• WL100/49: 22 July 1949 and a letter

In 1999, in a Polish archive, I came across a letter that was something of a surprise, to put it mildly.  Dated 8 April 1950, the letter was from Lutosławski to the Board of the Polish Composers’ Union ZKP, concerning its special call for scores (27 March).  The Composers’ Union letter had read:

To members of the ZKP, with the exception of musicologists and non-residents.

In connection with the forthcoming Festival of Polish Music, which will take place between November 1950 and March 1951, we kindly request prompt replies to the following questions:

1. What are you composing, or planning to compose, with the intention of submitting to the festival?  You should give an indication of the proposed title, the make-up of the ensemble, the duration and the completion date of the composition, on the understanding that

(a) pieces for symphonic forces should be sent in by September 1, 1950,
(b) smaller pieces for amateur, chamber or choral ensembles, and mass songs should be sent in by July 15, 1950, to the festival office: ul. Zgoda 15, Warsaw.

2. What ameliorations (journeys, vacations) as well as what expenses do you anticipate?

Irrespective of any grant which might be awarded by the Ministry of Culture and Art, the pieces which you send in could be commissioned by the Composers’ Commissioning Board of the ZKP or by other institutions, for example Polish Radio, the House of the Polish Army, the Union of Polish Youth, etc.  Pieces of the second type (under 1.b) are particularly sought by the festival Committee.


The contents of Lutosławski’s reply are astonishing, especially in light of his later comments on his music of the late 40s and early 50s, when socialist realism was at its height.  Here is his letter, with my translation.

WL letter re Lipcowy wieniec

Warsaw, 8-IV-1950
To the Board of ZKP

In rep[ly] to the enquiry dated 27-III-1950 (L.Dz.565/50), I notify you that:

1.a) – I cannot yet at this moment give detailed information relating to the symphonic work proposed by me for the Festival. I would request the possibility of submitting it later.
b) – relating to broadly-based music I offer: 1) A folk suite for unison choir, solo voices and small orchestra, ent[itled] “COURTSHIP,” dur. c. 20′.  The score and parts are to be found at Polish Radio.  2) A triptych for solo baritone, male-voice choir and symphony orchestra ent[itled] “JULY GARLAND” (a piece written to words by K. I. Gałczyński, on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the July Manifesto), dur. c.10′.  The score is to be found at the House of the Polish Army.  Please pass on the above-mentioned notification to the Festival organisers. –
Witold Lutosławski

That Lutosławski should have composed a work with such a blatant political purpose is extraordinary.  It never surfaced during his lifetime – it never appeared in his list of works – and one suspects that he had blanked it, understandably, from his memory.  Although its link with the preceding post – WL100/48: 22 July 1944 – is self-evident, much else remains to be explained.  The next post – WL100/50: Volcano in Łowicz – looks at Lutosławski’s collaboration with Gałczyński (1905-53), one of Poland’s most distinguished poets.

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