The Post-war Strategy

For years Lutosławski was not able to pursue the music he desired except during short spans of time away from work. The post-war period did not welcome creativity. The country was in ruins and so was the musical life; everything had to start again from scratch. When the Communists took over, they turned art into a tool of propaganda.

Lutosławski earned his family’s living by writing applied music: piano pieces for school practice, songs for children, music for radio plays, and for Warsaw theatrical performances. He also arranged folk tunes and even composed popular songs – al. this while devoting his spare time to the symphony started back in 1941.

The 1947 premiere of that symphony was highly praised. Unfortunately, its success did not last. The work was soon labelled as ‘Formalist’ and withdrawn from orchestral repertories. Yet his later pieces, Little Suite and Silesian Triptych, inspired by folk music gained official approval and were awarded a number of prizes.

Over time, Lutosławski worked out a specific style: technically perfect, employing a tonal language attractive to the audience, and uncontroversial for the establishment because of its allusions to folk music. With this style, Concerto for Orchestra premiered in 1954. It was a sweeping success and has remained Lutosławski’s most frequently performed symphonic work. The composer, however, felt that it was al. he had to say in that particular language. Fortunately enough, historic changes in the political climate facilitated the pursuit of new styles.