Witold Lutosławski’s aunt, the poetess and novelist Sofia Perez Casanova, came from Spain. She arrived in Poland as the wife of the eldest of his five uncles, the philosopher Wincenty. They were neighbours at Drozdowo and also in Warsaw, on Marszałkowska Street. Casanova spoke excellent Polish and even wrote in that language, but those around her were certainly used to hearing Spanish. When Lutosławski first travelled to Madrid, in March 1979, when taking his first rehearsal with the Orquesta Nacional de España, he addressed the musicians in French. At the second rehearsal, however, he delighted them by conducting basic communications in Spanish, thanks – as he assured them – to a teach-yourself guide. They were working on two earlier works, the First Symphony, from thirty years before, and the ten-year-old Cello Concerto, in which the soloist was Lluís Claret. The latter work was already familiar to the music lovers of Madrid, since four years previously it had been performed by Pedro Corostola with the orchestra of Spanish radio and television. Mi-parti was also planned for 1979, but the orchestral material did not arrive in time. Ultimately, that work was not performed in Madrid until 1998.
In 1986, Lutosławski received the Queen Sofia Prize. He was the first foreigner to be awarded the prize, and also the first composer to be honoured for his entire oeuvre rather than a single work. He received the prize from the queen on 13 March 1986 in the presence chamber at the royal palace in Madrid. The prize was funded by the Ferrer-Salat Foundation, which many years later, remembering about its exceptional laureate, organised a Lutosławski Composition Competition to mark the centenary of his birth in 2013.