• WL100/40: London Sinfonietta, 22 May 1993

A belated but heartfelt tribute for Lutosławski’s 80th birthday was given by the London Sinfonietta on 22 May 1993. The composer joined the Sinfonietta for two concerts at the Barbican Hall, conducting the evening event and sitting in the audience for the chamber concert that preceded it.  Krzysztof Zanussi’s recent film on Lutosławski was also shown (see post of 13 April).

London Sinfonietta, 22.05.93

Lutosławski had a long and fruitful connection with the London Sinfonietta.  He first conducted it on 25 September 1972 in a recording of Paroles tissées with Peter Pears (Decca HEAD 3) and on 20 January 1973 he conducted the Sinfonietta at the QEH in London in a programme entirely of his own music: Musique funèbreParoles tissées (with Pears), Jeux vénitiens and Preludes and Fugue (UK premiere; its second performance).  A matter of days later he sprang to the Sinfonietta’s defence having learned of its parlous financial state.  Not only did he send a letter to The Times (published on 16 February 1973) but he also wrote a longer testimonial, reproduced below.

The words ‘London Sinfonietta’ associate in my mind with two unforgettable experiences.  The first was my first contact with the ensemble at the occasion of a gramophone recording of one of my pieces with Peter Pears as soloist.  It was last September at Maltings Snape.  The second was a concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London in January this year, when I had the privilege of conducting the London Sinfonietta in a programme of my works.

To appear for the first time in front of an orchestra one has never conducted before is very often an embarrassing situation for a composer.  It is certainly a most valuable opportunity to convey the composer’s interpretation of a work to the performers.  But, on the other hand, it is rather a troublesome necessity to have to insist on the precise execution of the details of one’s own work, and to have to introduce some new ways of making music, which need to be explained exactly.

From the first rehearsal with the London Sinfonietta, all my misgivings disappeared entirely.  I felt very strongly that the only goal of those wonderful musicians was to achieve the best possible results; to respond as accurately as possible to the composer’s suggestions; in other words – to help to realise his sound vision in the most faithful way.

A group of experienced first-class musicians, some of whom are really virtuoso players, who have such an interest and devotion for contemporary music, is an invaluable treasure for us – for contemporary composers. Arthur Honegger once wrote that a contemporary composer whose work was played in a subscription concert felt like a man sitting at a table to which he had not been invited.  The London Sinfonietta’s series of twentieth-century music concerts offers the participating composers just the contrary: the rare and incomparable feeling of being the right man in the right place.

The very existence of such a group and its pioneer mission of promoting the music of our time is a beautiful example to follow in other countries all over the world.

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