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Andrzej Panufnik

Andrzej Panufnik,  Warsaw Autumn Festival 1990, photo: Aleksander Jałosiński Andrzej Panufnik,  Warsaw Autumn Festival 1990, photo: Aleksander Jałosiński 

Composer and conductor. Born on the 24th of September 1914, in Warsaw; died on the 27th of October 1991, in the London suburb of Twickenham.

With major concerts and activities planned for the composer's centenary in 2014 - early February has the London Symphony Orchestra playing the Third Symphony while at the Warsaw Philharmonic his Piano Concerto gets the busy year underway - his work will be receiving an international reassessment. It will be an opportunity to experience one of the 20th century's significant musical voices like that his friend Witold Lutosławski has received worldwide in 2013.  

Polish upbringing, Polish admiration

Between 1932 and 1936, Panufnik studied music theory and composition under Kazimierz Sikorski at the Warsaw Music Conservatory and ultimately graduated with honors. In 1937 and 1938, he completed a course in conducting under Felix Weingartner in Vienna, and expanded on his studies in 1938 and 1939 in Paris under Philippe Gaubert. He spent the years of the Second World War in German-occupied Warsaw, where as a pianist he participated in both permitted and illegal concerts, and performed in cafes in the legendary piano duo with Witold Lutoslawski.

He was then conductor of the Kraków Philharmonic Orchestra during 1945 and 1946 and acted as director of the Warsaw Philharmonic in 1946 and 1947. During these years, Panufnik was a guest conductor with top international ensemble - with the Berlin Philharmonic, with the L'Orchestre National in Paris, and with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1950 he was elected vice chairman of the UNESCO International Music Council, while in 1953 he headed an official Polish cultural delegation to China where he met with Chairman Mao Tse-tung.

In the period after the Second World War, Panufnik won awards in composing competitions in Poland and abroad. He received first prize in the Karol Szymanowski Composing Competition in Kraków for Nokturn / Nocturne for orchestra (1947), then a year later received the Kraków City Award for Kołysanka / Lullaby for 29 string instruments and two harps (1947). He took first prize in the Frederic Chopin Competition in Warsaw in 1949 for Sinfonia rustica for eight brass instruments and two string orchestras (1948), and first prize in 1952 in the Pre-Olympic Composing Competition organized for the Helsinki Olympics for Uwertura bohaterska / Heroic Overture for orchestra (1951-52). Panufnik received the highest state award of the Polish People's Republic the same year - the Banner of Labor first class. In 1951 and 1952 he was granted second class State Awards.

The U.K. and international renown

Unable to reconcile to restrictions on creative freedom imposed by Poland's communist regime, Panufnik left Poland in 1954. The government of the Polish People's Republic issued an order censoring the performance and publication of Panufnik's works, forbidding mention of his name in all publications and radio and television shows. The composer settled in England, where he continued to pursue a career as a conductor - between 1957 and 1959, he was musical director and conductor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. 

Later he decided to devote himself entirely to creative work. He was awarded the Prix de Composition Musicale Prince Pierre de Monaco in 1963 for his Sinfonia Sacra for orchestra (1963) then again in 1983 for lifetime achievement. In London in 1965, he received the Sibelius Centenary Medal for Composition, a medal awarded in commemoration of the centenary of the birth of the renowned composer Jean Sibelius. In 1966 in the U.S., Panufnik was named a Knight of the Mark Twain Society.

In 1977 the Governing Board of the Association of Polish Composers caused the Cultural Department of the Central Committee of Poland's ruling party to lift censorship restrictions on Panufnik and his music. That same year, the annual Warsaw Autumn festival of international contemporary music included the Polish premieres of works including Universal Prayer, a cantata for four solo voices, three harps, organ and mixed choir (1968-69), Dreamscape, a work for mezzo-soprano and piano (1976-77), and Sinfonia Mistica for orchestra (1977). In 1984 the composer became an honorary member of the Royal Academy of Music in London, while in 1987 he was made an honorary member of the Association of Polish Composers - from which he had been removed in 1954.

Panufnik published his autobiography, Composing Myself, in the U.K. in 1984. An authorized translation by Marta Glinska appeared in Poland in 1990, titled Andrzej Panufnik o sobie / Andrzej Panufnik on Himself and published in Warsaw by Niezalezna Oficyna Wydawnicza. In 1990 he received the Award of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland for his contributions to Polish culture. After an absence of 36 years, Panufnik visited Poland in 1990 on an invitation from the Warsaw Autumn festival, which presented eleven of his works. Three were conducted by the composer - Symphony No. 10 (1988), Harmony, a poem for chamber orchestra (1989), and Koncert Skrzypcowy / Violin Concerto (1971). Andrzej Panufnik was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1991. He received an honorary doctorate from the Academy of Music in Warsaw the same year, and was awarded the Polonia Restituta Medal posthumously.

Following Panufnik's death in 1991, Sir Georg Solti, one of the greatest of conductors, wrote that "he was an important composer and first-class conductor, the finest protagonist of the European tradition of music making".

Polish traits, Polish strains

When the 40-year-old Panufnik was leaving Poland in 1954, he was a highly regarded Polish composer. He settled in England, where he lived for 37 years. Did he remain a Polish composer? In an article devoted to Panufnik and published in Studio magazine on the first anniversary of the composer's death, Tadeusz Kaczyński wrote of Polish elements in Panufnik's oeuvre, including works composed while in exile

Panufnik consistently declared himself to be Polish - in overt statements and, more importantly, in his work. With the exception of a handful of pieces written to English language texts, his works retain links with his home country through historical affiliations as well as affiliations deriving from folk and religious music. This occurs in two ways - one purely musical, the other programmatic as at least some of Panufnik's works relate to events from the history of the nation and from his own life. This series of compositions opens with the Uwertura tragiczna / Tragic Overture of 1942, which emerged from the composer's experiences during World War II and the wartime occupation of Poland. Panufnik dedicated the piece to the memory of his brother, who perished during the Warsaw Uprising. [...] Panufnik's strong emotional bond with his country prompted him to dedicate the Bassoon Concerto he composed in 1984 to the memory of Father Jerzy Popiełuszko. [..] This series of Panufnik's national works is unique in Polish music of the 20th century and can be compared solely to Chopin's group of heroic Polonaises or Moniuszko's national operas. 

Polish inspirations can be found throughout nearly his entire oeuvre.As Kaczyński writes,

A few pieces written to English language texts is not enough to give Panufnik away to the English, though they would take him gladly, not having had any composers of his quality since the times of Britten.

In December 2011 BBC4 Radio broadcast Alan Hall's programme about the wartime friendship of Andrzej Panufnik and Witold Lutosławski. It won a Prix Europa for Best European Radio Music Programme of the Year in 2012:

Major compositions:

  • Trio na skrzypce, wiolonczele i fortepian / Trio for violin, cello and piano (1934)
  • Wariacje symfoniczne / Symphonic variations for orchestra (1936)
  • Obrazek symfoniczny / Symphonic picture for orchestra (1936)
  • Uwertura / Overture for orchestra (1936)
  • Symfonia nr 1 / Symphony No. 1 (1939-40)
  • Piec piesni ludowych / Five folk songs for soprano or soprano choir and five wind instruments (1940)
  • Symfonia nr 2 / Symphony No. 2 (1941)
  • Uwertura tragiczna / Tragic Overture for orchestra (1942)
  • Marsz Jaworzynski / Jaworzyna march for small orchestral ensemble (1945-46)
  • Nokturn / Nocturne for orchestra (1947)
  • Divertimento wg triow Feliksa Janiewicza / Divertimento based on Feliks Janiewicz's Trios for strings (1947)
  • Kolysanka / Lullaby for 29 string instruments and two harps (1947)
  • Krag kwintowy / Quint circle for piano (1947)
  • Sinfonia rustica for eight brass instruments and two string orchestras (1948)
  • Warszawski wiatr / Warsaw wind for voice and piano (1949)
  • Suita polska - Hommage à Chopin / Polish suite - Hommage à Chopin, five vocal works for soprano and piano (1949)
  • Suita staropolska / Old Polish Suite for string orchestra (1950)
  • Koncert gotycki / Gothic concerto for trumpet, string orchestra, harp and timpani (1951-52)
  • Symfonia Pokoju / Symphony for Peace for choir and symphony orchestra (1951)
  • Uwertura bohaterska / Heroic Overture for orchestra (1951-52)
  • Kwintet na flet, obój, 2 klarnety i fagot / Quintet for flute, oboe, two clarinets and bassoon (1952-53)
  • Rapsodia / Rhapsody for orchestra (1956)
  • Sinfonia elegiaca for orchestra (1957)
  • Polonia, orchestral suite (1959)
  • Koncert fortepianowy / Piano Concerto (1961-62)
  • Landscape, interlude for string orchestra (1962)
  • Autumn Music for chamber orchestra without violin (1962)
  • Two Lyric Pieces for young performers (1962-63)
  • Sinfonia Sacra for orchestra (1963)
  • Song to the Virgin Mary for choir a capella or six solo voices (1964)
  • Hommage a Chopin for flute and small string orchestra (1966)
  • Jagiellonian Triptych for string orchestra (1966)
  • Katyn Epitaph for orchestra (1967)
  • Reflections for piano (1968-69)
  • Universal Prayer, a cantata for four solo voices, three harps, organ and mixed choir (1968-69)
  • Thames Pageant, a cantata for young players and singers (1969)
  • Hommage a Chopin, five vocal works for soprano, piano, organ and mixed choir (1969)
  • Koncert na skrzypce i orkiestrę smyczkową / Concerto for violin and string orchestra (1971)
  • Triangles for 3 flutes and 3 cellos (1971-72)
  • Invocation for Peace, a cantata for children's voices, two trumpets, two trombones (or string and wooden wind instruments) (1972)
  • Fanfare for Europe for nine wind instruments (1972)
  • Winter Solstice, a cantata for solo voices, choir and instruments (1972)
  • Sinfonia concertante for flute, harp and strings (1973)
  • Sinfonia di Sfere for orchestra (1974-75)
  • String Quartet No. 1 (1975-76)
  • Dreamscape, a vocal work for mezzo-soprano and piano (1976-77)
  • Love Song [version I] for mezzo-soprano and piano (1976)
  • Sinfonia mistica for orchestra (1977)
  • Metasinfonia for organ, strings and timpani (1977-78)
  • Concertino for timpani, percussion and strings (1979-80)
  • Concerto festivo for orchestra (1979)
  • Sinfonia Votiva for orchestra (1980-81)
  • Paean [version I] for brass ensemble (1980)
  • Paean [version II] for 11 instruments (1980)
  • String Quartet no. 2 Messages (1980)
  • Procession for Peace for orchestra (1982-83)
  • Arbor Cosmica, 12 evocations for 12 string instruments (or string orchestra) (1983-84)
  • Koncert na fagot i mala orkiestre / Concerto for bassoon and small orchestra (1984-85)
  • Pentasonata for piano (1984)
  • Sinfonia della Speranza for orchestra (1986)
  • Song to the Virgin Mary for string sextet (1987)
  • String Sextet Trains of Thought (1987)
  • Symphony no. 10 / Symphony No. 10 for orchestra (1988)
  • Harmony, a poem for chamber orchestra (1989)
  • Modlitwa do Matki Boskiej Skępskiej / A prayer to Our Lady of Skępe for solo voice or unison choir and organ (1990)
  • String Quartet no. 3 Wycinanki / Paper Cut-Outs (1990)
  • Love Song [version II] for mezzo-soprano (or soprano), harp (or piano) and string orchestra (1991)
  • Koncert wiolonczelowy / Cello Concerto (1991)

Source: Polish Music Information Center, Polish Composers' Union, May 2002's picture
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Andrzej Panufnik


The music of Andrzej Panufnik has it own special place on the map of Polish contemporary classical music Read more about: Sinfonia di sfere - Andrzej Panufnik

Andrzej Panufnik piano concerto from 1961. A piece which may be described as practical in the best sense of the word. Read more about: Piano Concerto - Andrzej Panufnik

Arbor cosmica (The Cosmic Tree) – 12 evocations for 12 string instruments, dedicated to the memory of Sergiusz and Natalia Kusewicki, was written 1983 - 1984. This is the most outstanding and comprehensive work amongst Panufnik’s compositions for string ensembles. It derives from his adoration for trees, which, as he deeply believed, have magical powers. Read more about: Arbor Cosmica - Andrzej Panufnik

The Violin Concerto was written in 1971 by the request of Yehudi Menuhin; who also performed the piece for the first time on the 18th of July 1972 in London’s Guildhall. Read more about: Violin Concerto - Andrzej Panufnik

The album begins the series of recordings of Andrzej Panufnik's symphonic works published by the German record company in Osnabrück, in cooperation with Polish Radio... Read more about: Symphonic Works Vol. 1 - Andrzej Panufnik

Andrzej Panufnik


Andrzej Panufnik


Andrzej Panufnik


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