• Panufnik Revised: Tragic Overture (2015)

Panufnik Revised: Tragic Overture

This article has not been published in any other format.  It was posted on 9 March 2015.

Panufnik’s Uwertura tragiczna (Tragic Overture) has symbolic as well as musical significance.  Its history is irrevocably tied up with Panufnik’s experiences of the Second World War – composition in 1942, premiere on 19 March 1944, inadvertent destruction some months later after the Warsaw Uprising, and subsequent reconstitution in 1945.  It was published in April 1948 by PWM in Kraków, revised in 1955 after his flight to England and published in 1959 by Boosey & Hawkes in London.

Tragic Overture came to embody not only Panufnik’s personal and family traumas during the Nazi occupation but also that of Poland itself and its post-war view of itself.  It was programmed frequently after publication (when measured against other post-war Polish compositions) and not just in the concert hall.  Last November, I came across programmes for several performances (in Warsaw and in and around Katowice) in October-December 1949 alone.  One of these was at a concert in Chorzów, close to Katowice, to celebrate the unveiling of a bust of Chopin to mark the 100 anniversary of his death.  This invitation – extended to the editorial office of the local Party newspaper – also reveals the politicised nature of the day’s extended ceremonies.  The evening concert took place in the local House of Culture. The bust of Chopin is still in place, with the simple inscription: FRYDERYK CHOPIN 1810-1849.

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In subsequent articles in this series on the revisions that Panufnik made to the orchestral scores from his ‘Polish’ period (up to 1954), I will be looking at the musical changes.  The situation with Tragic Overture is different. His revisions a year later for Boosey & Hawkes were marginal – they amounted to little more than tweaking for copyright reasons.  They included adding occasional accents, cutting ‘!‘ from molto at the end of a few crescendo hairpins, and losing glissando/portamento lines for the flutes at figs 12 and 18 (PWM score, below) while retaining those for brass and strings in the latter stages of the piece.

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Tragic Overture is much more significant, however, for being his – indeed, ‘the’ – first score to use new principles of layout, all of which were abandoned by B&H in its conventionally notated score of 1959 (I wonder how happy Panufnik was with that…).  In short, Panufnik wanted empty staves to be removed and active staves linked vertically, bar by bar, with broken lines, as can be seen above and below.  Sustained notes were to be stretched over bar lines not by ties to subsequent noteheads but by a single straight line (although the composer did not apply this everywhere, as can be seen above).  The example below starts on the second page of the PWM score, four bars before fig.2.

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The MS indicates that the ligatures are not all Panufnik’s (blue markings are probably the work of PWM’s copy editor).  If so, Panufnik was being more radical than previously thought.  His idea was to clarify the look of the score, to make it less cluttered (he would subsequently discard the broken vertical lines for even greater clarity).

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The 1945 manuscript in the Jagiellonian Library in Kraków shows Panufnik’s insistence on his new printing procedures, although his changes are not all evident in the original score but in written instructions added at the pre-publication stage.  Sadly, two double-leaved sections of the manuscript have disappeared: pages 18-21 (from fig.33, b.5 to eight bars before fig.39) and pages 34-37 (from fig.66 b.4 to three bars before fig.73).  Both PWM and B&H keep to Panufnik’s numbering.  PWM follows Panufnik’s pagination almost exactly, indicating that he had written it out with the final ‘look’ of the published score at the front of his mind.

Panufnik’s Manuscript of Tragic Overture

Panufnik uses 30-stave paper published by PWM.  Even though this manuscript – or, rather, fair copy –  is placed and dated ‘Warsaw, 1942’, and gives no indication that this was a 1945 reconstruction from memory of the lost original manuscript, the fact that it is written out on PWM paper is evidence that it was done no earlier (and probably much later) than May 1945, when PWM was founded.  The implication is that this fair copy was for the PWM printers to work from as they prepared the work for publication.

That date might therefore suggest that this manuscript dates from as late as 1947.  At some later stage, probably when it was acquired by the Jagiellonian University library, the sequential double sheets were bound in their hard cover.  At the same time, the pages were repaired.  Many of the edges were worn from fingering, though not as badly as later manuscripts that Panufnik also used as conducting scores.  There are no markings here to suggest that he had used this fair copy for that purpose, even though he must have conducted from it (unless he had a second hand-written copy, which seems unlikely).  I have found evidence of only one post-war performance of Tragic Overture (in Warsaw or Kraków) before April 1948: Panufnik conducted it in Kraków on 10 January 1946.  He subsequently conducted it abroad: in Paris on 5 August 1946 (with L’Orchestre National de France) and in Berlin on 11 January 1948 (with the Berliner Philharmonisches Orchester).  Its first post-publication outing was in Marseilles on 5 May 1948, when he conducted it on tour with the Warsaw Philharmonic.

There are places on the MS where Panufnik had second thoughts.  These took various forms.  The more material of these is where on occasion he rewrote short passages, usually to bring more air into the texture.  He thoroughly scratched out the offending notes, probably with a razor blade.

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Presentational revisions were aimed at clarity, as where he wanted to combine two staves in one.

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It is on the opening pages that Panufnik lays out his stall compositionally and graphically.  Oddly, their sequence goes: title page, first page of score, Uwagi (Notes), Uwagi (Notes, cont.), second page of score etc.. This is just how they were bound, because the back-to-back pages of Notes are the only ones where Panufnik has used the PWM MS paper upside down.

Title Page

The title page is headed with the composer’s name, centre, with the place and date of composition underneath.  This latter information is placed here and not underneath the title, where it properly belongs.  This was corrected on the title page of the PWM score, which also gives the names and addresses of its partner publishers abroad.  This indicates that at least as late as April 1948 Polish institutions still had viable contact and copyright agreements with their counterparts beyond the ‘Iron Curtain’.  Also on the manuscript, in pencil, top left, is the instrumental tally in vertical format.  Its abbreviations link forward to the pages that follow.

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First Page of Score

After the hammer-blow rhythm of the opening two bars (surely derived, as I have long suggested, from the BBC wartime morse code signal for ‘V’ for victory, itself allied to the rhythmic cell from the opening movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony), the page is bare of anything but the upwardly curling motivic sequence in the double basses, soon joined by bassoon.  Panufnik has marked in the vertical broken line for fig.1.  There are also some grey-pencil wavy lines which seem to indicate that the staves should be got rid of, but are they in Panufnik’s hand? The blue-pencil markings indicate roughly where further vertical broken lines should go plus written memos: dopisać pięcolinie z pauzami + przerywane linie taktów) (insert staves with pauses and dotted bar lines) and bez klucza (without clef).  These blue commentaries are not, I think, in Panufnik’s hand, so presumably were made at PWM. Their admonitions do not wholly tally with the finished score.

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Uwagi (Notes)

In the bound manuscript, the first page of the score (above) is on the left, faced on the right-hand side by an interleaved page of style instructions by Panufnik (below).  He spells out seven points (summarised below):

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1) Rehearsal figures to be placed just once and large, for example between the group of wind instruments and the strings [AT: in the event, Panufnik’s suggestion of enclosing each figure in a square box was modified to circular enclosures]
2) Staves to be drawn only where notes and clefs are written.  In other places – no staves, like a white open area [AT: although the dotted vertical lines mentioned in 4) below rather militate against any expanses of unmarked page, something which Panufnik improved on in the PWM publication of subsequent pieces]
3) Every page of the score, apart from the first, a) all instrumental parts to start, as on pp. 2, 3 etc., but not like the wrongly notated pp.6-26 (i.e., a clef in brackets [except p.1!] – and with a line after it to mark the beginning of the bar), b) to finish like pp.1-7 and not like the other pages [AT: the brackets were not used, but the vertical line between clef and first bar was adopted by PWM]
4) Dotted vertical lines apply in two circumstances: a) linking groups of instruments (or sometimes single ones) at the start of every page, b) linking in those places where there are rehearsal figures [AT: in practice, the linking under a) was for every bar being played]
5) Dynamics: a) the largest refer to all instruments, the whole orchestra, b) middle-sized – to groups (of more than two instruments), c) smallest – to single instruments [AT: in the event, only two sizes of number were used – b) and c) were amalgamated]
6) Names of instruments – larger and more pronounced than usual.  On the other hand, numbers and other supplementary indications – small (maybe in italics?) [AT: these were adopted – the instrumental abbreviations were not in Panufnik’s original score]
7) The percussion to be written consistently on one line [AT: rather than on a five-line stave; there was no pitched percussion].

Uwagi (Notes, cont.)

On the other side of the page, Panufnik drew a rough plan of how he wanted pages to look, with the long line across, up and across the page marking off the ‘white’ area covered by 2).  He also added an eighth point:

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8) Brackets should be like this [straight, not with curved ends] a) for divisi strings and b) for wind instruments with the same name.

Panufnik would develop a few refinements in his ideas for the clarity of his scores, but he essentially fixed them in Tragic Overture.  It is just sad that Boosey & Hawkes preferred its house style to his.

© 2015 Adrian Thomas

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