Leipzig was the hub of the new music movement in the GDR, and so for Witold Lutosławski it was like a first ‘port of call’ in East Germany. However, due to the cultural policies of the then East German authorities, organising a concert with music like that which Lutosławski composed continued to encounter obstacles for quite some time. In 1969, a performance of the Second Symphony was planned in Leipzig, but – as the composer soon found out – the organisers were told to withdraw the work from the programme; in the censored correspondence of that time, the reasons behind the decision were not given.
Three years later, inviting Lutosławski to a concert, anxious about audience numbers, the organisers decided not to fill an entire concert with his compositions. After a first part comprising his Musique funèbre, Five Songs, sung by Roswitha Trexler, and Livre pour orchestra, the second half of the concert brought a performance of Igor Stravinsky’s Les Noces, conducted byHorst Neumann. It turned out that the audience gave greater applause to Lutosławski than to the performers of Stravinsky’s work, and after such a successful first contact the composer was invited to Leipzig again three years later. He also came here the following decade, as a guest of the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester (now the MDR), which included a recording of Musique funèbre under the composer’s baton on a disc released to mark its seventy-fifth anniversary.
At the initiative of Siegfried Thiele, who taught composition at Leipzig conservatory, Lutosławski was invited many times to take seminars with students. Another seminar was planned for the spring of 1994, but the composer died in the meantime.
It was in Leipzig, boasting a centuries-long publishing tradition, that the first German-language book about Lutosławski was published. In 1976, the Reclam publishing house issued a translation of the conversations conducted with the composer by Tadeusz Kaczyński (Gespräche mit Witold Lutosławski).