To open the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s ninety-third season on September 29, 1983, Sir Georg Solti led the world premiere of Witold Lutosławski’s Symphony no. 3. The work had been commissioned by the Orchestra and was made possible by a generous gift from Mr. and Mrs. John C. Stetson.
The composer was in Chicago for the premiere and contributed to the program notes: “I began sketching my Third Symphony as early as in 1972. In the following years I composed the main movement, but subsequently I discarded it completely. It took several years for the idea to become mature and it was only in January 1983 that the whole score finally was ready. . . . When composing the symphony, I had constantly in mind the magnificent sound of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, whose recordings are still in my working room. It was a tremendous stimulus for my imagination. But on the other hand, the weight of responsibility when writing a work for such an extraordinary ensemble made me especially exacting towards myself. That is probably why the work on the symphony cost me such a long time.”
The symphony was recorded for radio broadcast on WFMT, and the recording was later released on Chicago Symphony Orchestra: The First 100 Years, issued during the centennial season in 1991. Daniel Barenboim and the Orchestra also recorded it live in concert in October 1992 for Erato Records.
Image above: Sir Georg Solti acknowledges Witold Lutosławski following the premiere of his Third Symphony on September 29, 1983 (Terry’s photo)