Lutosławski's last work of its genre, Symphony No. 4 is a synthesis of his symphonic style, generating a mood of concentration, meditation, reverie and nostalgia.
Although Lutosławski spent two intensive years - 1988 to 1990 - working on his Symphony No. 4, the score bears the completion date of 22nd August 1992, for it took the composer another two years to finish the work. Having been commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, Symphony No. 4 was first performed by the same ensemble, under Lutosławski, on the occasion of the composer's 80th birthday, at the Los Angeles Music Center Pavilion on 5th February 1993.
Of the Symphony's two movements - both played attacca - the first serves as an introduction and the other is the work's main phase. This is how Lutosławski commented on the two-movement structure that appeared in a number of his works, starting from Symphony No. 2:
... My concept is based on the assumption that the first movement is a preparation for the main one. The first movement should attract the listener's interest, intrigue him. It may not give him full satisfaction, though. It must make him hungry and, finally, even impatient. And that is the right moment to present the main movement. Such is my concept and I think it works quite well in practice"
-from the programme of the 1993 Warsaw Autumn Festival, p. 238
Symphony No. 4 was performed by the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra under Lutosławski on 25th September 1993, during the Warsaw Autumn Festival. The entire concert, featuring also Lutosławski's Symphony No. 1, Les espaces du sommeil and Chain 3, was released as Ostatni Koncert / The Last Concert (KOS CD WJ 001), for it was to be Lutosławski's last appearance in Poland.
Witold Lutosławski, Symphony No.4, fragment by culturepl
Prepared by the Polish Music Information Center, Polish Composers' Union, April 2004.