Piano Concerto - Witold Lutosławski
Lutosławski's Piano Concerto, whose four movements are to be played attacca, was commissioned by the Salzburg Festival and was premiered during that event on 19th August 1988 by the pianist Krystian Zimerman (to whom it was dedicated) and the Austrian Radio Symphony Orchestra under the composer.
Lutosławski had intended to write a piano concerto before World War II and had even made some drafts which he later used in another of his works, Partita. He revisited the idea several times after the war, encouraged by Witold Małcużyński, yet it was not until 1987 that he finally succeeded, and the Concerto was ready on 20th January 1988 after one year's work. As Lutosławski put it, his problems were not of a pianist nature, for as a trained and - at one time - concertizing pianist he was privy to all of the secrets of the piano.
"It was a purely musical issue. It was not until my language had started to become complete, richer that I could afford to attack the piano for the third time" - confessed Lutosławski.
The Concerto was enthusiastically received by the public, the critics and the musicians alike, and was included in the repertoires of Polish pianists of such renown as Ewa Pobłocka and Piotr Paleczny.
"Chopin has played an extremely important role in my life and has always inspired my most strongest emotions. He was a genius whom I may compare only with the greatest artists, such as Beethoven or Bach. No wonder, then, that it was my desire to - I wouldn't say steal, but consume him a little bit and process through my music language - the result of a score of years' work. And it is in the 'Piano Concerto' that one can find echoes of Chopin. Is it not the best place for Chopin? The echoes were introduced deliberately, I even tried to build the entire work on them, though not necessarily borrowing from Chopin. The idea was to evoke the tradition of the great pianism not only of Chopin, but also of Liszt and Brahms. And the echoes of that pianism are there in this work. I would have nothing against some fresher pianism, but I believe that nobody has added much to that pianism since those composers except, a little bit, Debussy and Prokofiev. Messiaen is an exception, but this is due to his being an organist, so the keyboard is his element. Yet in his purely pianistic pieces, like some from 'Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant Jésu', he is a direct continuator of Liszt, and a quite obvious one. There is a piece in 'Vingt Regards' which makes you wonder that it is by Messiaen and not Liszt. And it is very beautiful. So I wanted to evoke Chopin, Liszt nad Brahms in the 'Piano Concerto'. I think it worthwhile to maintain contact with such great spirits of the past. This helps to ascend to some better spheres..." (Witold Lutosławski's comments made on 1st October 1990, "Studio" no 9/1996).
Prepared by the Polish Music Information Center, Polish Composers' Union, November 2001.