1993Arts and PhilosophyMusic
Witold Lutoslawski photo

Witold Lutoslawski

  • Poland / 1913-1994
  • Composer

A Composer Who Opened New Possibilities of a Contemporary Musical Expression of Atonality and Aleatory Influenced by East European Folk Music

A composer representing modern Europe. Through his major works such as Musique Funèbre and Second Symphony, his works have had a powerful effect on the postwar music world. A new method of atonality, the distinctive "music of aleatory" and development of contemporary forms of musical expression have made him a master of music in the 20th century.
*This category then was Category of Creative Arts and Moral Sciences.


Brief Biography

Born in Warsaw, Poland
Graduated from Warsaw Conservatory, Diplomas in piano and composition (piano under Jerzy Lefeld, composition under Witold Maliszewski)
Member, Programme Committee, Warsaw Autumn Festival
Member, Presidential Committee, International Society for Contemporary Music
Started to be engaged in international music activities in foreign countries
Vice-President, Polish Composers' Union

Selected Awards and Honors

Prizes, Polish, Composers' Union
First Prizes, UNESCO Composers' Rostrum, Paris
Koussevizk Award
Ravel Prize
Sibelius Prize
Ferrer Salat Award of Queen Sophia of Spain
The ISM Distinguished Musician of the Year

Major Works


Concerto for orchestra


Musique Funebre


Jeux Venitiens for orchestra


Trois Poemes d’Henri Michaux


Second Symphony


Concerto for cello and orchestra


A Composer Who Opened New Possibilities of a Contemporary Musical Expression of Atonality and Aleatory Influenced by East European Folk Music

As a master of twentieth century music, Mr. Witold Lutoslawski is a modern European composer who has greatly influenced postwar music worldwide by introducing modern styles of musical expression, such as a new style of atonal music and unique style of “aleatory.”

Mr. Lutoslawski’s musical language begins with neoclassicism, and a work representative of his early years in Variations on a Theme by Paganini, written in 1941. Concerto for Orchstra, composed in 1954, employed a new expression unrestrained by tonality, which could be called a “counterpoint of atonality,” and while influenced by folk music, it attained an individual style transcending the realm of such folk music.

With the “thaw” of introduced in 1956 providing the momentum, Mr. Lutoslawski marked a decisive turning-point in his music with Musyka zalobra-Funeral Music, written in 1958. While the music appears to be based on a series of twelve tones, it is not necessarily so, being constructed of unique musical intervals and chords, resulting in a brilliant, well-balanced and complete structure. Furthermore, he adopted a style of “controlled aleatorism” in Venetian Games for Chamber Orchestra, written in 1961, which imbued the music with a positive significance rather than creating a mere confusion of sounds.

Thereafter, Mr. Lutoslawski continued to produce new works, represented by Second Symphony (1967), Cello Concerto (1970), and the Chain Series in the 1980s. While responding to the spirit of the age, he has actively pursued new realms in musical expression. The balanced coexistence of innovative technique and profound spirituality in his musical style not only creates a deep impression on the audience, it also demonstrates in the broadest terms the possible future of music, and serves as a fine example for modern musicians.

Since the 1960s, Mr. Witold Lutoslawski has actively engaged in musical activities worldwide, and as a twentieth-century composer representative not only of Europe but of the world, he is most eligible for the 1993 Kyoto Prize in Creative Arts and Moral Sciences.


Abstract of the Lecture

Life and Music

To respond to the wish of the organizers of this meeting I will speak of my life and work. I was born on 25, January, 1913 in a family of landowners. In 1915 my family went to Russia, where I lost my father, executed by Bolsheviks. We returned to Poland in 1918. At the age of six, I began piano lessons. At eleven, I heard the 3rd Symphony of Szymanowski, which was a revelation. At fourteen I began to study composition with Witold Maliszewski, pupil of Timsky-Korsakoff. He didn’t accept my “too modern” Symphonic Variations, which I could complete only after my military service. In the Warsaw Conservatory I got diplomas for piano (1936) and composition (1937). In 1939 I took part in the war as commander of a military radio-station. The period of German occupation (1939-1945) I spent in Warsaw playing in cafes. In 1945 the Russians entered Poland. The country was under their domination for more than forty years. In 1948 the first performance of my First Symphony took place. I also composed some “functional” music (for schools, radio etc.), responding to strong needs of the devastated cultural life. I began working on my sound language. Between 1949 and 1955 was a very depressing period, during which only traditional music was performed. In 1956, however, an annual festival of contemporary music was inaugurated. It was only in 1966 that I was permitted to publish my music in England. Since then only have I been performed and known abroad. In 1963 I began to conduct publicly the concerts of my music in Europe, USA, and Australia. I explain why I haven’t yet composed an opera. I discuss the important question of for whom I compose music. It is connected with the ethics of a creative artist, whose work must be compatible with what he believes in, what is the true expression of his artistic convictions. The “ideal world” is the object of the work of a creative artist. The political changes in our part of Europe have an influence of supreme importance on my life and state of mind.

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Lutoslawski in Kyoto

Friday, November 12, 1993
Kyoto International Conference Hall
Akimichi Takeda (Member, the Kyoto Prize Screening Committee in Creative Arts and Moral Sciences; Professor, Musashino Academia Musicae)


Opening Remarks Akimichi Takeda
Greetings Toyomi Inamori; Managing Director, The Inamori Foundation
Introduction of the Laureate Akimichi Takeda
Commemorative Lecture Witold Lutoslawski; Laureate in Creative Arts and Moral Sciences
"Sound Language"
Lecture Susumu Tamura; Professor, Tokyo College of Music
"Polish Composers' World and W. Lutoslawski"
Symposium Masaaki Niwa; Member, the Kyoto Prize Screening Committee in Creative Arts and Moral Sciences; Music Critic
Kuniharu Akiyama; Member, the Kyoto Prize Committee in Creative Arts and Moral Sciences; Professor, Tama Art University
Koji Sano; Professor, Toho Gakuen School of Music
Takashi Funayama; Member, the Kyoto Prize Screening Committee in Creative Arts and Moral Sciences; Professor, Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music
Akira Matsudaira; Professor, Showa Women's University
Concert "Variations on a Theme of Paganini"
Toshi Ichiyanagi (P.); Member, the Kyoto Prize Screening Committee in Creative Arts and Moral Sciences
Kawori Kimura (P.)
"String Quartet"
Momoo Kishibe Quartet
Momoo Kishibe (Vn.), Yoko Tabuchi (Vn.), Mikage Tokimura (Va.), Hiroaki Takahashi (Vc.)
Momoo Kishibe (Vn.), Hiroyuki Abe (P.)