Calendar 1940-1949


Lutosławski earns his living by accompanying a popular cabaret group at the Ziemiańska café.

He soon forms a piano duo with Andrzej Panufnik. At first, they perform at the Aria café (where Lutosławski meets his future wife, Danuta Bogusławska).

7 October
Lutosławski’s brother, Henryk, dies in Kolyma.

Lutosławski composes Two Studies.

Sometimes we would play jazz for fun, especially Duke Ellington and the best Americans, and even -- which was dangerous -- the music of forbidden Jewish composers such as Gershwin. Occasionally -- to relieve boredom, because we played every day -- we put ourselves at a completely different risk by improvising our own jazz pieces. Before we began, we would sketch out a diagram specifying the tempo and harmonic progression in a specific number of bars.

Using this piece of paper we would invent a melody, counterpoints and rhythmic formulas; running the risk of one of us getting carried away by his unbridled imagination. However, the audience never learned our secret: that we were improvising instead of performing already composed and carefully prepared pieces”.

(Andrzej Panufnik on himself.)


Encouraged by a waiter at the Aria café - also a harpist at the philharmonic orchestra - Lutosławski composes Variations on a Theme by Paganini. The Panufnik-Lutosławski duo moves to the ”U aktorek” [”The actresses’ ”] café.

We had a lot of very serious music in our repertoire, from Bach’s organ toccatas -- which we adapted more faithfully than Busoni or Liszt, because two pianos offered possibilities one piano obviously couldn’t -- to Ravel’s Bolero, which was our ’cheval de bataille’.

(Lutosławski in conversation with Zofia Owińska.)


The Panufnik-Lutosławski duo moves to the Sztuka i Moda [Art and Fashion] café.

29 July
Lutosławski performs Szymanowski’s violin works with Eugenia Umińska at the Iwaszkiewicz’s villa in Stawisko.

Yesterday [29 July 1942] Umińska played at our house with her quartet. It was a beautiful but very hot summer day. They came just after lunch and soon began to play […] In addition, Umińska, accompanied by Witek Lutosławski, played a few of Karol’s pieces for violin; […] everyone was pleased. They say that our drawing room has excellent acoustics and besides, they knew that although they played for just a few people, they played for people who loved music very much. […] After the afternoon tea and some good wine, which I had gotten from somewhere shortly before that, we saw them off at the train station.

The whole group, including us, looked rather funny, stretched along the path leading to the station. […] We looked like a band of itinerant musicians lost in the wood. The moon was coming out. It was probably the happiest day during the Nazi occupation.

(Jarosłąw Iwaszkiewicz: Notes 1939-1945.)


1943-1944 komponuje pięć piosenek na głos i fortepian (wydane jako Pieśni walki podziemnej).

1 października
Koncert benefisowy dla uczczenia trzyletniej działalności koncertowej duetu Panufnik - Lutosławski.

Któregoś dnia (12 VII) była tam łapanka. [...] Wszystkich rewidowali, potem na samochód i na Pawiak. Panufnik, który dobrze mówił po niemiecku, bo studiował dyrygenturę u Weingartnera w Wiedniu, powiedział żołnierzowi, że musi wziąć płaszcz, który zostawił w kuchni. [...] Tak więc, kiedy jeden z właścicieli zobaczył Panufnika, powiedział: „O, jeszcze dwóch muzyków u nas pracuje”. Hauptmann chciał aresztować tylko gości, więc zażyczył sobie listy pracowników. Właściciel wskazał również na mnie - ja już byłem zrewidowany i miałem iść do samochodu - i wypuścili nas obu.

(Lutosławski w rozmowie z Iriną Nikolską.)


The Lutosławskis go to Komorów to Witold's mother's sister - Janina Zaporska. After the fall of the Warsaw Uprising the family goes to Kraków.

The house in which I lived was requisitioned for headquarters of one of the Home Army groups […] Therefore I decided to take my mother to her sister in Komorów, hoping to be back probably in a few days. Which didn't happen, because though I did come back, it wasn't until April 1945 […]

I spent the uprising with my family, that is, with my mother's sister and brother-in-law in Komorów in a villa to which many homeless Varsovians kept coming to come. That is why I decided to move to the attic where I lived and wrote various pieces, including polyphonic exercises for several clarinets, oboe and bassoon. They were simply exercises in musical language.

The first result of those exercises was Trio, which I also wrote in that attic.

(In conversation with Zofia Owińska.)


April 1945 - March 1946 Lutosławski works as head of classical music department at Polish radio (the only in-house job in his life).

The Lutosławski family lives in a rented flat at 22 Aleja Waszyngtona [Washington Avenue]

21 October
Premiere of Wind Trio (composed during the war).

Lutosławski is elected treasurer of the Polish Composers’ Union.

7 September
Lutosławski becomes a member of ZAiKS (Association of Writers and Composers for the Stage), in its classical and film music unit.

… the first piece I completed after the war - before completing the First Symphony which I wrote during the occupation but finished in 1947 - […] was a work based on folk themes, a work written at a time when there was no socialist realism yet.

It was just a request or a proposal from Tadeusz Ochlewski, the then director of the PWM [Polish Publishing House for Music], who wanted me to write easy pieces for pianists, for music schools. They became Folk Melodies on folk themes.

(Lutosławski in conversation with Stanisław Będkowski.)


22 July
Zbigniew Drzewiecki premieres Folk Melodies.

1946 Lutosławski composes 20 Carols for voice and piano commissioned by PWM (Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne - Polish Publishing House for Music)

26 October
Lutosławski marries Danuta Bogusławska. The Lutosławskis move into a three-bedroom apartment at 39 Zwycięzców Street in the Saska Kępa disctrict with their respective mothers, a housekeeper, and Marcin Bogusławski, Danuta’s son from her first marriage.

5 December
Symphonic Variations performed at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris in the presence of the composer. Lutosławski stays in Paris for about 3 months and meets the legendary Nadia Boulanger.

In 1946 I went to France for the first time because UNESCO organised a series of concerts and each country (each UNESCO member) presented its own concerts.

Since Poland was a member of the UNESCO, a Polish concert, conducted by Fitelberg, took place as well. […] And Fitelberg put my Symphonic Variations as the first item on the programme.

”I devoured Paris”. I went to concerts, to the opera, to all possible museums; I visited galleries, the region around Paris; I went to Saint Germain-en-Laye. I did what a young man does when he comes to Paris for the first time.

(Lutosławski in conversation with Irina Nikolska.)


Trip to Copenhagen for the ISCM Festival.

Symphony No. 1 completed  (first sketches come from 1941).

More functional pieces:  Six children’s songs to words by Tuwim and Two children’s songs to words by Tuwim.

Some received the carols as a new, unexpected and attractive rendition of old melodies. Others - on the contrary - resented my lack of respect for tradition, believing that some of its demands, with respect to the harmony and even texture, are contained in the melodies. What can I say in my defense in view of such an accusation? Probably, only that my work was full of genuine affection for old carols and was a faithful reflection of what those melodies inspired in my tonal imagination.

(Lutosławski’s commentary in the Veriton recording.)


8 January
Lutosławski begins his cooperation with Teatr Polski in Warsaw. He will continue to write incidental music for the theatre until 1959.

1 April
Premiere of Symphony No. 1 during a closed concert.

Lutosławski goes to Amsterdam for the ISCM Festival.

September - 3 December
A tour of France together with the Małcużyńskis - his last trip to the West before the closure of the iron curtain.

Lutosławski receives the City of Warsaw Music Prize for 1948.

I got very excited by your plans to come to Warsaw with the orchestra. When would that be? You and your orchestra are a true and good world which I long for. It’s only corruption here in Warsaw.

(Letter to Fitelberg of 12 April)

I got a letter from Witek Małcużyński; he’s inviting us to visit him in the south of France at the end of summer. Of course, I’m very keen on this trip, especially given the fact that, as you know, I’m planning a piano concerto - with Witek as the soloist in mind. Therefore, a personal contact with him over a couple of weeks would be very ? propos.

(Letter to Fitelberg of 26 May.)


5-8 August
Lutosławski takes part in the Łagów congress where his works are also performed. He only speaks on points of the agenda at the beginning of the session.

20 December
The song, Lawina [Snowslide], wins Lutosławski the second prize at a competition celebrating Pushkin's 150th birthday.

In 1949 there was this famous congress in Łagów during which minister Sokorski spoke for four and a half hours explaining to the composers gathered there what their current tasks were.

Zbigniew Drzewiecki, who was present there, took me by the elbow and said: ”Well? What do you think? This is a funeral for Polish music. This is the end”. That's what he said. I thought that what had happened and what would happen from then on would last till the end of my life.

I would write what I want without any hope of publication, while my utilitarian music would be performed in public. […]

The situation in which we lived was terrible.

(Lutosławski in conversation with Irina Nikolska.)