Often associated with Budapest is one of Witold Lutosławski’s most important and most popular works, Musique funèbre. It was written at the initiative of the Polish conductor Jan Krenz, who wanted to mark the tenth anniversary of the death of Béla Bartók, in 1955, with this work. Although Lutosławski did not complete the work until January 1958, he retained the dedication:‘à la mémoire de Béla Bartók’. In May 1959, the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra performed Musique funèbre during a guest concert in Budapest, and when the cello’s last note faded away, the audience greeted the moment with silence, treating it as a memento for the victims of the insurrection against soviet occupation three years before. In 1982, Lutosławski received a medal from the Hungarian Ministry of Culture for Musique funèbre.
Lutosławski, like many twentieth-century composers, held Bartók to be the most important composer of that century. During his youth, he had held the Hungarian composer to be a model of the creative use of folklore, and then the personification of compositional discipline. ‘For me – said Lutosławski in 1958 – his creative path was a reference point and at the same time a general model’. The Polish composer first visited Hungary in 1956, to take part in events commemorating Bartók. Later, he travelled here twice more, invited to conduct his own music (1978 and 1982).
Published in Budapest in 1974 was Beszélgetések Witold Lutosławski, an extended conversation between the composer and Bálin András Varga.