Born in 1913 in Warsaw, he graduated in piano and composition from the Warsaw Conservatoire where he studied with Jerzy Lefeld and Witold Maliszewski (1936-37). He was a member of the Board (1959-65) and Vice-President (until 1969) of the International Society for Contemporary Music. He lectured at European and American schools of music, as well as at courses for composers. As one of the most outstanding contemporary composers, he was elected an honorary member of the ISCM and a member of several academies (Royal Swedish Academy of Music, Freie Akademie der Künste in Hamburg, Deutsche Akademie der Künste, American Academy of Arts and Letters, Royal Academy of Music in London, Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Académie Européenne des Arts et des Lettres, Académie Européenne des Sciences). He was also an honorary member of the Polish Composers' Union and the Association of Professional Composers in London. He held honorary doctorates from the Warsaw University, Jagiellonian University in Cracow, Lancaster University, Glasgow University, Durham University, Queen's University in Belfast, Cleveland Institute of Music and McGill University in Montreal. He received numerous artistic awards, including the Polish Composers' Union annual awards for 1959 and 1973, the Minister of Culture and Arts Award, 1st Class (1962), State Award, 1st Class (1964 and 1978), International Music Council Award (1963, 1985), as well as the Koussevitzky Award (1964), Herder Award (1967), Sonning Award (1967), Ravel Award (1971), Sibelius Award (1973), Ernst von Siemens Prize (1983), "Solidarity" Award (1984), Grawemeyer Award (1985), UNESCO Award (1985), Queen Sofía Composition Prize (1985), Gold Medal of the Royal Philharmonic Society in London (1985), Koussevitzky International Record Award (1986), Gold Medal and Musician of the Year title of the Incorporated Society of Musicians (1991), medal of the Stockholm Concert Hall Foundation at the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic (1992), Polar Music Prize (1993), and Kyoto Prize (1993). He was also granted the Order of the White Eagle, Poland's highest award, in 1994.
Selected works: Symphonic Variations (1938), Variations on a Theme by Paganini for two pianos (1941), Symphony no. 1 (1947), Overture for string orchestra (1949), Concerto for Orchestra (1954), Dance Preludes for clarinet and chamber orchestra (1955), Five Songs for female voice and 30 solo instruments, to words by Kazimiera Iłłakowiczówna (1958), Musique funèbre for string orchestra (1958), Three Postludes for orchestra (1958-60), Venetian Games for orchestra (1961), Trois poèmes d'Henri Mi chaux for 20-voice choir and chamber orchestra (1963), String Quartet (1964), Paroles tissées for tenor and chamber orchestra (1965), Symphony no. 2 (1965-67), Livre pour orchestre (1968), Concerto for Cello and Orchestra (1970), Preludes and Fugue for 13 solo strings (1972), Les espaces du sommeil for baritone and orchestra (1973), Sacher Variation for cello (1975), Miparti for orchestra (1979), Novelette for orchestra (1979), Epitaph for oboe and piano (1979), Double Concerto for oboe, harp and chamber orchestra (1980), Grave for cello and piano (1981), Symphony no. 3 (1983), Chain 1 for chamber orchestra (1983), Partita for violin and piano (1984; version for violin and orchestra, 1988), Chain 2 for violin and orchestra (1985), 17 Polish Christmas Carols for female choir, soprano and chamber orchestra (1985), Chain 3 for orchestra (1986), Piano Concerto (1988), Slides for chamber ensemble (1988), Interlude for orchestra (1989), Chante eurs et chantefables for soprano and orchestra (1991), Symphony no. 4 (1992), Subito for violin and piano (1993), Fanfare for Los Angeles Philharmonic (1993).