Lutosławski’s debut in Madrid

The first time Witold  Lutosławski conducted a Spanish orchestra in public performance was the 9th of March 1979 at 19:00 in a regular concert held at the Royal Theatre in Madrid conducting the National Orchestra of Spain during the 1978-1979 season.  The works performed were his First symphony (1941 – 1947) and the Cello concerto (1968 – 1970) in the second part, with Catalan cellist, Lluis Claret playing. Four years before, 1st of February of 1975 French conductor Gilbert Amy conducted the Spanish premiere of the Cello concerto with the Spanish cellist Pedro Corostola and the Spanish Radio and TV orchestra at the same venue.

It is interesting to know Mi-parti (1975-1976) was also programmed but finally not performed due to lack of scores that would have been received the week before in order to rehearse the work. It seemed postal service was far from being good, and some parts did not arrive on time, as Leopoldo Hontañon, the former music critic of the Spanish newspaper ABC explained. Mi-parti had to wait until 1998 when it was finally performed in Madrid by the Spanish RTV orchestra under David Shallon.

Main reviews for  Lutosławski’s debut in Madrid from daily newspapers El País  and ABC were both unanimous, highlighting “clarity in his conducting to give the best efficiency from the orchestra” as well as “the mastery of Lluis Claret’s playing”

News about the first concert given by Witold Lutoslawski in Spain. 1979. Image taken from the archive of the ABC daily newspaper.

News about the first concert given by Witold Lutoslawski in Spain. 1979. Image taken from the archive of the ABC daily newspaper.

A Twitter friend, Rafael -V Pastrana @rvpastrana has attached to his personal blog images of the first pages of the program for the first concert including Lutosławski’s own signature. All credits of the pics go to him. Thanks Rafa!

On 13th & 14th of February 1997, the Cello concerto was performed again in Madrid, with the Estonian cellist Ivan Monighetti who was the last of Rostropovich students,  and the Spanish RTV Orchestra conducted by Antoni Wit at the Monumental Theatre.  Five years later, on 17th and 18th of January, 2002, the American cello player Felix Fan played it with the same orchestra and at the same venue with Adrian Leaper, who was the principal conductor at the time, as you can watch in this video:

Lutosławski would visit us again in 1986 and in 1990 conducting his works in Barcelona for the first time. As a curiosity, that was the first time Witold Lutosławski conducted in Spain, but not the first time to be in Spain, as the composer and his wife Danuta Bogusławska were in Ibiza for holidays in 1969, but that will come in future posts.


• WL100/27: Notebook, 19 March 1961

It seems Lutoslawski had Nature as a mirror of classical rhythms, but also for stochastic patterns like raindrops.

On Polish Music

Lutosławski and Rain

In order to justify classical rhythmic formulae, the argument has been used that this rhythm (i.e. ‘harmonic’, based on pulse) comes from nature: walking, the heartbeat.  Well, it is not correct to say that other rhythms have no counterpart in nature.  In fact, natural phenomena proceed for the most part in an irregular rhythm.  Example: the rhythm of the drops as rain begins to fall (pizz., in b.67 presto (II) from Jeux v.).

Dla uzasadnienia klasycznych formuł rytmicznych posługiwano się argumentem, że rytm ten (tzn. ‘harmoniczny’, oparty na pulsacji) pochodzi z natury: chodzenie, bicie serca.  Otóż nie jest słuszne twierdzenie, że inne rytmy nie mają odpowiedników w naturze.  Na pewno zjawiska natury przebiegają w swej większości w rytmie niepulsacyjnym.  Przykład: rytm kropel, gdy deszcz zaczyna padać (pizz., w t. 67 presto (II) z Jeux v.).

Witold Lutosławski, 19 March 1961  [my…

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A scary Lutosławski?

Well, apart from the last posts that don’t have anything related with the principal goal of this blog, the relatión of the composer with Spain, here I present a different way to think Lutosławski’s music, that at least I have never  seen before.

During the last 26th of July of 2012, I was at home in Barcelona, having dinner while I was sitting and relaxing on the sofa and watching TV. As I got relaxed and was not paying very much attention to the program, I checked other channels, till I tuned a rebroadcast on the second National Channel ‘La 2’ of a quite popular Sci-Fi series during the late 60’s, 70’s and 80’s called Historias para no dormir as one of the leading roles, the Spanish/Catalan actor Francisco (Paco) Morán, passed away 3 days before.

The key regarding Witold Lutosławski’s music was that after the beginning of the chapter ‘El regreso’, the background music was quite familiar to me, and so it was! That music was the first section, ‘Prologue’ of Lutosławski’s Musique Funèbre (from 11:55), mixed with arranged electronic material by the series’ composer, Waldo de los Ríos, and other quotes like for instance Mosolov’s Iron Foundry (from 0:30) or the first bars of the Polish Penderecki’s Threnody for the victims of Hiroshima (from: 28:42), something that is not new for him as his music was part of the soundtrack of Kubrick’s The Shining, but nevertheless I didn’t know about the use of Lutosławski’s music in horror films or TV series…

So here it is. You never know what TV can bring you:

If it is not possible checking the audio streams via spotify due to geographical restrictions, please try the next YT links:



And even more recordings to come…

As many of you know, Lutosławski’s centenary is becoming a great oportunity for many orchestras to program during the last weeks many concerts to pay him tribute, and getting sources of audio for maybe, future CD releases. As the centenary has begun with strenght in the United States with hommages in New York and Los Angeles (and including a new recording of the first symphony by Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic for SONY), in the United Kingdom with the Woven Words Festival in London, and concerts in Scotland, and of course, in Poland where all of his music is being performed, it seems that more recordings and specially from past live performances are appearing.

Regarding Lutosławski’s Third symphony, I noticed via Adrian Thomas, that the last Lutosławski’s Centenary Box on Polskie Nagrania, had a new and never issued before performance of the work, that I’ve just added to the commented discography a couple of posts before.

An old and unique one from the Soviet Union.

A new audio file with another forgotten and unlisted live recording of Witold Lutosławski’s third symphony is added here as another historical testimony. Only issued on LP, this version was recorded by the Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra under its then principal conductor Juozas Domarkas, for the Soviet music company Melodiya at the Leningrad Festival in 1988.

Pic taken during the vinyl to digital processing. The cd on the table holding the LP sleeve is a monograph of works by Swedish composer Maurice Karkoff, who passed away a couple of weeks ago. I was relistening to some of his works then.

Revisiting Witold Lutosławski’s discography…

A review on the discography of Witold Lutosławski’s Third Symphony. 

A necessary acknowledgement:

I wish to make public acknowledgement of the help offered by Adrian Thomas who suggested and corrected details and sections of the text written on this blog.

As an introduction:

Among the growing number of publications about the work of Witold Lutosławski, not many of them are monographs, and even fewer are written in English. We must highlight then the outstanding books by Stucky (1981, 2009) and Rae (1994, 1999), who both analyze individual works within the general framework of his music, as well as the texts of Thomas (2005, 2007), who successfully places the composer’s work in the context of contemporary Polish music, establishing relationships between their works and those of other Polish composers.

On the Third Symphony:

Regarding the Third Symphony, which is arguably Lutosławski’s masterpiece, not much more than the texts mentioned above can be found. Rae (1999), who provides a complete and comprehensive analysis of the work, and Thomas (2007) who explores several of Lutosławski’s works like his third and fourth symphonies and Les espaces du sommeil and compares them with Szymanowski’s First Violin Concerto in terms of their structural and expressive aspects, are among the best sources for information, apart any relevant CD liner notes which are listening guides at best.

On the other hand, Będkowski & Hrabia’s ‘Witold Lutosławski. A Bio-bibliography’ (2001) includes an extensive discography, which at the time of publication formed the first attempt to gather information together on all the issued recordings. The authors, who are both founder-members of the Witold Lutosławski Studies Center at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, have also edited successive volumes of the English-language ‘Witold Lutosławski Studies’, three volumes of which appeared in 2007, 2008 and 2009. They included an up-to-date revision of their discography in the 2008 volume.
 Since 2008, and especially in relation to the expansion and consolidation of Lutosławski’s music in the standard repertoire of international orchestras (but curiously not in Spain, where his works are performed only in contemporary music festivals), and the proximity to the anniversary of his birth on Jan. 25 of this year, the discography of his works, and in particular that of his Third Symphony, has been increasing. That is why I present here an updated discography of this work to 2012 which includes several forgotten versions released on LP but never transferred to CD, possibly because of poor promotion and distribution.

This updated discography collates information from my personal CD collection, a revision of the discographies published by Będkowski & Hrabia (2001, 2008) and a search for new recordings in portals such as ebay and amazon.

As an example of a newly found and previously unlisted recording there is an audio clip of the SWF LP with Kazimierz Kord conducting the SWF Baden-Baden, known today as the SWR Symphony Orchestra.

Pic taken during the processing Cds on the desk are recordings of the 1988 edition of the Leningrad Festival on CPO and a Philiips recording of Casella’s Paganiniana and Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloé by the Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Kirill Kondrashin.


Będkowski, S. & Hrabia, S.

(2001) Witold Lutosławski: A bio-bibliography. Westport, Lond. 2001

(2008) Witold Lutosławski. Discography. On Witold Lutosławski Studies 2 -2008. Ed. By Paja-Stach, J.,   Będkowski, S., Hrabia, S. & Sitarz, A. Musica Iagellonica, Kraków, Poland 2008

Rae, C.B. (1994, 1999) The Music of Lutoslawski (London: Faber and Faber) 288pp. Revised and expanded third edition (paperback). 318pp.

Stucky, S. (1983) Lutoslawski and his Music. Cambridge 1981 (Revised and reedited in 2009)

Thomas, A.

(2005) Polish Music since Szymanowski. Cambridge University Press, 2005.

(2007) One Last Meeting: Lutosławski, Szymanowski and the Fantasia. In Karol Szymanowski w perspektywie kultury muzycznej przeszłości i współczesności (Karol Szymanowski from the perspectives of musical culture past and present.) Edited by Skowron, Z., Musica Jagiellonica, Krakow 2007, 309-26.


Barenboim, Daniel (c.);

Chicago Symphony Orchestra, 10/1992, Orchestra Hall, Chicago. USA.

Erato/Warner Classics 1993 Released as CD Erato ZK 91711 (4509-91711-2), reissued as Elatus 0927-49015-2

Blaszczyk, Miroslav Jacek (c.);

– Silesian Philharmonic Orchestra, 11/2004, Silesian Philharmonic Concert Hall, Katowice, Poland.

DUX CD 0506

Botstein, Leon (c.);

American Symphony Orchestra, 18/11/2005, Avery Fisher Hall, New York.

ASO Label, (2010) Released only as mp3 for purchase.

Domarkas, Juozas (c.);

– Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra; 05/1988; Leningrad Philharmonc Hall, Leningrad, USSR.

Melodiya A10 00571 001.P.1989 Live recording (LP)

Gardner, Edward (c.);

– BBC Symphony Orchestra, 5 & 6/07/2010, Assembly Hall, Walthamstow, London. United Kingdom.

CHSA 5082 on SACD and CD (2011)

Kord, Kazimierz (c.);

– Südwestfunk Baden Baden Sinfonieorchester; 10/1984; Donaueschingen Festival Hall? SWF Studios?

SWF label. LP SWF 105. Only released on LP(1985)

Lutosławski, Witold (c.);

Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra; 5&6/11/1985; Jesus Christus-Kirche, Berlin. Germany.

Phillips/Decca/ Universal; 1986 Released as LP/CD Philips 416 387-4PH, Philips 416 387-1PH, Philips 416 387-2PH and as Philips Duo 464043 (The essential Lutoslawski – 2CD(1999)) and Decca 478-457-9 (2012)

– Warsaw Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, 25/09/1988; Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall. Warsaw Autumn Festival.

Polskie Nagrania PN BOX 0009. Witold Lutosławski Centenary Edition

– Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra, 28-30/01/1992, Grzegorz Fitelberg Hall, Katowice, Poland.

ACD015 and as Accord 011 368-2 (CD)

– Sinfonieorchester Musikhoschschule Karlsruhe 14/01/1993, Brahmssaal, Stadhalle, Karlsruhe, Germany.

Antes BM – CD319017. (CD) Live Recording.

Otaka, Tadaaki (c.);

BBC National Orchestra of Wales, 27&28/07/1995, Brangwyn Hall, Swansea, Wales. United Kingdom.

BIS CD 743 (1995)

Rattle, Simon (c.);

Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, 24/08/2012, Berliner Philharmonie, Berlin , Germany.

Released as VOD (Video on demand) at the Digital Concert Hall. Live recording. (2012)

Salonen, Esa-Pekka (c.);

Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra; 29&30/11 & 02/12/1985; Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles. USA.

SONY 1986. Released on LP as CBS Masterworks, IM CBS IMT 42203, and on cd as CBS IM 42203, CBS MK 42203 and CBS M2K 42271. As Sony M2K 42271, Sony SK66280, Sony SBK 90480, SBK90480 (Essential Classics), Grand Repertoire ed. (French Market) Centenary Edition (2013).

Solti, Georg(c.);

– Chicago Symphony Orchestra 29/09/1983 Orchestral hall, Chicago, USA.

CD Nº 12 of “The first 100 years collection“. Live recording of the World Premiere.

Wit, Antoni (c.);

– Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, 1988, Concert Hall of the Polish Radio , Katowice, Poland.

Polskie Nagrania, 1989 Released as PNCD44 (CD) and MUZA SX2753 (LP)

Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, 25 & 26/05/1995, Grzegorz Fitelberg Hall, Katowice, Poland.

Naxos, 1996. Released as Naxos CD 8.553423


Solti, Georg (c.);

Sleschwig-Holstein Festival Orchestra, 1990,  Germany.

London / Decca: p1991, Label no.: London 430 838-1DH (LP, digital, stereo); London 430 838-4DH (Cassette Tape, stereo, dolby); London 430 838-2DH (CD), Cover title: Orchestra! . The orchestral music from the Channel 4 Television Series.

Extract of the end and coda. Features music from Orchestra! series.

Rattle, Simon (c.);

City Of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, 6&7/1995, Symphony Hall, Birmingham, England. United Kingdom.

Arthaus Musik 102039, EMI (CD) 7243 5 66136 2 1

Extract of the end and coda. Features music from Leaving Home series.