Calendar 1930-1939


Lutosławski composes : Dance of the Chimera, and his first orchestral piece - Scherzo. On January 20, Scherzo was performed at the Qui Pro Quo theatre in Warsaw. Presumably, it was the first public performance Lutosławski's composition.

It might have been in 1930 when Witold approached me during a break between lessons and proposed I join the ”revellers” he was organising. I didn't really know what this was all about (we both learned French, not English, at school), but when he said we would sing cabaret songs - I lit up with pleasure.

(Reminiscences by Wiesław Rago - Lutosławski's friend from high school.)


After passing his final high school examinations, Lutosławski is admitted to the Warsaw University to study mathematics, together with his friend Andrzej Mostowski.

[Recalling Andrzej Mostowski years later:] he was a lecturer at the Warsaw University, a professor who nurtured whole generations of mathematicians and logicians, because mathematical logic was his speciality. But this man was talented. He always knew, when he was proving a theorem, what the stages of this theorem were, even if they didn’t follow logically from what one started. I used to ask him:  ”How do you know that?”  ”Hard to say,” was his answer.

(Lutosławski in conversation with Irina Nikolska.)


Lutosławski is admitted to year seven at the Warsaw Conservatory. He studies piano with Jerzy Lefeld and form with Maliszewski.

I wanted to be taught by Lefeld because I was convinced that this man would not tell me to start from the beginning, from five-finger exercises, but that I would simply start playing music.

(Lutosławski in conversation with Irina Nikolska.)

I remember that  -- during my entrance exam to the conservatory -- I played: Prelude and Fugue in B flat minor from Book I of Das Wohltemperierte Klavier, Mozart’s C minor concerto, and Chopin’s Study in G flat major from op. 10. Quite a good repertoire. I don’t remember the rest of it. Anyway, I was accepted to a higher lever course, much to my surprise of course.

(Lutosławski in conversation with Zofia Owińska 1992.)


The first performance of a work by Lutosławski at the Warsaw Philharmonic Hall: Haroun al Rashid (conducted by Józef Ozimiński ).

Lutosławski gives up his studies of mathematics.

The most impressive of all was a ballet fragment entitled Haroun al Rashid by Witold Lutosławski who is most comfortable with compositional technique and who is able to use successfully a unique orchestral colouring.

(Jan Maklakiewicz in ”Kurier poranny” [”Morning Courier”] of 1 June.)


Lutosławski composes Piano Sonata and two songs to Kazimiera Iłłakowiczówna’s poems.

When I was a student, Grażyna Bacewicz had already given her first composer’s recital; it was at the Warsaw Conservatory, on 10 May 1934. It was a memorable evening for me also, because of the fact that, as Jerzy Lefeld’s student at the time, I was his page-turner when he accompanied Grażyna. I was particularly enthusiastic about a truly beautiful miniature entitled Witraż [Stained Glass] woven out of tones as colourful and delicate as the wing of a butterfly.

(”Ruch Muzyczny” 1969 nr.7)


16 February
Lutosławski performs his Sonata at a concert at the Warsaw Philharmonic Hall.

The Conservatory students go to Riga and Vilnius. Meeting with Karol Szymanowski.

Lutosławski gets in touch with Spółdzielnia Autorów Filmowych (Film Authors Cooperative) and begins working for the radio as a controller of radio programmes.

The whole stay in Riga was a very pleasant event. Szymanowski was extremely friendly towards our little group. He came to our concert; we followed him all over the city and went to the Riga radio where he was recording his works with Wacław Niemczyk and his sister Stanisława. After our concert, Wacław Niemczyk said to me: ”Karol liked your Sonata very much, but the thing is, he will not tell you this”.

(Lutosławski’s statement noted down by Elżbieta Markowska in 1981.)


Lutosławski finishes his piano studies.

I remember the programme of my diploma recital very well. I played Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in D major from Book II of Das Wohltemperierte Klavier, Beethoven’s G major concerto, and Prokofiev’s Variations from the Third Concerto, a sonata by Mozart (I don’t remember which one now), Beethoven’s Les adieux, and also  -- what I would call a competitive piece - Schumann’s Toccata op. 7, plus Chopin’s two studies and Fourth Ballad, Liszt’s arrangement of Caprice 24 (well, to be precise I mixed his version with Busoni’s). And I also played a piano arrangement of a fragment from a ballet by composition professor, Maliszewski (Sailors’ song from the ballet-opera Syreny [The Mermaids]).

(Lutosławski in conversation with Zofia Owińska 1992.)


Composition diploma.

From 1937 until the beginning of the war Lutosławski lives in Komorów near Warsaw with his mother’s sister, Janina Zaporska.

28 May
Fugue for orchestra performed at a student concert at the Warsaw Philharmonic Hall under Walerian Bierdiajew’s baton.

After receiving his diploma Lutosławski does his military service at the Officer Cadet School in Zegrze.

Finally, I prepared this wretched diploma. The concert featured a performance of my Fugue for orchestra. A bad composition, but I didn’t have anything else, so I recall it with regret. Fugue was performed at the concert and at the exam I showed all: fugues, previous compositions, Sonata, and various smaller pieces and songs. I had to present all of this in order to receive the diploma. The diploma project proper consisted of those two fragments from the Requiem.

(Lutosławski in conversation with Irina Nikolska.)


After completing his military service, Lutosławski returns to composition.

15 November
He finishes his Symphonic Variations begun two years before. It is Lutosławski’s first important work. He also works on the Kurpie Suite and Piano Concerto, which will never be finished.

The army proved to be a cure for my depression. I went there for a year and the depression vanished without a trace. I came back rejuvenated and got down to work on Symphonic Variations, which I completed in a month and a half.

(Lutosławski in conversation with Irina Nikolska.)


17 June
Concert premiere of Symphonic Variations in Kraków under Grzegorz Fitelberg.

1-20 September
Lutosławski takes part in the September campaign and serves in the signals and radio unit of the Kraków Army (20 Sep: Taken prisoner by the Germans). After escaping from captivity, he manages to make his way back to Warsaw where he settles with his mother in Kolonia Staszica in Langiewicza Street.

In 1939, after graduating from the Warsaw Conservatory, I was planning to go to Paris and study with Nadia Boulanger, but I was conscripted. I served as radio operator in an army unit.

The sensitivity of my pianistic fingers helped me a lot, and so did the fact that my platoon included privates and non-commissioned officers of the reserve who simply were out of practice.