Lutosławski, Witold

Lutosławski, Witold
born Jan. 25, 1913, Warsaw, Pol.
died Feb. 7, 1994, Warsaw

Polish composer.

Trained in Warsaw, he initially became known as a pianist. His international reputation was secured by the premiere of his Concerto for Orchestra (1954), full of colour and based on folk elements, and later the Funeral Music for string orchestra (1958). From the late 1950s he incorporated limited aleatory (elements of chance; see aleatory music) effects in his works. His four brilliantly orchestrated symphonies, particularly the Second (1967) and Third (1983), are widely admired, as are his Livre pour orchestra (1968) and his String Quartet (1964).

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▪ Polish composer
born Jan. 25, 1913, Warsaw, Pol.
died Feb. 7, 1994, Warsaw
 outstanding Polish composer of the 20th century who attempted to create a new musical language by incorporating elements of folk songs, 12-tone serialism, atonal counterpoint, and controlled improvisations reminiscent of aleatory (chance, see aleatory music) compositions while retaining elements of conventional harmony and melody.

      Lutosławski studied mathematics at the University of Warsaw and received diplomas in piano (1936) and composition (1937) from the Warsaw Conservatory. During the Nazi occupation of Poland, he performed in clandestine concerts that included proscribed music. His prewar works (most notably the Symphonic Variations, 1938) were primarily conventional neoclassical pieces, often infused with traditional folk tunes. When his Symphony No. 1 (begun in 1941) had its premiere in 1948, however, the new communist government denounced the piece as “formalist” and banned Lutosławski's increasingly avant-garde works from public performance. He earned a living writing children's songs and scores for motion pictures until those restrictions were eased in the mid-1950s. He was honoured with the first of his many government prizes in 1955, soon after composing his Concerto for Orchestra, based on folk themes.

      Lutosławski spoke of his Funeral Music for string orchestra (1958) as marking a turning point in his style; a 12-tone work, it is dedicated to the memory of the Hungarian composer Béla Bartók (Bartók, Béla). This he followed with an experimental piece in which he first used aleatory operations in combination with conventional effects: Venetian Games, written for the Venice Festival of 1961. In this work Lutosławski used unconventional visual notation to guide the performer in the various improvisatory operations.

      Although Lutosławski is best known for his orchestral works, he also wrote piano pieces, children's songs, choral works, and a string quartet (1964). His later works include Concerto for Cello and Orchestra (1970), Chain 2: Dialogue for Violin and Orchestra (1985), Piano Concerto (1988), and Symphony No. 4 (1992).

Additional Reading
Tadeusz Kaczynski, Conversations with Witold Lutoslawski, 2nd ed., rev. and expanded (1995; originally published in Polish, 1972); Charles Bodman Rae, The Music of Lutosławski, 3rd ed. (1999).

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  • Witold Lutosławski — (IPA all|ˈvitɔlt lutɔsˈwafski; January 25, 1913 ndash; February 7, 1994) was one of the major European composers of the 20th century, and one of the pre eminent Polish musicians during his last three decades. During his lifetime, Lutosławski… …   Wikipedia

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