The first foreign premiere of a work by Lutosławski came at the radio studio in Amsterdam, during a programme devoted to contemporary Polish music. The concert, given on 6 May 1947 and broadcast live by Dutch Radio, included two piano etudes written during the war and published in Cracow in 1946. Unfortunately, it has not yet been established who performed them.
Lutosławski first visited Amsterdam in 1948, for the World Music Days organised by the International Society for Contemporary Music. His First Symphony, put forward by the ISCM’s Polish section, was not selected for the programme by the international jury, and so he travelled to the Netherlands just to listen. He had another chance to visit Amsterdam in 1963, also for the World Music Days, but five years later a third trip was thwarted by politics. At the beginning of September 1968, Lutosławski was about to travel there to sit on the jury of a composition competition organised by the Gaudeamus foundation and for a performance of one of his works (presumably the Second Symphony). At the last minute, however, his invitation was withdrawn, because the Dutch government demanded a boycott of citizens of those countries which – like Poland – had attacked Czechoslovakia in August that year.
Despite that episode, the openness to new music in the Netherlands meant that Lutosławski travelled to that country many more times. He was most often invited to Amsterdam and Rotterdam, but he also visited other places. In 1983, together with Het Brabants Orkest, he appeared in five cities in the north of the country, inaugurating a new concert series: ‘Portrait of a Composer’. Then when the organisers of the Holland Festival learned of the composing of the Piano Concerto, they wanted to acquire the rights to its first performance, but that was ultimately given in Salzburg.
Witold Lutosławski enjoyed excellent contacts with the Concertgebouw Orchestra, initiated in January 1960 by Bernard Haitink with a performance of the Concerto for Orchestra. On 11 May 1969, Lutosławski appeared with that ensemble in person, conducting Musique funèbre and Trois poèmes d’Henri Michaux; the recordings made then are now available in the seriesAnthology of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. During Lutosławski’s lifetime, the Concertgebouw performed as many as eleven of his works, and he appeared with the orchestra on six occasions. After the first presentation of Mi-parti – a work composed to the orchestra’s commission – the reviewer of Het Parool wrote: ‘I cannot remember any contemporary composer being so enthusiastically received at theConcertgebouw’.