Upon completion of his studies in 1937, military service was up next. He was trained as a radio operator. Hoping to continue his studies in Paris, his plans were interrupted by World War II when he was put into service as a radio operator. He was taken prisoner in the fall of 1939 but managed to escape and join his mother and oldest brother in Warsaw. His brother, Henryk, was captured and died in 1940 in a work camp.
Lutosławski found work as a pianist. Working as an accompanist and eventually as part of a piano duo, he spent 4 years playing in cafés. This was really the only way to hear live music as organized gatherings had been banned so it was impossible to give a traditional concert.
The other half of the piano duo was Andrzej Panufnik. Between them they arranged and performed over 200 pieces. Almost all of them were lost when Lutosławski and his mother left Warsaw quickly in July 1944. One that was saved was Lutosławski’s Variations on a Theme by Paganini, rumoured to be a favourite among patrons at the Aria café. We will hear it played live in Toronto by Duo Turgeon on April 5, 2016.
Aria café is also the place Lutosławski met his wife, Danuta Bogusławska. They married in 1946 and were together until his death in 1994. Danuta became his copyist and a great help in finding ways to overcome some of the challenges with notation in his works.