Lutoslawski, Witold

Lutosławski, Witold,

1913–94, Polish composer, b. Warsaw, studied Univ. of Warsaw, Warsaw Conservatory. His early works were mainly neoclassical and often included elements from Polish folk music, but following World War II his music was increasingly avant garde in style. His Symphony No. 1 (1947) was condemned by the Stalinist government as "formalist," and his works were banned from public performance until restrictions loosened in the 1950s. Lutosławski won acclaim for his Concerto for Orchestra (1954), based on folk themes, but his mature style dates from the late 1950s. His Funeral Music (1958), a twelve-tone composition written in memory of BartókBartók, Béla
, 1881–1945, Hungarian composer and collector of folk music. He studied (1899–1903) and later taught piano at the Royal Academy, Budapest.
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, established his international reputation. In Venetian Games (1961) he first employed aleatory musicaleatory music
[Lat. alea=dice game], music in which elements traditionally determined by the composer are determined either by a process of random selection chosen by the composer or by the exercise of choice by the performer(s).
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 techniques, which, along with serial musicserial music,
the body of compositions whose fundamental syntactical reference is a particular ordering (called series or row) of the twelve pitch classes—C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B—that constitute the equal-tempered scale.
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 elements, are found in most of his later compositions. Concerto for Cello and Orchestra (1970), the Chain series (1980s), Piano Concerto (1988), and Symphony No. 4 (1992) are among his best-known work. Other compositions include choral works, songs, and chamber music.


See Z. Skowron, ed., Lutosławski on Music (2007); studies by S. Stucky (1981) and C. Bodman Rae (3rd ed., 1999).

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Lutosławski, Witold


Born Jan. 25, 1913, in Warsaw. Polish composer; member of the Swedish Royal Academy of Music since 1962.

Lutoslawski was trained at the F. Chopin Higher School of Music in Warsaw, completing his studies in piano in 1936 and in composition in 1937. He lives in Warsaw and has served on the juries of various international competitions and festivals. Since 1962 he has been giving composition courses at the international seminars at Tanglewood (USA) and at other seminars on contemporary music. His first work to be performed was the Symphonic Variations (1938). The compositions of his early period, notably his Concerto for Orchestra (1954), show the influence of Polish folk music.

Lutoslawski first used a 12-tone series to organize his musical material in Funeral Music (1958), dedicated to the memory of B. Bartok. In Venetian Games (1961) he introduced the technique of aleatory operations, which he called controlled aleatory and which he has employed in all his subsequent compositions. Among his most important works are Three Poems of Henri Michaux for chorus and orchestra (1963), Second Symphony (1967), Book for Orchestra (1968), and Concerto for Cello and Orchestra (1969). He received the State Prize of the Polish People’s Republic in 1952, 1955, and 1964.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.