At 80, Witold Lutoslawski is the grand old man and the conscience of Eastern European music. Though apolitical by nature--so he claims--he's seen his life and career shaped by five decades of upheaval in his native Poland. After his father was executed by Russians for advocating nationalism, Lutoslawski was imprisoned by Nazis and later wrote resistance songs for the underground movement. After the war he was censured by the communist regime because he chose to be a modernist without party affiliation. Yet the repeated commands to toe the party line and to glorify social realism couldn't shake Lutoslawski's resolve to remain true to his own music. For a long time his works were banned but he kept on writing. In 1984 the Solidarity movement honored him for his Third Symphony, which was performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra earlier this month. The half-hour symphony, an impassioned yet bleak work, shows the influences of Boulez and Cage--and a move away from the glow and extroversion of Lutoslawski's famous Bartokian Concerto for Orchestra of 1954. His 1988 Piano Concerto is said to follow in a similar vein but with nods to both Stravinsky and Bartok. It will be interesting to see how successfully Lutoslawski has integrated these contrasting impulses. He's got the best possible interpreter for the task: Ursula Oppens, one of the most intelligent and technically proficient pianists of our generation. Erich Leinsdorf conducts the program, which also includes excerpts from Smetana's Ma Vlast and Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake. Friday and Saturday, 8 PM, and Sunday, 3 PM, Orchestra Hall, 220 S. Michigan; 435-6666 or 435-8122.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Erich Hartmann--Magnum.