In the years following World War II Lutoslawski found himself subjected to a similar Stalinist repression of artistic freedom in Poland to that experience by composers such as Shostakovich in the USSR. Formalism was officially condemned and Polish composers were obliged to conform to a nationalist, ‘socialist realist’ style of music. In order to make a living, Lutoslawski had to write functional music for the state radio, recording and publishing companies - music (much of it drawing on the rich heritage of Polish folk music) that he saw as having a social purpose rather than being merely a response to official requirements.
As the cultural climate began to thaw in the mid-1950s he began to be able to explore publicly the characteristic avant-garde language that he had already been working on subtly in his folk idiom, but not before saying farewell to this folklore style with the set of five Preludia taneczne (Dance Preludes) on songs from northern Poland. Originally written for clarinet and piano in 1954, he arranged them a year later for clarinet, harp, piano, percussion and strings and again in 1959 for a nonet of woodwind and strings.