Polish Composer (1913-1994)

Witold Lutoslawski was one of the major composers of the 20th Century. Born in Warsaw on 25 January 1913, he exhibited musical talent and flair at an early age. He began study in the piano at age six from Helena Hoffman initially, then Jozef Smidowicz after 1924 and later on with A. Taube. He also studied violin with Lidia Kmitowa from the years 1926-1932.

From 1928 Lutoslawski had private tuition in composition and theory from Maliszewski, and under his direction, in 1930 had his first work performed at the Warsaw Conservatory, which he later attended himself from 1932-1937, still studying under Maliszewski's direction.

Lutoslawski in 1936 received a diploma for piano performance and in the following year in composition for his Requiem for soprano, choir and orchestra. He also studied mathematics as a student at the University of Warsaw during the years 1931-1933.

Following these extensive studies in the field of music, the difficult political climate delayed the start of his musical career, as well as interupting his future study plans in Paris at the time. His plans were replaced by training in the military, capture and escape back to Warsaw as a prisoner to the Germans.

Lutoslawski had settled back in Warsaw permanently after the war. He managed to earn a living by playing with Andrzej Panufnik in cafes. His Variation on a theme of Paganini for two pianos (1941) is the only surviving work from that time. However, the conclusion of the war did not prevent his composing career from being stifled. His first symphony was censored by the Stalinist regime, after being judged as 'formalist' and consequently banned. He persevered with his composing and with the completion of Musique Funèbre, dedicated to the late Bartok set the foundation stone for his reputation as a composer internationally.

Lutoslawski had his own personal style of writing that did not fit or conform into any of the other identifiable styles or methods of his contemporaries. There are several stages of his composing career where he writes using some elements of neo-classicism, aleatorism (chance) and serialism.

Also, he received numerous international prizes of exceptional honors for his works, as well as having been awarded honorary doctorates at several universities in recognition of his exceptional contribution to the world of music.

The music community mourned at the death of Witold Lutoslawski on 7 February 1994 in Warsaw at the age of 81 years.


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