Composers / Witold Lutosławski / Persons catalog

Berthold Lehmann

German conductor, born in 1908, died in 1996, son of the eminent poet Wilhelm Lehmann. A great influence on the development of his personality was made by Wilhelm Furtwängler and August Halm, the theoretician of music and Bruckner enthusiast. Lehmann commenced his career in 1927 in the Wiesbaden theatre, and appeared numerous times with the Berliner Philharmoniker. In 1949 he became general music director of the town of Hagen in the Ruhr region, which possessed an operatic orchestra of modest size, and held the position until 1970. Lehman considerably enlivened the activities of the ensemble, performing contemporary and other works, and called into being the Hagener Musiktage, still in operation.

Lehman became acquainted with Witold Lutosławski's works early on and became one of their first propagators in Germany, frequently performing his music. The most important moment of their collaboration was the 1962 commission of a new work for the orchestra, which resulted in the writing of Livre pour orchestre, dedicated to the conductor. The piece received its world premiere under his baton on November 18, 1968, at the Musiktage.

Witold Lutosławski reminisced in a conversation with Zofia Owińska: "Berthold Lehmann is in my life a rather special figure. [...] He invited me to Hagen, so that I could say a few words before a concert for students, where one of the compositions to be performed were the Venetian Games. Then he saw to that he would be able to commission me to write an orchestral piece. This became the Livre pour orchestre. Lehmann gave its premiere with great care and tremendous amount of preparation, though it wasn't a performance for which one would have wished, since it was too modest of an orchestra. Lately Lehmann celebrated an anniversary, the details of which I am unaware of, and wanted me to come and conduct my Symphony no. 3, which he had directed already as quite an older man, though I was not there to hear it."

Livre pour orchestre still holds the place of honour in the repertoire of the Hagen orchestra; there exists a conviction that the ensemble's collaboration with Witold Lutosławski raised Hagen to a well-ranking musical centre. (kt/mk)