Calendar 1970-1979


Cello Concerto completed.

14 October
Premiere of Cello Concerto in London.

I’m in a difficult period now, full of unpleasant experiences. Despite that, I keep working on Cello Concerto, trying to do my best to preserve my spiritual independence from the external world -- a prerequisite for my work.

(Letter Mario di Bonaventura /09.06.)

I realised that what had been created was exactly what I had dreamed of. Before I started playing it, I already knew, looking at the score that Lutosławski had composed the music I wanted.

Mstislav Rostropovich in conversation with Mieczysław Kominek, „Studio” 1994, No. 3.


First honorary doctorate (Cleveland).

Ravel Prize for lifetime achievement.

Honorary membership of the Polish Composers’ Union.

But one day, if you are patient and talented enough, suddenly, out of the blue a sequence of sounds will emerge and amaze you. For this sequence will contain a huge number of possibilities for employing it. In addition, this sequence will resemble nothing you have ever known. This will be a significant moment - it will be the birth of the composer’s individuality […]

(Speech at the Commencement in Cleveland 2.VI )


Lutosławski begins work on a new symphony commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Publication of Tadeusz Kaczyński’s Conversations with Lutosławski.

12 October
Premiere of Preludes and Fugue (first title: x+1) in Weiz near Graz.

Visit to Moscow for the Russian premiere of Cello Concerto.


60th birthday

Concerts with the London Sinfonietta. Lutosławski writes a letter to The Times in defence of the orchestra which is experiencing financial difficulties.

Lutosławski receives the Polish Composers' Union Award and becomes the Union's vice-president (he will hold that post until 1979).

Warsaw University awards honorary doctorate to Lutosławski.

Lutosławski receives the Sibelius Prize.

30 September
Heinrich Schiff performs Cello Concerto at the Warsaw Autumn Festival together with Preludes and Fugue.

2 October
A recital by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau inspires another work for voice and orchestra.

Science and art: two areas of human activity, two creation of human spirit, seemingly so different and yet having so many things in common. Here is not a time nor place to delve into the differences mentioned, but I would like to draw your attention to one of them, or, rather, to remind you of it. I mean the goal of science and the goal of art; and, in addition, the possibility of specifying them. The goal of science is obvious to all of us and can be described with one word: knowledge. When we try to specify the goal of art, our thought stops as if in front of a wall made of fog, a wall behind which we cannot see anything very clearly. No definition satisfies us; all seem to be missing the point, are imprecise, irrelevant. Despite the fact that for everyone who experiences, and thus creates art, this goal is obvious.

(From a speech during the honorary doctorate award ceremony at the Warsaw University.)


Lutosławski conducts the Berliner Philhamoniker.

A series of programmes on the Polish Radio ”Witold Lutosławski’s works” presented by Tadeusz Kaczyński.

Publication of Balint Andras Varga’s Lutosławski Profile, an in-depth interview with the composer.

I’m interested in the substance of music and not in its direct impact on the listeners. It’s the substance that enables a composition to live.

Even the tiniest detail has to satisfy the composer’s sensibility to the utmost. In other words, there can be no indifferent sounds in music.

(Conversation with Balint Andras Varga.)


Lutosławski composes Les espaces du sommeil dedicated to Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (completed on 17 Nov.).

Sacher Variation for solo cello composed for Paul Sacher’s 70th birthday.

I will now tell you how I composed the music to Chabrun’s poem. The starting point was to treat each part separately. I assumed that each had its own physiognomy and character, and hence its own musical image. What was important to me were new words appearing in successive parts. Of course this does not apply to part one, which presents material to be then repeated. Already in part two, I used the rudiments of the new content to determine its nature. Quand le jour a rouvert les branches du jardin - that is the beginning of this quasi-tale, rendered by solo singing without accompaniment. In part three, music takes from the text its dramatic mood, an element of violence.

In part four, beginning with the words: Dormez cette paleur nous est venue de loin, I understand the word ”pallor” as deathly pallor. I assume that this part deals with the death of the alleged protagonists - an allusion to the deaths of the chatelaine and the prince. And finally part three, which I called dramatic, is in a way an explosion and a tragic resolution of the conflict.

This interpretation is fully subjective. One could say that I wrote music to a text that does not contain anything I had construed myself. Yet, I feel authorised to do so by the title and allusions scattered throughout the text.

(Lutosławski during the masterclasses in Baranów.)


22 October
Premiere of Mi-parti at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw

EMI records a six-album collection of Lutosławski’s most important works (released three years later).

Publication of Bogdan Pociej’s Lutosławski a wartość muzyki [Lutosławski and the value of his music]

Publication of Lidia Rappoport’s book on Lutosławski in the USSR.

First meetings in Baranów in which Lutosławski takes part.

I should perhaps be able to predict all the possible versions of my text, as a result of the introduction of the ad libitum collective playing, and compose this text in such a way that all the versions would fulfil all requirements specified at the beginning. Yet, in most cases, it is impossible to envision all possible versions. In fact, it is not even necessary.

It is enough to compose just one version of a given section of the form, namely the one which, from the point of view of the original intention, could be called the ”least advantageous” version. In other words: out of all possible situations that may arise as a result of the overlapping of elements of my tonal vision in an ad libutum performance, I choose the one that is furthest from my intentions. I then transform the overlapping elements if necessary, so that even in this ”least advantageous” situation they would fulfil their tasks in accordance with the original intent.

(Lutosławski during the masterclasses in Baranów.)


21 July
The composer is awarded the Order of the Builders of People’s Poland.

Lutosławski is a guest at Rostropovich’s competition in La Rochelle. Lutosławski’s concerto is one of three the participants can choose from (the other two are Shostakovich’s and Dutilleux’s).

I performed this Concerto with Slave quite often in England and the USA. But for me, the most memorable performance took place in La Rochelle, in the west of France, which hosted Rostropovich’s cello competition and a regular music festival. It so happened that one day the winner of the first prize, Louis Claret, performed my Concerto with a Lorraine orchestra, and the next day it was performed by Slave with the Halverson Dutch Radio Orchestra under my baton. Slave must have said to himself: ”Now I’ll show them how to play this concerto”.

He practiced perhaps half an hour, perhaps an hour, I don’t know, and he played as he had never played before. It was so infectious and I almost ”went into a trance” while conducting. The orchestra too played as if ”possessed”. The performance was phenomenal, never before and never since have I heard anything like that. It was one of the most beautiful moments of my life.

(Lutosławski in conversation with Irina Nikolska.)


Krzysztof Zanussi’s film: Baird, Lutosławski, Penderecki .

12 April
Premiere of Les espaces du sommeil  in Berlin with Fischer-Dieskau under the composer’s baton.

The performance took place in 1978, because the piece had to wait for a while. When I sent him the score, he already had engagements for the next two years. The first performance took place almost three years after the work was completed […]. He is a man of extraordinary ease, perhaps I would even say, dangerous ease at times. Personally, I like people who work with some effort, because they perhaps reach a little bit deeper into the essence of the work. Although, I have to say that this recording is very beautiful. But one could see that, just like everything else, he mastered it with great ease and speed. This is impressive.

Lutosławski in conversation with Zofia Owińska.


5 May
Lutosławski completes Novelette written for Rostropovich and the National Symphony Orchestra from Washington.

Conducts concerts at the famous Proms Festival at the Royal Albert Hall (Les espaces du sommeil and Paroles tissees) preceded by a pre-concert talk.

Indeed, there is less and less time and more and more work; yet, as you can see, this room contains evidence of how much I like painting. There is this beautiful abstract painting by Stażewski, which he gave me as a present and which accompanies me in my everyday work; there is also a beautiful colourful drawing by Barbara Zbrożyna. I also have two etchings by Vieira da Silva, which she personally gave to me. These are just a few paintings. Whenever I have time when I’m away, I visit galleries and museums. Unfortunately, this is increasingly rare.

As regards books - of course they accompany me every day; there always has to be time for them, but, as I've said, there's less and less of it.

(Lutosławski in conversation with Ewa Heine.)