• Panel 1: 1945-48 Radio i Świat
The Hidden Composer: Witold Lutosławski and Polish Radio
An exhibition first shown as part of the Breaking Chains festival,
Barbican Centre, London, 13-19 January 1997
PANEL 1: 1945-48 RADIO i ŚWIAT
Interest in radio broadcasting in other countries is reflected in the early photo reportage. In June 1947, the inside cover of Radio i Świat (Radio and the World) featured the renowned Polish pianist Witold Małcużyński playing Chopin for the BBC in London on a piano made specially by Brosdwood for Chopin’s visit to London in 1848. Also pictured are President Truman’s daughter singing for American radio and Princess Elizabeth at a BBC microphone on her 21st birthday, which she spent in Africa during a tour with the Royal Family. Such foreign photographs would soon disappear from Radio i Świat.
Four months later, the inside front cover showed, for the first of several times in the 1940s and 1950s, ‘a little-known photograph of Lenin at a primitive microphone, addressing a party meeting’ (the occasion was the anniversary of Russia’s October Revolution). The photograph underneath of a 5-lamp ‘Rodzina’ (Family) radio was part of the general push for the medium of radio across Poland. The caption indicates that 50,000 sets had been made and that some one million 9-lamp ‘Leningrad’ sets, ‘intended specially for the countryside’, would be manufactured in the next few years.
The covers of Radio i Świat gave a high profile to Polish musicians in 1947 and 1948. The first to be featured in 1947 (July) was the conductor Grzegorz Fitelberg (top left), the friend and champion of Szymanowski. Fitelberg was to premiere Lutosławski’s First Symphony in 1948, the Overture for Strings in 1949, and Little Suite and Silesian Triptych in 1951. He was followed in subsequent issues of Radio i Świat by three musicians generally regarded at the time as the best of the younger Polish generation: the composer Roman Palester (top right), the violinist and composer Grażyna Bacewicz (bottom right), and the conductor and composer Andrzej Panufnik (bottom left).
In 1948, the Polish musicians featured on the front cover of Radio i Świat included (reading clockwise from top left) the soprano Janina Godlewska, the composer Zbigniew Turski, the tenor Tomasz Dąbrowski and the male vocal quartet ‘Czejanda’. Turski’s Olympic Symphony had just won the Gold Medal at the 1948 London Olympics. ‘Czejanda’ was the most enduring of Polish light-music ensembles after World War II. Godlewska, Dąbrowski and ‘Czejanda’ were among those singers who performed Lutosławski’s mass songs on Polish Radio in the early 1950s. Godlewska also premiered his Spring and Autumn children’s song cycles in 1951 and Six Children’s Songs in 1954.
The gradual but persistent move to locate Poland within the Eastern European sphere of influence was reflected by Polish Radio’s Festival of Slavonic Music, 8-16 November 1947. Radio i Świat devoted no less than 14 pages of commentary and listings to the Festival, including the music and translations of the national anthems of Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. Broadcasts of Polish music embraced ‘stylised folk’ and dance music, Renaissance, 19th and 20th-century music. Of living composers, Roman Palester was clearly being promoted above his contemporaries. The most significant premiere, in the PWM (Polish Music Publishers) concert from Kraków on 9 November, conducted by the composer, was of Panufnik’s avant-garde Kołysanka (Lullaby), inspired by a moonlit walk he had taken on London’s Waterloo Bridge on a recent conducting tour in England.
Lutosławski’s star had not yet risen, and his sole listed contribution (in a programme called ‘Polish Children Sing and Play for Fraternal Slavonic Children’) was ‘The Little Shepherdess’ from his piano suite Folk Melodies (1945, premiered 1947).
© 1997 Adrian Thomas