• WL100/13: In Conversation with Zanussi

On 19 January 1991, BBC 2 showed a one-hour documentary on Lutosławski.  It was made by the distinguished Polish film director Krzysztof Zanussi.  Witold Lutosławski in Conversation with Krzysztof Zanussi (1990) utilises excerpts from a BBC Omnibus documentary Warsaw Autumn (1978)filmed by Dennis Marks in 1977, as starting points.  Zanussi steers Lutosławski through key moments of his life, interspersed with the composer conducting rehearsals or special recordings of excerpts of his music.

The results are mixed.  At times, the premise is realised archly, as at the beginning, when the interview set-up seems rather self-conscious.  At other times, Zanussi’s probing produces some interesting responses.  Lutosławski recollection of his father is rather touching, for example, and his recollection of life in the 1980s (during Solidarity and then under Martial Law) fascinating.  As always, he can be alternately open and guarded.

The interiors were filmed either in his downstairs sitting area (it’s open-plan) or in his first floor, L-shaped study (see my earlier post Lutosławski’s Carpet).  The major musical extracts are from Musique FunèbrePreludes and FugueChain 2 (with Krzysztof Jakowicz) and the Third Symphony.  Two excerpts from Witold Lutosławski in Conversation with Krzysztof Zanussi (amounting to the second and fourth quarters of the documentary) were uploaded to YouTube yesterday, so here are the links with a little commentary to each.

Excerpt 1

This section is concerned firstly with the post-war decade and socialist realism.  Habitually, Lutosławski was extremely guarded about this period, as he is here, especially in the excerpt from the Omnibus film.  The three-day conference to which Lutosławski refers took place in western Poland, at a place called Łagów, in August 1949.  (Less than half of the members of the Polish Composers’ Union attended, rather than the ‘all’ that Lutosławski mentions.)  Secondly (c. 7’45” in), the film shows Lutosławski accompanying a group of young children singing one of his children’s songs, Rzeczka (River, 1947).  The final section (c. 11’20” in) moves the questioning of the relationship between the music and social-political contexts to the 1980s.  It shows a fragment of Lutosławski’s speech on the first day of the Congress of Polish Culture in Warsaw on 12 December 1981.  Overnight, Poland found itself under Martial Law.


Excerpt 2

This section concludes the documentary with a brief discussion of the return to democracy in the late 1980s and then focuses on the Third Symphony.  There are two musical passages here, from figs 84 to 89 and from fig. 93 (Coda), in what appears to be a specially recorded session with Lutosławski conducting the Great Polish Radio SO (WOSPR) in Katowice.


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