• WL100/54: Lutosławski and Panufnik (1945)

Here are two forgotten assessments of Lutosławski and Panufnik from 1945.  I think that this is the first time that this material has been seen in modern times.  On one of my rummages in second-hand bookshops in Kraków, back in the 1990s, I came across a bundle of concert programme, one of which I featured in an earlier Lutosławski post: WL100/43: Variations, **17 June 1939.  This second programme, which I explored in the preceding post WL100/53: Trio, **2 September 1945, has the biographies of the five composers on the back page.  In fact, the biographical elements on Lutosławski and Panufnik take second place to assessments of the composers’ creative personae.  It is not indicated who wrote them.  I’ve translated the two for Lutosławski and Panufnik below.

WL program 2.09.45 4

WITOLD LUTOSŁAWSKI b. 1913 represents the youngest generation of Polish composers and, among them, the direction of the “extreme left”.  This avant-gardism expresses itself in Lutoslawski in the openly fanatical pursuit of logic and rigour in the design of his prevailing use of polyphony as a means towards these goals, searching absolutely for his own sound world, as far removed as possible from that used by previous generations of composers.  It is especially interesting to find that this avant-gardism appeared in Lutoslawski independently, as an expression of his own internal needs.  During his studies he found no external stimulus in this direction, nor did the environment in which he grew up and was educated have the slightest intrusive impact.  He completed his music studies at the Warsaw Conservatory in the class of Witold Maliszewski, one of the representatives of the most conservative tendency among our composers and teachers.
Among the most important works by Lutoslawski we may mention: Piano Sonatas (which he has performed several times), Symphonic Variations (performed at the Wawel Festival in 1939), Variations on a Theme of Paganini for two pianos, fragments of a Requiem, piano pieces and songs.  Currently he is working on a symphony, of which the first movement is already fully completed, the rest in sketches.

This biography is fascinating for several reasons: (1) the placing of Lutosławski as a radical “extreme left” composer on the basis, presumably, of his main composition so far, the Symphonic Variations, (2) the early indication of his life-long desire for logic and rigour, (3) the emphasis on polyphonic writing (with only a few pieces as evidence) as distinct from the later emphasis on harmony, (4) the strong statement about Lutosławski’s independence from external sources and events (something which he reiterated over and again until the end of his life), and (5) the deliberate distancing from his teacher Maliszewski, whom later he often cited as a key influence on his structural thinking while recognising Maliszewski’s disapproval of the Symphonic Variations.  Given the strength of opinion expressed in this paragraph, it wouldn’t surprise me at least if it was written by the unknown author on the basis of a detailed briefing from the composer.  I don’t have the feeling that Lutosławski penned it himself (see the error mentioned in the paragraph below).

The list of works curiously multiplies the Piano Sonata.  This is the only time that I have read any suggestion that there might be more than one!  It also reveals where Lutosławski was in the composition of the First Symphony (1941-47).  We may now date the completion of the first movement as by August 1945 at the latest, with the other three movements being finished over the following two years.

ANDRZEJ PANUFNIK, whose “Tragic Overture” was such a success in Kraków’s last concert season*, is the second strong supporter – alongside Lutosławski – of radical trends among our youngest composers. And with him at the forefront, the quest for the greatest formal logic is advancing, and for the most part he experiments with clearly positive results in the pursuit of a new musical language.  At the same time, a very specific note of lyricism is revealed in his music, which gives his pieces the most distinctive physiognomy.
Panufnik is the author of: Variations for piano, Trio for violin, cello and piano, Folk Songs with wind instr. accomp., Songs with chamber orchestra, “Tragic Overture”, Orchestral Variations, Symphonic Image and two symphonies.
As an outstandingly gifted conductor himself, he is the best performer of his symphonic works.  In recent times, he has worked regularly with the Polish Film Unit in Łódż.

Panufnik’s biography is interesting for largely different reasons.  He has long been regarded as the most experimental Polish composer of the second half of the 1940s, so it is fascinating to see that he already bore this mantle in 1945 with a work like Tragic Overture (1942, reconstructed 1945) and that the lyrical side of his music achieves prominent notice at a moment when he was focusing on tight motivic cells.  The list of works includes some that had been lost during the Second World War and have generally been left out of his list of works since, including his early student Variations for piano, the Symphonic Variations – which Panufnik had conducted in the graduation concert – and Symphonic Image (both works were composed during Panufnik’s last year at the Warsaw Conservatoire, 1935-36) as well as the two symphonies (1940, 1941).**  The Songs with chamber orchestra are unidentifiable.

…….

* The dates of the wartime premiere in Warsaw of Tragic Overture vary according to the source: the Polish Encyklopedia Muzyczna and Panufnik’s autobiography Composing Myself give 1943, while the monographs by Beata Bolesławska and Ewa Siemdaj give 19 March 1944.  As to the premiere in Kraków of the reconstructed score, Siemdaj gives 10 January 1946, but this leaflet indicates that it was given sometime during the 1944-45 season.
** In his autobiography, Panufnik noted: ‘I then decided to try to rescue my Symphony no.1.  But here my memory faltered and the results were disappointing.  I performed it in one of our symphony concerts, but afterwards destroyed the score.  With that I renounced further reconstruction work…’.  Concert programmes from Kraków indicate that Panufnik conducted the premiere of his reconstructed First Symphony on 30 November 1945, and again on 6 December.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: