It is not by chance that the Berliner Philharmoniker's first concert of the new season should include Witold Lutosławski's Third Symphony: The works of the Polish composer, who would have celebrated his 100th birthday in January 2013, form a programmatic focus of the orchestra's concerts this season. The Third Symphony, completed only in 1983, is one of Lutosławski's most significant works, typically displaying the musical language of the composer which successfuly combines traditional forms, an often Romantic musical sensitivity and avant-garde techniques. It is “a truly great late work,” as the critic of the Berliner Morgenpost wrote in 1985.
It was the composer himself who then conducted the Berliner Philharmoniker – and not for the first time. He had been making regular appearances with the orchestra to perform his works since 1975, including for example his Musique funèbre for string orchestra, his Livre pour orchestre, his four symphonies and the piano and cello concertos. As a conductor, Witold Lutosławski possessed a compelling musical authority, his appearances were - according to the press - both “aristocratic” and “passionate”. He was celebrated in Berlin as “one of the greatest composers of the avant-garde”.
The Berliner Philharmoniker first performed a piece by Lutosławski on 13 September 1960 as part of the concert series Music of the 20th Century: his Musique funèbre which was composed between 1954 and 1958 as a tribute to the composer Béla Bartók and which brought him world-wide fame. Witold Lutosławski was born in Warsaw into a highly musical family which supported him from childhood. In addition to composing, he also studied mathematics. Lutosławski began his musical career during World War II as a piano player in coffee houses. After the war he became his country's leading composer and received numerous national and international awards during his lifetime. He died in his hometown in 1994.