Andrzej Panufnik (1910-1991) : Symphonic Works Vol. 1
CPO 777 497-2

Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Lukasz Borowicz
rec. Polish Radio Witold Lutoslawski Concert Studio,
Warsaw, January-July 2008. DDD



In the Tragic Overture an irate little note cell keeps things restless. A lyrical and even sentimental idea often allotted to flute and other solo instruments sings above the terror of that ruthless little cell.
Towards the end it is as if the battle between orchestra and side drum in Nielsen’s Fifth is emulated here in notated form between whooping lyrical paean and the thudding and howling mindless violence. Here the violence wins – the multiple betrayals around the Warsaw Uprising?

Nocturne , a sort of contemplation of night scenes from which emerges a grim climax which then dissipates and returns to the nocturnal miasma. It’s a long sustained episode running close to 18 minutes. Again this music of night has a shredded dissonant sweetness carried by high violins.

Heroic Overture is clamorous but it is a euphorically exciting piece that celebrates heroism in irresistible terms while not diluting the surrounding slaughter. It looks back again to those appalling war years the composer spent in Warsaw from 1941 to 1945.

The murder of thousands of Polish officers in the Katyn forest in 1943 is most movingly marked in the tragic Katyn Epitaph. Sorrowing beauty is carried by the searing violins rather than in fanfares.

A Procession for Peace was written in 1983 to a commission by the GLC. It has no specific programme but is dedicated “to peace-loving people of every political and philosophical creed.” A persistent side-drum establishes a military reference over which a pacific woodwind chorale rises and falls.
Strings take over the role of the woodwind yet things end with the lyrical theme rising to grand heights. Momentarily there’s a touch of Rozsa here. But the brass whoops at the end are and can only be Panufnik.

Harmony was conducted by the composer at its premiere at the Tilles Center, New York in 1989. It was dedicated to the composer’s wife Camilla. The mood is strange, tender, idyllic, Bergian perhaps – it present s tough aspect and needs repeat hearings.