Lutosławski Year 2013 Opens in Warsaw

Witold Lutosławski, 1978,  photo: Jan Morek / Forum
Witold Lutosławski, 1978,  photo: Jan Morek / Forum

To inaugurate the Lutosławski Year 2013 in Warsaw, events that play around the city include opening night at the Philharmonic with guest violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter and Paweł Szymański, whose piece premieres as an overture to conductor Antoni Wit's Lutosławski programme.

For the composer's centenary, commemorations are underway in Warsaw, Witold Lutosławski's home city, and across Europe, the U.S. and around the globe. Polish pianist Krystian Zimerman tours with the Piano Concerto, which he performed with Lutosławski conducting in 1988 at the Warsaw Autumn Festival. Zimerman plays at London's Royal Festival Hall on the 30th of January with the Philharmonia Orchestra, after performances in Paris and Singapore earlier in the month. And in Kraków, commemorations began in mid January with Symphony No. 4 conducted by Tadeusz Strugała, the astonishing Cello Concerto played by Andrzej Bauer, and a piece by composer Krzysztof Meyer.

The busy beginning of Lutosławski Year 2013 in Warsaw involves venues across the Polish capital. At the Royal Castle on the 24th of January, the Lutosławski Society opens the 10th annual Chain Festival with the Ausko Ensemble and conductor Marek Moś, with celebrations continuing at Ujazdowski Castle on the 25th of January. The Cello Concerto is played on the 24th of January, with the performance at the Witold Lutosławski Concert Studio of the Polish Radio featuring Magdalena Bajowicz as soloist (Bajowicz's fine TWOgether duo received the prestigious Passport Award in mid January). Top names from the classical-music world include pianist Garrick Ohlsson (awarded first prize at the International Chopin Competition in 1970) and the renowned conductor Jacek Kaspszyk on the 29th of January at the Lutosławski Concert Studio, and Gidon Kremer and Ian Bostridge on upcoming programmes at the Warsaw Philharmonic that include Lutosławski works, and Krzysztof Penderecki conducting a programme in early February.

To open Lutosławski Year 2013 on the 25th of January, the Warsaw Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra's principal conductor and artistic director Antoni Wit has invited violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, among the superb interpreters of Lutosławski's music, and created a special commission for composer Paweł Szymański. Szymański is crucial in the lineage of modern Polish composers that counts Lutosławski among its towering figures. He wrote his new orchestra piece, Sostenuto, with "a certain tension", as he said in an interview with—which include its being the single non-Lutosławski piece on the programme. Maestro Wit from the Philharmonic first suggested the commission over four years ago, and it formed the cornerstone for Szymanski's current residency as composer of the season at the Philharmonic.

"When the commission came, Anna-Sophie Mutter's participation and the program had been decided: Symphony No. 3, Chain 2, the Partita and the Interlude for orchestra", the composer said. "This combination was once suggested by Lutosławski, so it makes sense to perform it. My piece of about 15 minutes is obviously dedicated to the memory of Lutosławski. Sostenuto, the title, is related to a musical gesture, which can mean various things: the sustain pedal on the piano, or when you slow down the tempo, or when you develop an idea but hold back on some points. I think Lutosławski as a person had a sort of sostenuto personality."

Szymański worked with Lutosławski as a young composer, and recalled that "He never expressed himself in a forceful way, reserved yet self-conscious and very sure about his point of view and his position in music. This is also a meaning of sostenuto: to be very well-based. This was not only my feeling—everybody thought he would live forever, he was that sort of person. No one could imagine our music world with Lutosławski." Szymański recalled his elder colleague at 80th birthday events in his honor, "conducting, full of energy, running up flights of stairs." In December 1993, Lutosławski felt himself weaken and he was diagnosed with cancer and died in February 1994. His last piece, Szymański explained, was written for a violin competition, to be performed by the competition's participants, and he titled it Subito, meaning "abruptly", in musical terminology. "He lived his life sostenuto, then died subito. He was an incomparable person."

Szymański had the "great opportunity" of working with Lutosławski early in the 1980s, when he joined him on the selection committee for the Warsaw Autumn Festival, where the great composer's work had been presented since 1958. At meetings, Lutosławski considered the merits of scores, not his own likes or dislikes, often looking "deep into a particular score, suggesting technical solutions in detail." His stature was secure among important composers and conductors internationally, yet Szymański recalled that he "was very careful about expressing his opinion about other composers. He was not like a godfather."

After the premiere of Sostenuto on the Philharmonic's Lutosławski programme in January, Szymański's season at continues on the 19th of February with a recital of vocal music, featuring the bold soprano Agata Zubel. (Previous concerts included 60-Odd Pages from 1991, its tricky rhythms enlivening an orchestral programme in December 2012.) The recital features works inspired by the Georg Trakl's poetry, with Szymański's Drei Lieder nach Trakl and Anton Webern's Sechs Lieder, op. 14, joined by songs by Matthias Ronnefeld and Adam Falkiewicz. "Most vocally demanding is the Ronnefeld", Szymański said. That piece, Fünf Lieder nach Trakl, demands the vocalist's "entire range from low alto to high soprano. I thought if anyone could accept it, it would be Agata, otherwise we'd be lost. And she did."

For Lutosławski programmes at the Warsaw Philharmonic, see

For the Witold Lutosławski Society's 10th Chain Festival through the 9th of February, see


For programmes at the Lutosławski Concert Studio, see,2


For the Adam Mickiewicz Institute's overview of Lutosławski Year 2013, see

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