Calendar 1950-1959


Festival and congress in Prague.

16-19 June
Lutosławski does not speak at the 5th Congress of the Polish Composers’ Union despite encouragement from Sokorski who also wants to persuade him to write a big instrumental-vocal work.

Lutosławski receives second prize at a mass songs competition.

Soon after my return, I went to a composers’ conference with Sokorski.  So, a return to the 19th century (!), decidedly a move away from ”modernism”, etc. Endlessly. This time I didn’t keep silent; I said a few bitter words. I wasn’t alone; others said similar things, but will that be of any use to us? It’s hard to say. Anyway, people here are still defiant, unlike people in Czechoslovakia.

(Letter to Fitelberg of 25 May.)


Lutosławski composes a song cycle for children, Słomkowy łańcuszek [Straw Chain], Silesian Triptych, and Dziesięć Pieśni żołnierskich [Ten Soldiers’ Songs].

First prize at the Polish Music Festival for children’s music and for Silesian Triptych in the orchestral music category.

Trip to the USSR.

Lutosławski elected to the audit, arbitration, and repertoire committee of the Polish Composers’ Union.

I also wrote songs for the army. They all had very innocent lyrics, with no politics involved whatsoever. And so, I wrote a song about tanks. The Polish Army House organised a concert of those songs. […] It was in the 1950s - probably 1951.

So there was this song that I wrote about tanks but they had substituted the original lyrics and put in some words about Stalin - without my knowledge!

(Lutosławski in conversation with Irina Nikolska.)


25 January
Lutosławski conducts the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra at Fitelberg’s invitation.  The programme includes his Symphonic Variations and songs as well as Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 92.

27 September - 5 October
He goes to Berlin for the musical festival.

Lutosławski becomes the head of the programme committee of the PWM (Polish Publishing House for Music).

Witold Lutosławski has completed a cycle of eight children’s songs for mezzosoprano and orchestra. At the moment he is working on Concerto for Orchestra based on creatively transformed folk melodies.

(”Muzyka” 1952 No. 1/2.)


23 March
Lutosławski records Bucolics and Three Easy Pieces for the radio.

We cannot allow the music written today to have all the features of works created sixty years ago. Such music will lack one of the most important qualities of a real work of art - the artistic truth.

(”Muzyka” 1953.)


1 August
Lutosławski finishes Concerto for Orchestra, his most popular work.

26 November
The premiere at the Roma theatre (conducted by Witold Rowicki).

1 June
Prime Minister Award for his works for children and young people.

Concerto [for Orchestra] is a testimony to how I can write music and not to how I would like to write it. Hence my lack of enthusiasm for this work.

(Lutosławski in conversation with Izabella Grzenkowicz 1979.)


Lutosławski goes to Helsinki for the Sibelius Festival where he meets the venerable composer.

22 July
Lutosławski receives first class State Award.

A performance of Concerto for Orchestra opens the 5th Chopin Competition. Lutosławski is a member of the jury.

Once in my life I was a member of the jury of the Chopin Competition in Warsaw. I had to listen to Chopin’s music many hours a day for a few weeks. It was a really terrible ordeal for my perception of this music. And yet, despite the hordes of participants ”murdering” Chopin’s music in the first stage, -- despite the fact that I had to listen to, for example, the same average performance of the B minor Sonata several times a day, despite the impossibility of doing something else at that time -- I remember this period of intense communion with Chopin’s music with great emotion.

(Fragment from the article Powroty [Returns], "Polska" 1970 No. 9.)


21-30 January
Lutosławski represents Poland at the Mozart Festival in Salzburg.

Little Suite and Concerto for Orchestra performed and the 1st Warsaw Autumn Festival.

In fact, it was a review of various interpretative styles and in addition, an opportunity to spring some surprises. We had, for instance, a modest orchestra of the Salzburg Music Academy under Bernhard Paumgartner, which gave an exemplary performance of the A major Symphony. On the other hand, the festival’s unofficial vedette, --Herbert Von Karajan, conducting the London Philharmonia orchestra, a high class conductor -- disappointed me seriously with his performance of both the E flat major Symphony and D minor Concerto (with Clara Haskil as the soloist). Karajan’s Mozart lacked lightness, freedom, and breath.

(Witold Lutosławski’s report in Przegląd kulturalny [Culture review] 1956 No. 10)


9-10 March
Lutosławski presides over the Polish Composers’ Union congress.

31 March
Lutosławski registers the pseudonym Derwid with ZAiKS (Association of Writers and Composers for the Stage); he will write over 30 popular songs as Derwid.

28 August
Lutosławski completes the piano version of Five Songs to Kazimiera Iłłakowiczówna’s poems.

The Lutosławskis go (for the first time together) with the Małcużyńskis to Italy.   On their way there they visit Markiewicz at Nadia Boulanger’s 70th birthday celebrations.

For the first time in a long time, our congress takes place in an atmosphere of genuine creative freedom. No one will be persecuted for the so-called formalism; no one will prevent delegates from expressing their aesthetic views, regardless of what particular composers represent.

(Speech at the Polish Composers' Union Congress.)


26 March
Premiere of Funeral Music (Jan Krenz conducts Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra).

Lutosławski composes numerous songs under the pseudonym Derwid, including Warszawski dorożkarz [Warsaw cabbie].

A delegation of Polish musicians (Bacewicz, Lutosławski and Umińska) goes to Strasbourg.

First entries in Zeszyt myśli [Notebook of Ideas].


15 January
Lutosławski receives annual award of the Polish Composers’ Union.

Funeral Music selected (together with Baird’s 4 Essays) as the most important work at the annual session of the International Rostrum of Composers.

Lutosławski becomes the first Pole to be elected to the ISCM executive committee (he will remain its member until 1965).

10-16 June
Jury member at the ISCM Festival in Rome.

Lutosławski becomes a member of the repertoire committee of the Warsaw Autumn Festival.