Krystyna Szostek-Radkowa (b. 1933) – mezzosoprano, one of the leading Polish singers of the post-war period. She made her debut in 1957 at the Silesian Opera while still a student. After several years, she tied herself permanently with the Warsaw Opera, later also with the Grand Theatre, celebrating an unbroken line of triumphal successes. She was received with equal ardour on stages throughout the world. He immense repertoire encompasses numerous opera roles of all periods, from Baroque to contemporary (sometimes written specially for her), as well as vocal oratorio parts and song. The artist is also a valued pedagogue, and leads a class of vocal performance at the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music in Warsaw.
Witold Lutosławski entrusted Krystyna Szostek-Radkowa with the first performances of both versions of his Five Songs to Kazimiera Iłłakowiczówna’s poems. The world premiere of the earlier version, destined for voice and piano, took place on November 25, 1959, in Katowice, with Anna Liwiska at the piano. In turn, the second version for voice and 30 instruments, was first performed on September 22, 1960, at the festival Warsaw Autumn. Krystyna Szostek-Radkowa was accompanied by the musicians of the Polish Radio Great Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Jan Krenz.
In this composition, on which Lutosławski worked in the years 1956–1958, includes his first use of his own twelve-tone harmonic system. He explains his special interest in the questions of harmony in the following manner: “I have a distrust for the assertion about the wane of harmony as an element of musical fabric; even more, I think that only now is it possible to encompass the entire richness of harmonic possibilities contained in the 12-tone scale – only now, that we are disposing of the limitations of tonal thinking once and for all”. (kt/mk)