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Irina Nikolska

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Irina Nikolska — Russian musicologist. In the years 1968-1972, she studied at the Institute of Musicology at the University of Warsaw under Zofia Lissa and Michał Bristiger, and later at the Gnessin Russian Academy of Music in Moscow, where she also completed her doctoral studies. She currently works at the State Institute for Art Studies in Moscow. She devoted many of her works to Polish music, and authored the book From Szymanowski to Lutosławski and Penderecki (Moscow, 1990), for which she was awarded by the Russian Composers’ Union. The Paul Sacher Foundation enabled her to work on the heritage of Witold Lutosławski. She collaborates with the Polish Institute in Moscow, and hosts programs devoted to Polish music on the Russian Radio.

Irina Nikolska became acquainted with Witold Lutosławski in 1969, when writing a study on his Folk Melodies. She remembers: “Lutosławski knew how to make his conversation partner tensionless and comfortable. This was one of my strongest impressions after our first meeting. Before we went into the Folk Melodies, I found that many subjects were of interest to him. I have committed to memory how he asked about the music education in the USSR, and about the program of musicological and compositional training. He was interested in news about Russian literature, and was delighted by Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, which he had recently read in Polish translation. This interest in Russian culture surprised, but also pleased me. Later I heard from Witold that he was in the process of writing his Cello Concerto for Rostropovich, that he was fascinated by this artist’s prominent personality, and that he was delighted by Russian humour”.

Close relations between Irina Nikolska and Witold Lutosławski, together with his wife Danuta, deepen in the course of their numerous meetings both in Poland, and during the composer’s visits in the Soviet Union, often at the occasion of having his new works performed there. Nikolska was impressed by the Lutosławskis as a couple: “They were reminiscent of a pair of swans, which cannot live without one another”.

Nikolska reveals in the introduction to her book about the composer: “Fate has favoured me with the happiness of friendship with a great man. This was the most important creative encounter in my life. There exists absolute and perfect beauty, and I know that Lutosławski’s music inhabits it, clearing away from us the wretchedness of this world”. The book contains transcripts of conversations with Witold Lutosławski published in Russian, English, and Polish, titled Conversations with Witold Lutosławski, 1987-1992 (English edition: Melos, Stockholm).

On January 24, 2013, Irina Nikolska was decorated with the Lutosławski Centennial Medal.

kt / trans. mk