Calendar 1980-1989


3 January
Wigmore Hall - premiere of Epitaph for oboe and piano in memory of the composer Alan Richardson.

Lutosławski conducts a masterclass at Aix-en-Provence (dedicated to his and Dutilleux’s works).

24 July
Premiere of Double Concerto at the Lucerne Festival (under Paul Sacher’s baton).

Epitaph is the first work that is based not on the twelve-note series but on something new to me, something I had been looking for, for a long time but hadn’t been able to find, but finally I did. I never talk about this little secret I discovered then, because it is something that should be put into words. And I don’t need that. I haven’t explained this to anybody. However it still applies; without this principle, I wouldn’t have been able to write all those works beginning with Epitaph.

All those works couldn’t have been composed, if it hadn’t been for this little invention of mine. It has turned out to be not so little after all.

(Lutosławski in conversation with Irina Nikolska.)

5 December
We are living in a rather uncomfortable and tense period. Sometimes I feel very tired by this state of constant uncertainty. Yet, despite that, I am working on the symphony.

(Letter to Mario di Bonaventura.)


30-31 January
Lutosławski takes part in an extraordinary assembly of the Composers’ Union

February - March
Concert tour ending with a performance with the Berliner Philharmoniker.

22 April
Premiere of Grave for cello and piano

25 August
Concert at the Proms

A session entitled ”Poetry, Music, Experience, Reflection” on Mieczysław Tomaszewski’s 60th birthday.

11 December
Lutosławski delivers a speech on truth at the Congress of Polish Culture.

After the introduction of martial law in Poland, Lutosławski withdraws from public life.

The congress has been organised by people of art and science. Let me begin, therefore, with a simple statement that the ultimate goal of art is beauty and the ultimate goal of science is truth. Yet, just as we can find a unique beauty in mathematics, astronomy, and undoubtedly in many other sciences, so in art we inevitably encounter the problem of truth.

Truth with regard to art is an equivocal notion. In his reflections, ”On different meanings of truthfulness in a work of art”, Roman Ingarden discusses a dozen or so meanings of the word.

At the moment, I'm interested in the one that refers to - as Ingarden says - the ”truthfulness” understood as faithfulness to the author's expression in his or her work. I mean here, in particular, the ethical aspect of the problem, that is, for instance: whether the authors, when creating their work, were following their artistic conscience; whether they acted according to the aesthetics they professed; whether they respected the artistic canons they believed in; meaning - whether they gave an honest testimony to their inner truth.

(From Lutosławski's address at the Congress of Culture 11 XII.)


Concerts in London.

Visit to Norway.

Visit to Paris (composer of the summer).

Concerts in England and Hungary.

Well, we all collaborated in the end -- didn't we? -- until the introduction of martial law […]. We were there during Gierek's times or even Gomółka's times, or even earlier [Gierek and Gomółka were secretaries of Polish communist party in the 1960s and 1970s ]. We all talked to ministers of culture and art, to officials; we would even be invited to the central party committee -- weren't we? -- to discuss Warsaw Autumn. Yes, it did happen. This was normal… a normal procedure. But after 1980 and 1981 this isn't possible anymore for me. It's like with a shoe that pinches: when you have taken it off, you can't put in on again; it's impossible […]. And that is why I don't want to follow this procedure anymore […], the one we had in the past. I've had enough of this official schizophrenia: when one says something different from what one thinks, and then one does something still different from what one says […]. I've had enough.

(In conversation with Stanisław Będkowski.)


70th birthday feted abroad, quietly celebrated in Poland in accordance with the composer’s wishes.

Lutosławski receives the Ernst von Siemens Prize (Munich)

Honorary doctorate from Durham University.

Jubilee concert with the New York Philharmonic, Zubin Mehta and Roman Jabłoński.

29 September
Symphony No. 3 premiered by Solti in Chicago.

4 October
London Sinfonietta performs Chain 1 at the Queen Elisabeth Hall in London.

I am not saying that my music is my private property, but as long as I live - I feel attached to it.

That is why those who want to listen to it should take into account whether I will be pleased or hurt by performances of my works. In my opinion, today is not a good moment for celebrating anything, including my jubilee.

(In conversation with Tadeusz Kaczyński.)

The slowly and gradually rising greatness of Witold Lutosławski’s music -- rising above the raging waves of time, indifferent to the omnipresent crisis of values - is comforting. It strengthens our faith in all those imponderabilia, which the everyday life seems to be denying. It assumes the status of a moral value. Therefore, perhaps the best thing we could do is indeed to bow our heads before it in respectful silence?

(Ludwik Erhardt writing in „Ruch Muzyczny”, 27 No. 2.)


Lutosławski receives the Solidarity Prize for Symphony No. 3, an honour he will always cherish.

6 December
Honorary doctorate from the Jagiellonian University.

The title I was given today is therefore a source of immense satisfaction to me.

I must, however, say that the situation I’ve found myself in is rather disconcerting. For I’m being rewarded for something for which I deserve only little credit. The value of musical works depends mainly on the value of the talent the composer has been endowed with. And talent is a privilege rather than merit. An artist has no right to consider it his or her property. It is a gift entrusted to the artist to be then transmitted to other people in the form of ready-made, performable works.

(Lutosławski, During the honorary doctorate award ceremony at the Jagiellonian University.)


18 January
Partita for violin and piano premiered in Saint Paul by Pinchas Zukerman and Paul Neikrug

Lutosławski receives the Grawemeyer Award from the University of Louisville for Symphony no 3. He donates the money to charity and scholarships for young Polish musicians.

In 1985 it was a huge shock to me, because I had never before performed contemporary music. I couldn’t make myself interested in those kinds of works and that is why I lacked courage. Perhaps it was the other way round: lack of courage did not allow me to become interested in such music? Lutosławski was the first. When I got the score from Paul Sacher, it seemed to me a set of hieroglyphs. I felt flattered by the invitation to perform Chain 2, but I worried whether I would be able to understand this music, to bring something personal to it.

Not only perform it, but also to infuse it with life… The doubts soon left me. I realised that the composer demanded something from me and that this something was inside me, although I hadn't realised that before. Lutosławski touched a chord that hadn't sounded yet.

(Anne -Sophie Mutter in conversation with Stanisław Deja.)


Lutosławski makes his first public statement after the introduction of martial law.

He becomes the first foreigner to receive the Queen Sofia Prize.

Premiere of Chain 2 at the Zurich Tonhalle with Anne-Sophie Mutter.

26-30 March
Royal Academy of Music Festival in London presents most of Lutosławski’s works.

He takes part in masterclasses organised by the Polish Society of Contemporary Music in Kazimierz.

10 December
Lutosławski composes Chain 3 for San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.

The masterclasses give young composers an opportunity to learn many important and interesting things. They always provide them with an opportunity to present their own works, not only to their peers but also to an exceptionally competent group of experienced teacher-musicians.

As a result, the participants can hear both criticism and words of encouragement, which is often crucial in the life of an artist at the beginning of his or her career.

(Marta Ługowska in conversation with Lutosławski during masterclasses in Kazimierz.)


More honorary doctorates  - Cambridge, Baldwin, Belfast, Manchester.

Honorary membership of the Accademia di Santa Cecilia.

4 May
Concert at the Academy of Music in Warsaw - first performance after the martial law period.

It's about a phenomenon, which has a decidedly negative impact on the future of musical culture. I mean here a kind of pollution of the environment […] in which we are destined to live, work, and rest. This environment - especially in wealthy countries - is systematically polluted by the omnipresent quasi-music […], usually it's an insipid sound pulp, which immediately throws a person sensitive to music into a state of misery and, after a while, profoundly irritates.

(Statement for ”Res Publica”, 1987 No. 1)


Grammy Award and honorary doctorate from the Academy of Music in Warsaw.

19 August
Zimerman performs Piano Concerto at the Salzburg Festival.

First performance after the martial law period at the Warsaw Autumn Festival.

11 September
Statement on trade union pluralism issued by the Lech Wałęsa committee and signed by Lutosławski.

You see, we are all living in a situation in which no one can avoid the question of how to live. But I’m not competent to give people recipes for life; I wouldn’t be able to answer such questions at all. How to behave today in situations we encounter almost every day; I know that more or less and if my behaviour can be useful to anybody, then I’m very happy, this is an honour to me.

But I can't see what more I could do to tell people how to behave decently; I don't feel I have been designated to carry out some special mission in this respect.

(Lutosławski in conversation with Grzegorz Michalski.)


Lutosławski composes Interlude as a link between Partita and Chain 2 (performed in 1990).

1 April
Lutosławski takes part in the Independent Culture Forum at the Warsaw University. It is a meeting of artists and intellectuals organised by the Lech Wałęsa Civic Committee.

When I compose, I always imagine living music. Such was the music of my childhood, my youth. And that is why music listened to in the concert hall is so important to me.

(Witold Lutosławski in Conversation with Krzysztof Zanussi, BBC 1989.)