Cleveland was the first American city to hear music by Witold Lutosławski performed live. Stanisław Skrowaczewski took advantage of an invitation from the Cleveland Philharmonic Orchestra to include the Concerto for Orchestra on his programme in 1958, and a year later Musique funèbre. Many years later, those two works were recorded by the orchestra under the baton of its current maestro,Christoph von Dohnányi.
Cleveland was also the first city in the world to honour Lutosławski with his ‘own festival’. In the summer of 1971, the director of the Cleveland Institute of Music, the pianist Victor Babin, invited Lutosławski to attend the Contemporary Arts Festival. His music was to form the principal strand of the festival programme. Thus a few chamber works were performed, and a symphonic concert was also given, with the university orchestra performing Livre pour orchestra under Robert Sadin and, after the intermission, the Second Symphony under the composer’s baton. Lutosławski’s stay also included seminars at theCleveland Institute of Music and on the music departments of both the local universities, and the visit was rounded off with the presentation of an honorary doctorate to the composer.
Lutosławski’s music has been played in Cleveland many times, and one reviewer, commenting on a performance of the Livre pour orchestra, this time with the Cleveland Philharmonic Orchestra under Witold Rowicki, portrayed the qualities of aleatory technique in a highly vivid way, writing about the work’s second Chapitre: ‘Most of the measures in this movement contain about 50 written notes. If the players performed them absolutely together, one would hear fifty pizzicati. But if they do not play them together, there can be as many as 2,000 pizzicato attacks in a single measure!’
The presence of Lutosławski’s music in Cleveland was crowned by a monographic concert in 1988, to which the orchestra invited him in the dual role of composer and conductor.