Tonight’s performance will focus on a program presented in the performances of Andrzej Panufnik and Witold Lutosławski given as a piano duo in the cafes of Nazi-occupied Warsaw, during the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. During the occupation Panufnik and Lutosławski made ends meet by giving concerts in the fashionable cafes of Warsaw, including Ziemiańska, Adria, U Aktorek, and Sztuka i Moda. Their most successful piece from the period was Lutosławski’s Paganini Variations for two pianos. The piece was written in 1941 and the duo performed it regularly during the war.
Andrzej Panufnik was born in Warsaw in 1914 and went on to study composition and conducting at the Warsaw Conservatory. After the war, he held conducing posts and developed a compositional career. He left Poland illegally in 1954 and emigrated to Britain. There he served as music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra from 1957 to 1959, but after 1959 he devoted himself exclusively to composition. From the time of his defection until 1977, performances of his works in Poland were banned. He made his only visit to Poland after the collapse of communism in 1990. On January 1, 1991, Queen Elizabeth II bestowed on Panufnik a knighthood for his services to British culture. He died in October the same year.
Witold Lutosławski was born in 1913 in Warsaw, however, at that time the city was not Polish, but part of the Imperial Russian province of Vistulaland. In 1915, in order to escape the advance of Hindenberg's army from East Prussia, the Lutosławski’s fled to Moscow. There they fell instead into the Russian Revolution. Lutosławski studied piano and the violin and later composition with Witold Maliszewski, who also became his professor of composition at the Warsaw Conservatory during the 1930s. During the Nazi occupation, Lutosławski supported himself and his family by performing at the Warsaw cafes with the Panufnik. The composer later emerged as one of the most prominent of 20th-century. His honours include the Koussevitzky, Herder, Ravel, Sibelius, Grawemeyer and UNESCO Awards, as well as the Gold Medal of the Royal Philharmonic Society in London, the Polar Music Prize and the Kyoto Prize. He also received the Order of the White Eagle, the highest Polish state distinction. He died in 1994.
Alixandra Porembski, English Language Annotator