Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Steven Stucky called him one of the greatest composers of the twentieth century, “…an artist worthy of comparison with Stravinsky, Bartòk, Berg, Shostakovich, or Prokofiev.” Polish composer Witold Lutosłwaski is often regarded in those ranks, but for some reason not as well-known. Not all composers have the same level of appreciation in life as they in the years that follow. Leonard Bernstein famously declared, “Mahler: His Time Has Come,” some seventy years after Mahler died.
Lutosławski was a heavyweight. It’s nice to think he could also produce music with a sensitivity to the needs of his time when in 1946 he compiled 20 Christmas carols from collections of 19th century Polish carols (remember Poland had been through Hitler’s ringer before Stalin moved in for more of the same). His countrymen needed some peace, and some hope.
Listen for Lutoslawski’s Twenty Polish Christmas Carols during the 11 o’clock hour on Thursday on WFMT.