Witold Lutosławski 
Krystyna Niemotko

In the music department of a school in Sydney, there hangs a portrait of Witold Lutosławski with his autograph and dedication to Ravenswood School for Girls in Gordon, dated 25th of September 1987.

Witold Lutosławski was one of the most famous Polish composers of the 20th Century.  He was born in Warsaw in 1913 and died there in 1994.  He studied to become a composer, pianist and conductor under the tutelage of the best teachers in pre-war Warsaw, namely, Professors Śmidowicz, Taube, Lefeld and Maliszewski. Lutosławski’s first acknowledged composition was Symphonic Variations in 1938, which followed the neoclassical trend and showed his talent and innovation in above all, the harmonic and orchestral styles.

Witold Lutosławski was primarily a composer of symphonic music and wrote approximately 20 of these pieces.  The best known were 4 symphonies and concerts which incorporated the cello, violin and piano.  Additionally, he composed dozens of chamber music pieces, with the most renowned among them being Variations on the Theme of Paganini, for two pianos.  The Composer also wrote piano pieces for children’s songs and clandestine military songs in the years 1942–44, as well as songs for Polish underground soldiers, the theatre, film and radio.  Another interesting composition is Orthodox Church Bells.

The 1960’s saw Mr Lutosławski expand his compositions to the concert halls of Europe and North America, which were played in turn by the world’s finest orchestra’s.  He was awarded sixteen honorary doctorates from various universities in Poland, the USA, Canada, France and England.  At the same time, he established himself as a successful lecturer of contemporary music in Poland, the USA, England, Sweden and Denmark.  All those who had contact with the Composer saw him as a modest and friendly person.

My earliest meeting with the Lutosławski family took place in 1947 in Wrocław where my parents, who were from Lwów, settled after the war.  My first piano teacher was Professor Maria Turnau, Witold’s sister in law.  So not surprisingly the students always played and sung his compositions.  From that time on, I felt a strong connection with Witold Lutosławski and I played many of his pieces. 

I was overjoyed when in 1987 my husband, Waldemar, announced that Witold Lutosławski was coming to Australia to conduct concerts of his compositions.  Upon my husband’s arrangement, he wholeheartedly agreed to meet me after the concert.  To mark this unique occasion, I invited to attendance my Korean friend, Kyunghee Lee who volunteered to include Witold Lutosławski’s compositions into her piano repertoire. I remember that the Composer was moved with her rendition of his work and sincerely thanked us for promoting Polish music. 

Witold Lutos
ławski with Krystyna and Waldemar Niemotko, Sydney, 1987

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