Composers / Witold Lutosławski / Places catalog

Prague

The Czech capital was the first foreign city to appreciate Witold Lutosławski’s compositional talent. In 1948, during a tour of Czechoslovakia by the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Grzegorz Fitelberg conducted performances of Lutosławski’s First Symphony, including in Prague, where it must have made quite an impression, because when Polish and Czechoslovak radio were reaching a cooperation agreement, the latter, invoking one of the points of the agreement, commissioned from Lutosławski a work for the Prague Symphony Orchestra. The result was the Overture for Strings, performed on 9 November 1949 in Prague under the baton of Grzegorz Fitelberg, in the composer’s presence.

That commission guaranteed a fee for the composer, but the currency regulations in force in this part of Europe at the time meant that his attempt to pick up the fee proved to be an extremely complicated undertaking, involving a wait of more than a week for permission from the National Bank. On his return to Warsaw, Lutosławski was also informed that he was obliged to submit a report informing the authorities of the source of the revenue obtained in a foreign currency and the way in which it had been spent.    

Lutosławski did not attempt the operation of securing his own money until 1950, when on behalf of the Polish Composers Union he travelled to the Pražské Jaro – a festival of classical music organised in Prague since 1946. He attended concerts, but also tedious meetings. The Czechs’ pro-soviet sympathies – a result of an anti-German attitude inherited from the times of the Habsburg monarchy – meant that Prague was the centre of activities propagating soviet ideology among artists. Thus in 1950, in connection with the Prague Spring, another conference was held in which the musical milieux of countries under the influence of the USSR were urged to adopt and to propagate socialist realism.

In 1957, Witold Lutosławski was a guest of the Prague Spring once again, this time in a calmer ideological atmosphere and accompanied by his wife. The reason for his visit was a performance of his Concerto for Orchestra by the Prague Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Václav Smetáček. The work was appreciated by the audience, but reviewers criticised it for its avant-garde character. That did not deter Smetáček, who remained an admirer of Lutosławski’s music and in those years often included his works on his programmes. It was thanks to the Czech maestro that the Little Suite, and with it the name of Lutosławski, became known in such distant lands as Iceland, Brazil and Japan. Jan Krenz again conducted the Concerto for Orchestra in the Prague festival in 1973, and then no one complained that it was too avant-garde.

Let us return to the year 1957. The festival organisers, seizing on a slight parting of the Iron Curtain, began inviting artists from the West. Thus Prague was visited by a couple of pianists of Russian origins who were regarded at that time as the leading American piano duet: Vronsky & Babin. The playing of Vitya (Victoria) Vronsky and her husband Victor Babin pleased the Czech audience so much that the artists felt obliged to play an encore, and then – to the great astonishment of Lutosławski, who was present in the audience – they played his Variations on a theme of Paganini. After the concert, the composer introduced himself to the pianists, and then it was their astonishment which knew no bounds.

Place Category
Aix-en-Provence Appearances
Aldeburgh Appearances
Amsterdam Appearances
Århus Education
Aspen Appearances
Austin Other
Baranów Sandomierski Other
Basel Other
Basztowa Street Performance spaces
Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts Other
BBC Orchestra and other ensembles Appearances
Belfast Other
Berea Performance spaces
Berlin Appearances
Białystok Education
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Brisbane Other
Budapest Other
Calgary Education, Other
Cambridge Other
Celle Publishers / Bookshops
Chicago Appearances
Cincinnati Other
Cleveland Appearances
Cologne Other
Copenhagen Appearances
Cracow Philharmonic Performance spaces
Dartington Education
Donaueschingen Other
Dresden Other
Drozdowo Flats
Düsseldorf Appearances
Edinburgh Other
Evian Appearances
Filmography Radio / TV
Florence Appearances
Geneva Appearances
Glasgow Other
Graz Other
Guildhall School of Music and Drama
Hagen Other, Performance spaces
Hamburg Other
Hanover (New Hampshire) Other
Helsinki Education
Herkulessaal Appearances, Performance spaces
Houston Other
Huddersfield Appearances
Indianapolis Other
Jagiellonian University Education
Katowice Other
Kazimierz nad Wisłą Other
Komorów Flats
Lancaster Appearances
La Rochelle Appearances
Leeds Appearances
Leipzig Education, Performance spaces, Publishers / Bookshops
Lisbon Appearances
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London Sinfonietta Performance spaces
Los Angeles Appearances
Louisville (Kentucky) Other
Lublin Appearances
Lucerne Other
Łagów Other
Łomża Education
Madrid Appearances
Manchester Appearances
Mikołajki Other
Milan Appearances
Montreal Appearances
Moscow Appearances
Munich Philharmonic Appearances, Performance spaces
New York Appearances
Odense Education, Performance spaces
Olsztyn Education
Opio (near Grasse) Flats
Oslo Other
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Pittsburgh Appearances
Poznań Other
Prague Appearances
PWM EDITION Publishers / Bookshops
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Rotterdam Appearances
Royal Albert Hall Appearances, Performance spaces
Royal Philharmonic Society Appearances
Saint Paul (Minnesota) Other
Salzburg Other
San Francisco Appearances
Strasbourg Appearances
Stawisko
Stockholm Appearances
Sydney Appearances
Szczecin Other
Tanglewood Education, Other
Tokyo Appearances
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Vienna Performance spaces
Villars-sur-Ollon Other
Warsaw Appearances, Flats, Other, Performance spaces
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Wawel Appearances
Wehr near Rheinfelden Other
Wrocław Other, Performance spaces
Wzdów Other
Zagreb Performance spaces
Zegrze Other
Zurich Performance spaces