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Under German Occupation

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Settled on a career in music, the young composer applied for a scholarship. He was planning to study in Paris, just as many other Polish composers of his generation, but his plans were frustrated by the outbreak of the Second World War.

Caught up in the theatre of war, in September 1939 Lutosławski was enlisted as a radio operator with the “Kraków” Army Headquarters. Three weeks later he was taken prisoner by the Germans. He managed to escape and join his mother and elder brother, Jerzy, in Warsaw. His second brother, Henryk, was taken captive by the Soviets and died a year later in a Kolyma work camp. In occupied Poland, any work opportunity outside of the Reich was welcomed.

Lutosławski found a job as a pianist in a café, where he accompanied a group of male singers. Eager to engage in a different repertory, he soon set up a piano duo with Andrzej Panufnik. They appeared regularly at Aria and SIM cafés for four years. At one point they miraculously avoided transportation to a concentration camp during a ‘łapanka’ (a round-up of Polish civilians by the SS, Wehrmacht and Gestapo). And at Aria, Lutosławski also had the good fortune to meet his wife-to-be, Danuta Bogusławska.

The Lutosławski-Panufnik duo mostly performed transcriptions of classical and popular ‘hits’. Variations on a theme by Paganini was a typical favourite of the Aria patrons.