‘The words “London Sinfonietta” associate in my mind with two unforgettable experiences. The first was my first contact with the ensemble at the occasion of a gramophone recording of one of my pieces with Peter Pears as soloist. I was last September at Maltings Snape. The second was a concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London this year, when I had the privilege of conducting the London Sinfonietta in a program of my works’ – wrote Lutosławski in February 1973 to The Times. His letter was in support of a campaign to save that brilliant ensemble, which found itself in serious financial difficulties.
At that time, in 1973, Michael Vyner became the ensemble’s artistic director. ‘He was the London Sinfonietta’s artistic director, responsible for programming, and at the same time a great enthusiast and devotee of contemporary music, which was the object of his great interest and efforts. And that was the orchestra which was the first to organise a concert of my works in London and subsequently invited me to conduct it many times’, said Lutosławski years later, explaining why he had chosen Vyner as the dedicatee of the work which the London Sinfonietta performed for the first time on 4 October 1983: Chain I. His enthusiasm for Lutosławski’s music must have been huge, given that no ensemble outside Poland had so many of his works in its repertoire: twenty-two in total.
Two years after the first performance of Chain I, the London Sinfonietta was again the first ensemble to perform a Lutosławski work: the new arrangement of the Carols. On 22 May 1993, the ensemble marked the Polish composer’s eightieth birthday with a concert at the Barbican Hall, in which Lutosławski appeared as conductor, listener and… actor. Besides the music, the event also had a visual accent, in the form of the film Witold Lutosławski in Conversation with Krzysztof Zanussi, which included footage of Lutosławski conducting Preludes and Fugue with the London Sinfonietta.