The patron of our youth orchestra is one of the greatest composers of the 20th century, the author of many excellent works as well as a recognized conductor and pianist – Witold Lutosławski.
He studied composition at the Warsaw Conservatory under Witold Maliszewski. At the same time he studied mathematics at the University of Warsaw. He managed to make his debut as a composer even before the outbreak of World War II, in 1938 presenting the public premiere of his Symphonic Variations. His career was abruptly interrupted by the war, which the composer spent in the Polish capital, playing the piano, often with his friend Andrzej Panufnik, in various Warsaw clubhouses. From this period of his work, only one piece has survived to our times – Variations on a Paganini theme for two pianos.
After the war, he returned to composing and became involved in the activities of the Polish Composers' Union and the International Festival of Contemporary Music Warsaw Autumn.
At the same time, especially in the 1950s, persuaded by the famous Polish pianist Władysław Szpilman (The Pianist movie was based of his extraordinary story), under the pseudonym Derwid he composed songs that became hits of the greatest Polish stars of popular music of that time. He is credited with as many as 35 hits, some of which were awarded the title of Radio Song of the Month.
He also began his conducting career in the early 1960s, starting in 1963 with the premiere of his Three Poems by Henri Michaux for choir and orchestra (1961-63). He actively toured until the end of his life. Interestingly, next to Igor Stravinsky, he was the only composer of the 20th century who conducted almost exclusively his own works.
Lutosławski is commonly ranked by musicologists alongside Bela Bartók, Sergei Prokofiev and Olivier Messiaen, among the giants of 20th-century music. His work is usually divided into several periods: the neoclassical period represented by works such as Symphonic Variations (1938), Symphony No. 1 (1947) and Overture string (1949); the fascination with folklore and the use of the serial technique characterize The Small Suite (1950), Concerto for Orchestra (1954) and Music Funeral (1958). The most individual feature of Lutosławski's compositional technique was the so-called controlled aleatorism, i.e. the introduction of randomness to the rhythmic structure while maintaining a strict organization of pitches. This technique is particularly evident in Venetian Games (1961). The next phase in the development of Lutosławski's work was an attempt to create a specific formal model based on his earlier composing experience. This model is a succession of two phases, where the first is the introduction, and the second is the proper development of the composer's idea, for example in Symphony No. 2 (1967) or Livre pour orchestre (1968). In turn, in Mi-Parti (1976) we find something that musicologists have dubbed chain structure. This compositional technique, characteristic of Lutosławski, can be found in three works entitled Chain.
Despite these differences, Lutosławski was able to create an individual and very characteristic style that was unique to him alone. He was known for not succumbing to tendencies or temporary fashions and saw himself both as an avant-garde and a continuator of the great tradition of classical music. For many listeners, his extraordinary music is a perfect balance between what is intellectual and what is emotional. And it was this perfection that guaranteed him a place in the musical pantheon of the 20th century.
Witold Lutoslawski died on February 7, 1994. He was buried at the Powązki Cemetery in Warsaw.