Calendar 1920-1929


Maria Lutosławska begins work at the Ujazdowski Hospital. During summer holidays in Drozdowo the Lutosławskis are forced to evacuate because of war operations.

I saw my first concert at the Warsaw Philharmonic Hall; it was Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 conducted by Birnbaum. He was a conductor active at the time, the early 1920s. I have to say that the Warsaw Philharmonic and that time are for me associated with a period that I might call a period of my musical education. The Warsaw Philharmonic taught me music. Obviously, I’m not talking about piano playing or composition lessons, but these experiences of live performances in that hall played a fundamental role in my life and my development as a composer.

(Witold Lutosławski on the 90th anniversary of the Warsaw Philharmonic.)


During holidays Maria Lutosławska reads Greek myths, sight translated from English, to her children.

We lived in a very patriotic and socially aware environment […] Our games reflected, therefore, the life of the adults: there was electoral canvassing, posters and then elections.

(Krystyna Niklewicz, Reminiscence.)


Death of grandmother Paulina - the Lutosławski familty moves to Drozdowo for 2 years. Witek helps his mother in the pharmacy; he is making good progress in piano playing.

He goes for his lessons to Łomża, to Alina Rudnicka, a pupil of Michałowski.

He composes his first piece - Prelude for piano.

It was a very big house - a rather strange one. I think it contained at least thirty rooms. There were several separate flats for various members of the family, that is: for my grandmother, my parents, then for my mother and us, for the family of my father's brother, and so on. In other words, it was a real ”monster of a house,” housing various families as if various independent households.

(Lutosławski on Drozdowo in conversation with Zofia Owińska 1992.)


Lutosławski decides to become a composer.

Last year spent in Drozdowo.

The place was captivating; there was a magnificent view over the Narew River valley from the garden. The fact that I spent the early years of my life in close contact with nature has influenced my character; I can still see those beautiful woods, fields, rivers, meadows, and gardens in my mind.

(Lutosławski on Drozdowo during a lecture in Kyoto 1993.)


5 January
Death of uncle Kazimierz.

11 April
A performance of Szymanowski’s Symphony No. 3 by the Warsaw Philharmonics makes a huge impression on the young Lutosławski.

Lutosławski passes exams to the Stefan Batory High School - an élite school for boys in Warsaw.

He presents his first compositions to Aleksander Michałowski and begins lessons with Józef Śmidowicz.

I was brought to Michałowski when I was 11 and I was told to play something. I played my own piece. […] When I finished playing, Michałowski turned to them and said: ”It does make sense, it does make sense”. This is what I remember from that visit. It was decided I would be taught by Śmidowicz.

(Lutosławski in conversation with Irina Nikolska.)


The family’s difficult financial situation forces Lutosławski to give up his lessons with Śmidowicz.

It was during my childhood, in 1924 or 1925, holidays in the countryside, a sultry Summer afternoon. By a happy coincidence, I lay my hands on several works by Ravel. I read Jeux d’eaux at the piano. I savoured and became infatuated with Ravel’s juicy harmonies, tasted for the very first time. I was under their spell and lived in a state of dizziness for the next few weeks.

(An undated radio programme.)


Lutosławski begins violin lessons with Lidia Kmitowa.

Scared by the prospect of new five-finger exercises, I decided to learn to play the violin. Anyway, I was fascinated with the sound of the violin. And I learned the violin for six years under the guidance of Lidia Kmitowa.

(Lutosławski in conversation with  Zofia Owińska 1992.)


Encouraged by Kmitowa, Lutosławski begins private composition lessons with Witold Maliszewski.

Maliszewski listened to my pieces - I was 14 at the time - and decided to teach me. First, I went through a short course in harmony, counterpoint, and fugue, but also composition, because he didn’t want me to stop composing; he wanted me to compose freely just I as had done until then.

(Lutosławski in conversation with Irina Nikolska.)


Jerzy Lutosławski breaks off his studies at the Technical University to take care of the deteriorating Drozdowo estate.

During the seven years I spent there I saw that never before (and never since!) had there been such a well-equipped school in Poland. We were probably the first school in Poland to have an indoor swimming pool. There were many labs: physics, chemistry, natural sciences lab, crafts lab (with all kinds of metal working and woodworking machines); there was a music room and a gym, and outdoors lawns, gardens, an alpine garden, a huge football pitch, tennis courts and places for playing other games - all this was indeed very impressive.

(Lutosławsk’s reminisces in the book: Pochodem idziemy [Marching on] 1993.)


The situation repeats itself - as it was the case with Śmidowicz, Lutosławski cannot afford his lessons with Maliszewski who was an expensive teacher. Yet Maliszewski decides to teach Lutosławski for free.

[Lutosławski recalls his conversation with Maliszewski when he told his professor that he could not afford the lessons anymore:] ”Witold, you will keep coming to me and I will neither demand nor expect anything from you. So I said: ”Professor, this is very embarrassing for me. I don’t know if I can.” And he answered as follows: ”Look, when you are a mature composer and you meet someone who will want to learn something from you but will have no money, you will teach him”.

(Lutosławski in conversation with Irina Nikolska.)