Radio broadcasts reaching 2 million listeners, 700 concerts across the world and the 22 thousand viewers of the Woven Words series are only a fraction of the attractions that filled the 2013 Lutosławski Year.
Witold Lutosławski, 1993, photo: B. Haes / courtesy of the Witold Lutosławski Society
Celebrating Lutosławski’s centenary birthday, the various events that took place in 2013 testified to the great impact that the Polish composer had on the global music scene. The musician’s position as one of the most important composers of the 20th century was substantiated with performances of Lutosławski’s music in some of the world’s most significant auditoriums and concert halls.
In an interview for culture.pl, Anne-Sophie Mutter spoke about the composer:
He was a wonderful, warm, genuine and modest man, first and foremost he was genuine. For many years, when he did not perform, he led a very modest life and made a living by writing popular melodies. But he never gave in, this was something more important to him than the comfort of everyday life.
The Lutosławski Year aimed at acquainting audiences in Poland and abroad with the life and oeuvre of the composer. Some of the most famous ensembles to have performed his music throughout 2013 were the Berliner Philharmoniker, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestre de Paris. Among soloists performing with the ensembles were two stars: the cellist Yo-Yo Ma and the violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter.
The director of IMiT (the Polish Institute for Music and Dance) sums up the year:
This year leaves behind many permanent traces such as books, albums, broadcasts and exhibitions. I think that we managed to bury the myth of contemporary music not being popular. Another one that we tackled was the conviction that Lutosławski is a poorly recognised figure. Our research has shown that nearly 40 percent of Poles know who Witold Lutosławski was.
Paweł Potoroczyn, the head of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, enumerated the various initiatives that took place throughout the Lutosławski Year. There were concerts, productions of phonographic albums as well as book publications, interdisciplinary projects, and symposiums. Potoroczyn added that thanks to transmissions on television as well as radio broadcasts and concerts series – such as those that took place as part of the BBC Proms – more than 2 million people across the world listened to Lutosławski’s music. More than 700 concerts took place, and the Woven Words project enjoyed an audience of 22 thousand. 1188 reviews and articles connected to the Lutosławski Year were featured in the international press. Potoroczyn also added:
We thought of him not only as a composer, but also a thinker, a philosopher. We wanted to zoom in closer not only his work, but also on his person.
As part of the celebrations, the Adam Mickiewicz Institute requested a special film to be created based on Lutosławski’s music. The project was commissioned from legendary animation duo and Academy Award nominees, the Quay brothers. Their KwartetSmyczkovy - Paraphrase on Peter Handke's 'The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other was first screened during the Ruhrtriennale in Duisburg, Germany. In his review of the film for culture.pl, Filip Lech stated:
Everything melts on the screen, it’s fluid – human silhouettes, the landscape, the architecture. The only stable points are fragments recorded on 8mm tape, filmed by the Quay brothers during their stay in Poland in the 1970s.
Click here to read Filip Lech's talk with the Quay brothers, which took place a few hours before the Ruhrtriennale premiere of their KwartetSmyczkovy, based on the music of Lutosławski.
Paweł Janicki from the WRO Art Center took up Lutosławski’s technique - controlled aleatorism - in creating an interactive installation called the LutoScratch. Throughout 2014, there will be more showings of projects commissioned by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute. Those engaged in the projects are usually young Polish composers, and they base their work on both the concepts and creative work of Witold Lutosławski.
Grzegorz Michalski, who is the head of the Witold Lutosławski Society spoke about his organisation’s activities throughout the year. Major events included the 10th Witold Lutosławski Festival “Łańcuch” ("Chain"), which officially inaugurated the Year. There was also the biographic exhibition Lutosławski 1913-1994, and the publication of books including Andrzej Chłopecki’s PostSłowie. A Guide to the Music of Witold Lutosławski. Another special initiative included creating an application in collaboration with the IMiT and the National Frederic Chopin Institute. The software is a multimedia guide to different places in Warsaw connected with the life and work of the composer.
Michalski summed up the events:
The Lutosławski Year resulted in a greatly increased presence of his music at music festivals and concerts. The whole cultural world has incorporated the art of Lutosławski into the canon that describes our civilisation. We are aware of the fact that we are still far from being really acquainted with his music, but the first major step has been made.
The portal www.trzejkompozytorzy.pl has also been created, and it is the first such site in Poland. It is accessible to everyone, and it features performances of all the works written by Poland’s three great composers of contemporary music: Witold Lutosławski, Krzysztof Penderecki and Henryk Mikołaj Górecki.
Konrad Jeliński, one of the website editors comments:
We are dealing with something very attractive: a database that encompasses the works of three composers, and which can also serve as a useful tool for all sorts of compilations and comparisons, thanks to the function of filters. Those who dislike this kind of a bringing together of different composers can also choose to enjoy only the music by one of them.
Click here to read more about the three composers’ portal.
The Lutosławski Year officially ended on the day of the 20th anniversary of the composer’s death, the 7th of February, 2014. The official closing was celebrated with a concert, organised by the IMiT and the Society of the 11th Festival of Witold Lutosławski, “Łańcuch”.
Press release, translated by Paulina Schlosser, 11/02/2014