Duncan Hadfield
The BBC Symphony Orchestra under Andrew Davis plays Lutoslawski in London's Barbican Hall (0171-638 8891) on 17 Jan at 7.30pm

Each January at the Barbican, the BBC profiles a modern composer in an intensive three-day retrospective. This year, it's the turn of the Pole Witold Lutoslawski (1913-1994).

Somewhat marooned from mainstream European Modernism, it took Lutoslawski some time to find his true style. Under the Nazi occupation, performance of Polish music was forbidden so Lutoslawski and his compatriot Panufnik arranged 19th-century classics for two pianos which they played in cafes.

It was not until the 1950s that Lutoslawski began to find his own voice. Success came first with the virtuoso and Bartok-like Concerto for Orchestra, which ends this Friday's concert. A rigorous examination of harmonic procedures followed and by the 1960s Lutoslawski had also started introducing aleatoric or chance operations, influenced by Cage, into his scores. His experimentalism didn't end there - in the last decade of his life Lutoslawski developed a method he called "chain" in order to introduce new melodic freedoms into his music; hence "Breaking the Chains" as the title for the entire weekend.

Chain II and III can also be heard on Friday, as well as the Partita, Interlude and the Trois Poemes d'Henri Michaux, Lutoslawski's only mature choral work. Terse, often epigrammatic, Lutoslawski's pieces constantly demonstrate a questing and radical musical mind at work. The modes and means of his expression are always fastidiously honed and polished. Like many great composers, he responded in a totally individual way to the gamut of artistic possibilities open to him.

With almost nine hours of his music and 30-plus major works programmed for the Barbican next weekend, "Breaking the Chains" looks set to give Lutoslawski the thrilling tribute that is his due.


Johannes Brahms died in 1897 and centenary celebrations are well under way. The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, under Matthias Bamert, plays the lavish 1st Piano Concerto, with Yefim Bronfman as the soloist, as well as a 50th-anniversary accolade written in 1947 - Schoenberg's orchestration of the lst Piano Quartet.

Poole Arts Centre (01202 685222), 15 Jan, 7.30pm