Born in Warsaw in 1913, composer Witold Lutoslawski showed prodigious musical and intellectual talent from an early age. He began to study piano when he was six with Helena Hoffman, Jozef Smidowicz and A. Taube. He also studied violin with Lidia Kmitowa from 1926 to 1932. In 1930, under Witold Maliszewski's tutelage, he composed his first work, performed two years later at a public concert at Warsaw Conservatory - Taniec Chimery/Dance of the Chimera for piano. In 1932, he graduated from Warsaw Conservatory, and his studies in Warsaw ended quickly with the approach of Hitler and the advent of the Second World War. His plans for study in Paris were replaced with military training, imprisonment by the Germans and escape back to Warsaw. After the war, the Stalinist regime banned his first symphony (1941-47) as 'formalist', but he continued to compose. With the exception of his composition Paganini Variations for two pianos (1941), few works from before 1945 were published. In 1958, his Musique Funèbre, in memory of Bartok, established his international reputation. Later works have included Little Suite for orchestra (1951), the Concerto for Orchestra (1954) and the Dance Preludes for clarinet and piano (1954).
Among many international prizes awarded to Lutoslawski were the UNESCO Prize (1959,1968), the French order of Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres (1982), Grawemeyer Award (1985), Royal Philharmonic Society Gold Medal (1986), and in 1994, the Swedish Polar Music Prize and the Inamori Foundation Prize, Kyoto, for his outstanding contribution to contemporary European music, and, posthumously, the International Music Award for best large-scale composition for the fourth symphony.