Hanover (New Hampshire)
In the summer of 1966, Witold Lutosławski was invited to Hanover as composer-in-residence of the 4th International Arts Festival at Dartmouth College’s Hopkins Center for the Arts. The festival organisers had planned to present eight works, designed to form a panorama of his output to date, beginning with the Variations on a theme of Paganini. Half of the performances were American premieres.
Lutosławski, who had first decided to appear in public as a conductor three years before, began learning his old scores, in order to expand his concert repertoire. Thus in front of the American audience he conducted his latest work, Paroles tissées, and two works from the fifties: the Five Songs to words by Iłłakowiczówna and the Dance Preludes. On hearing the Five Songs, the reviewer of the Hanover Gazette wrote in delight: ‘a most amazing work… so skilfully has the composer blended the elements of the words, the voice, and the instruments… just beautiful’.
The festival organiser was the conductor Mario di Bonaventura, who decided to ensure the best possible conditions for his guest’s stay. ‘Knowing that Witold was sensitive to even the slightest noise, my wife and I worried over the choice of a room for the Lutosławskis. After lengthy consideration, we decided on a hotel located close to the concert hall. The new building, situated on a side street, had only one floor, with rooms running along a very long corridor. Of course, we reserved an apartment right at the end, having previously checked that no noise from the street could be heard there. The next morning, after Danuta and Witold’s arrival, we had agreed to have breakfast together. We arrived at the hotel convinced that we’d be praised for choosing such a quiet place. However, when I asked Witold how the night had passed, I immediately realised that something wasn’t right. “Well…” – he began, with some hesitation, after which he started to tell. For 15 or 20 minutes, there was absolute silence, after which a click rang out, and of course he woke up after every click. A couple of hours passed until the two Lutosławskis, tired and exhausted, got dressed and went out into the corridor to see where that clicking was coming from. After quite a while, they found the source of the noise: a fridge that came on and turned itself off again every 20 minutes. It stood at the very end of that long corridor’.
For the next festival, Bonaventura commissioned a new work from Lutosławski, which turned out to be Prelude and Fugue. However, for financial reasons the festival was cancelled, and Prelude and Fugue was first performed on a different continent – during the Styrian Autumn, although under Bonaventura’s baton.