Lutoslawski’s First Symphony ran afoul of post-WWII Polish cultural doctrines as dictated by Stalin. It was banned as “formalist” by the Communist regime in 1949, and resulted in his being shunned by the authorities. He turned to folk music as a potential source of raw material, creating what he termed 'functional compositions' such as childrens songs, meanwhile continuing to pursue his art away from the public eye.
Following the death of Stalin in 1953, greater experimentation and increased contact with the West became possible, allowing Lutoslawski to introduce more advanced techniques. The exuberant and accessible Concerto for Orchestra, was the first of his works to bring international acclaim. A champion of the Solidarity movement, his artistic support contributed to victory when free elections took place in Poland in 1988-9.
In January 1994, a month before his death, Lutoslawski was awarded the Order of the White Eagle, Poland’s highest honor.