The composer and conductor Witold Lutosławski (1913–1994) was one of the major European composers of the 20th century, and is regarded by many as the greatest Polish composer since Chopin.
Lutosławski’s significant output includes four symphonies, three solo concertos, vocal music and a string quartet. When, in 1949, the overtly neo-classical First Symphony (1941-47) was banned as “formalist” by the Communist regime, he turned to folk music as a potential source of raw compositional material. The exuberant and accessible Concerto for Orchestra (1950-54), was the first of his works to alert international opinion to his genius. Following the death of Stalin in 1953, as greater experimentation and increased contact with the West became possible, Lutosławski began to introduce into his music more advance techniques, evident in the moving Funeral Music and Venetian Games of 1961. In the 1980s, he gave artistic support to the Solidarity movement, which claimed victory when free elections eventually took place in Poland in 1988-9. In January 1994, a month before his death, Lutosławski was awarded the Order of the White Eagle, Poland’s highest honour and an award which had not been made during the communist period.
2013 marks the centenary of Lutosławski’s birth. Let us celebrate his life and legacy with some of his masterpieces in acclaimed Naxos recordings.
The genius of Lutosławski was evident from his 1938 Symphonic Variations. The years after the war brought a return to more conventional national modes of composition, heard in his Little Suite and Concerto for Orchestra. Later works have allowed a more experimental approach on a broader palette, such as hisFuneral Music of 1958, his Second Symphony, and the Preludes and Fugue for 13 string instruments. Characteristic works for voice and orchestra includeParoles tissées for tenor and chamber orchestra, and Three Poems by Henri Michaux for 20 voices and orchestra.
Listen to the following excerpts taken from two of Lutosławski’s masterpieces:
From Symphony No. 3
From Concerto for Orchestra
This 10 CD boxed set includes the following works:
Symphony No. 1 • Chantefleurs et Chantefables
Symphony No. 2 • Little Suite • Symphonic Variations