The longest journey that Witold Lutosławski ever made – more than 15,500 kilometres from Warsaw – was to Sydney. He had first planned such a journey in 1980, but had to cancel it for health reasons. So he first appeared in front of an Australian audience on a television screen, when on the morning of Sunday 4 August 1982 the English film Keeping the Spirit Alive, about Lutosławski and his music, was broadcast. He only travelled to Australia in person in the summer of 1987, as a guest of the concert series ‘20th-Century Orchestra’ organised by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. He also appeared in Melbourne and in Brisbane, invited there by theQueensland Conservatorium.
On the programme of the concert in Sydney, after Musique funèbre, which was already familiar to Australian music lovers, the local, or rather continental, premieres of Chain II and the Third Symphony were given. ‘It was a significant concert in my career – recalls Dene Olding, who performed the solo part in Chain II. – First of all it was a chance to work with one of the truly great masters – a legend in his own time. I was also impressed by his humility and impeccable manners and how precise he was in his music-making. He was a real citizen of the world. Secondly, it was an important concert for me as the powers that be in Australian musical life had entrusted me to play the premiere performance in Australia of Chain II with a major international figure and it signified my arrival as a concert violinist in their eyes and opened up many opportunities for me from that moment on. And he adds: ‘most of all I remember the electric atmosphere in the Sydney Town Hall that night’.