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The Breakthrough

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The mid-1950s breakthrough, the time of the ‘thaw’ in Polish politics, brought about changes in art, restoring to artists the possibility of creating an audience for experimental work. Witold Lutosławski was hailed as one of the ‘forefathers’ of modern Polish music.

As he employed new means, his works gained in fresh beauty. He invented his own 12-tone system to craft the harmony of Five Songs to Kazimiera Iłłakowiczówna’s poems. In Funeral Music he used an unprecedented series based on merely two intervals. The extremely precise technique and rigorous counterpoint did not reduce the emotional evocativeness of that piece, which soon became a world-known icon of modern Polish music.

Polish artists no longer suffered from strict isolation: contact with the outside world was restored, while the Warsaw Autumn annual festival of new music provided a link between the East and the West. The Polish Society for Contemporary Music was revived, although only for a short time. Participating in al. of these endeavours, Lutosławski became one of the most active composers. With an established reputation, he supported new trends while sitting on various boards, such as the Board of Publishers at the Polish Music Publishers. He also counselled committees at the Ministry of Art and Culture. He used these positions to advocate the composer’s right and duty to artistic freedom.