Of the three Viennese Classics, Witold Lutosławski paid the least attention to Mozart. Yet it was to Wolfgang Amadeus that he devoted his first trip to Austria, since in January 1956 he was delegated to Salzburg for a festival organised on the bicentenary of Mozart’s birth. On his return home, Lutosławski described his impressions in the Przegląd Kulturalny, which from today’s perspective might seem rather strange: a 43-year-old composer, the most outstanding living Polish composer at that time, playing the part of a reviewer. Yet those were the first years of the political ‘thaw’, and every opportunity to get to know musical life on the other side of the Iron Curtain was worth its weight in gold.
Thirty-two years had to pass before Lutosławski returned to Salzburg, now in his usual role – invited to a summer festival as a composer and a conductor. Although the Salzburger Festspiele had approached him about commissioning an orchestral work in 1971, Lutosławski turned it down, anticipating that he would not be able to keep to the mooted deadline. So it was not until the summer of 1988 that perhaps his most impressive Austrian concert was held in Salzburg, in the year of his seventy-fifth birthday. The programme was really quite grand, with the participation of two star soloists. Krystian Zimerman gave the first performance of the Piano Concerto, which Lutosławski had written to commission for the Salzburger Festspiele, whilst Anne-Sophie Mutter played Chain II. Dialogue for violin and orchestra.