for violin and piano (1984)
  • Chain II. Dialogue for violin and orchestra (1983–1985), a work commissioned by Paul Sacher
  • Chain III for orchestra (1986)
  • Fanfare for Louisville for winds and percussion (1986)
  • Fanfare for CUBE (1986)
  • Concerto for piano and orchestra (1987–1988)
  • Chantefleurs et chantefables for soprano and orchestra (1989–1990)
  • Fourth symphony (1988–1992)

Audio CD


The title music for ZDF magazine (1969–1988) came from the first movement (“Intrada”) of Witold Lutosławski's concert for orchestra from 1950–1954 , in which the motif is heard for the first time after about two minutes. As modern and atonal as it seems, a very similar motif appeared 180 years earlier in a work by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach , namely in the Hamburg Symphony No. 5 in B minor (Wq 182 / H 661) a few bars after the beginning of the 3rd movement.


  • Danuta Gwizdalanka , Krzysztof Meyer : Witold Lutosławski. Paths to Mastery. Translated from the Polish by Christina Marie Hauptmeier. Pfau, Saarbrücken 2014.
  • Martina Homma: Witold Lutosławski. Twelve-tone harmony - formation of form - "aleatoric counterpoint". Bela, Cologne 1996.
  • Lisa Jakelski, Nicholas Reyland (Eds.): Lutosławski's Worlds. The Boydell Press, Woodbridge 2018.
  • Zbigniew Skowron (Ed.): Lutosławski Studies. Oxford University Press, Oxford / New York 2001.

Web links

Commons : Witold Lutosławski  - collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. ^ ISCM Honorary Members
  2. Berliner Philharmoniker - the magazine. March / April 2009, p. 19.
  3. ^ ZDF-Magazin, opening credits from 1980 on YouTube .