Witold Lutosławski’s first trips to Wrocław were privately motivated. ‘We’re going to Staś Dygat in Wrocław for a week over Christmas’, he informed Grzegorz Fitelberg in December 1949. The brilliant writer Stanisław Dygat, Danuta Lutosławska’s brother, happened to be living in Wrocław that year.
Another visit was made to an invitation from the State College of Music in Wrocław, as the music academy was called at that time. On that occasion, Bucolics was given its first public performance in the college’s former seat in the pre-war residence of the Schoeller family of industrialists at 204 Powstańców Śląskich Street. That was in April 1953, and the work was performed by the composer himself.
Three years later, Witold Lutosławski found himself in Wrocław for completely different reasons. ‘Dad, Professor Tadeusz Owiński, was an esteemed dental surgeon and long-serving director of the Oral Surgery Clinic at Wrocław Medical Academy – a man of great personal charm, always willing to offer assistance – Zofia Owińska later recalled the mid fifties, when she was a girl learning the piano. – He had a very large number of patients from almost the whole of Poland. Those contacts, initiated in his dental surgery – a place that is not always stress-free – often grew into sincere and long-lasting friendships. One of the most loyal friends of the home was Tadeusz Marek (a well-known savant, author, inter alia, of a biography of Schubert), and it was to him that we owed our first meeting with Witold Lutosławski. At Tadeusz’s advice, he travelled to my Dad’s surgery for a dental procedure, and that was in 1956. The treatment required a stay of several days in Wrocław, and so the Lutosławskis put up at a hotel. It turned out that a football team was also coming to the city, and the Lutosławskis had to vacate their room. Dad phoned from the surgery late that afternoon to say that we would be having guests for supper and that they would be staying in our home for a few days, as happened quite often. The guest room was rarely empty. Subsequently, for many long years, up to Witold’s death, whenever they visited Wrocław they would stay at our home on Cieszkowski Street, in the beautiful residential district of Zacisze’. That acquaintance would soon give rise to a piano miniature for four hands entitled Zasłyszana melodyjka [A little tune heard], which Zosia Owińska performed with her friend, Ela Broniewska, at a school review concert in December 1957.
On 20 February 1988, Witold Lutosławski appeared in the closing concert of the Musica Polonica Nova festival. That was his first appearance with orchestra since the imposition of martial law. The programme included the Third Symphony, which a couple of years earlier had received the Solidarity Award. So the atmosphere surrounding that concert was quite special, although not solely on account of the music.
In 1994, the Wrocław Philharmonic celebrated its fortieth anniversary by adopting the name of its current patron, Witold Lutosławski.