In 1955, Witold Lutosławski travelled to Helsinki for the Sibelius Festival. Later, in October 1973, he came to receive the Sibelius Prize from the Wihuri Foundation. The ceremony was accompanied by a performance of Livre pour orchestre under the composer’s baton.
Lutosławski visited the Finnish capital many times, for various reasons. In 1965, it was here that he met the LaSalle Quartet just before the premiere of the String Quartet in Stockholm, and – as he later related – he experienced a moment of remarkably pleasant surprise, when the musicians presented him with an excellent interpretation of the score, despite it being written in a highly unconventional way.
He was invited to give lectures at the Sibelius Academy, where a group of young Finnish composers regarded Lutosławski’s music as an alternative to what was being proposed by the West German avant-garde, on one hand, and by John Cage, on the other.
‘Around the mid seventies, Lutosławski came to Helsinki to give a lecture at our Academy, which I obviously attended – relates Esa-Pekka Salonen. – At that time, we were extremely curious about contemporary music from Poland… I knew many of Lutosławski’s works very well while still a teenager… We young Finnish composers, towards the end of the seventies and at the start of the eighties, felt a bond with composers from Poland. Perhaps it was our relations with Russia – after all, the history of Poland and Finland is similar in many respects. Both countries were ruled by a Swedish king, both countries are “something” lying between Germany and Russia’.