Witold Lutosławski’s Little Suite is a work written in the composer’s youth and commissioned by the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra. It is lively and full of references to Polish folklore. Shortly before writing it, he had premiered his First Symphony, a work that caused controversy due to its avant-garde language and was fiercely criticised by the authorities in the Communist Party, who branded it formalist. With Little Suite, the composer clearly showed the possibility of free expression through play in spite of the constraints imposed by the authorities.
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Just as Lutosławski drew inspiration from Poland's songs, Gustav Mahler turned to the collection of traditional German poems and songs Des Knaben Wunderhorn: Alte deutsche Lieder (The Boy's Magic Horn: Old German Songs), compiled in 1805, to compose his song cycle of the same name. Between 1892 and 1898, a total of twelve songs were arranged by the composer. Not only did he transform them into one of his major works, but he also turned to them time and time again for his symphonies.