• Panufnik’s Escape (2)

Scarlett Panufnik vanished from public attention once she and Andrzej Panufnik divorced in 1958.  Andrzej Panufnik was her fourth husband – they fell for one another in 1950 during her honeymoon with her third husband – and she was by all accounts vivacious, seductive and socially ambitious.  Of Irish stock, she found herself in Poland after the Second World War and cut quite a figure in Warsaw during the years prior to her departure for London in March 1954.

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Scarlett and Andrzej Panufnik, London, 1956. Another shot from the same session provides the frontispiece for ‘Out of the City of Fear’.

Panufnik did manage to join her in July 1954 and two years later she wrote an account of her time in Poland in the autobiographical Out of the City of Fear (1956).  The book has a breathlessness bordering on the sensational, and it has its shortcomings and lacunae (one of which is failing to mention her second and third marriages).  It soon disappeared from view – times had moved on.  But its portrayal of life in post-war Poland does have socio-historical value, and much of it reads more convincingly than it has often been given credit for.  This is especially true of the final four chapters.  These constitute her diary of the four months that she spent alone in London while waiting on tenterhooks for her husband to find a way to leave Poland and seek asylum in the UK.  Her part in preparing for his escape and keeping everything under wraps was invaluable.

Panufnik acknowledged her role in his 1987 autobiography, Composing Myself, and it is through this prism that she has since been viewed.  Two recent articles in Polish have broadened the perspective, even if some of their conclusions are debatable.  Danuta Gwizdalanka’s ‘Ucieczka z państwa grozy‘ (Escape from the State of Terror), Ruch Muzyczny (23 August 2014), covers some of the same ground as my two articles on Panufnik’s escape but goes on to examine its aftermath.  Magdalena Grochowska’s Przynęta i obroża Andrzeja Panufnika (Andrzej Panufnik.  Bait and Collar), Gazeta Wyborcza (25 October 2014), takes an even more critical and well-referenced look at Panufnik in the post-war period.

The final chapter of Out of the City of Fear covers the five days from 10-14 July 1954 once Scarlett Panufnik received a phone call from her husband to say that he had reached Zürich.  If all went to plan, he would be in London in a few days’ time.  I have based my article linked to this post, Panufnik’s Escape (2): Scarlett’s Memoir, on the relevant excerpts from Chapter 17 and set their chronology between that of the Polish Legation (1954) and Andrzej Panufnik’s account in his autobiography.  The three versions make for interesting reading, even if they do raise more questions than they answer.

• Panufnik’s Escape (1)

In the annals of defections from the Polish People’s Republic in the 1950s, that of Andrzej Panufnik in July 1954 is one of the least likely.  He was not a fighter pilot like Franciszek Jarecki or Zdzisław Jazwiński, who flew MiG jets to Denmark in March and May 1953.  Nor was Panufnik a senior figure in Urząd Bezpieczeństwa (Poland’s Department of Security) like Lieutenant-General Józef Światło, who defected via the US military mission in West Berlin while on a visit to East Berlin in November 1953.

Nor was Panufnik living abroad when he defected, unlike the writer Czesław Miłosz, who was the Polish Cultural Attaché in Paris when he decided to seek political asylum in France in 1951.  There were some Polish composers who were living abroad, especially in France.  One of these, Roman Palester, had left Poland a couple of years after the Second World War, when it was still possible to do so.  He effectively emigrated fully in 1949, moving to Munich in 1952, where he worked for Radio Free Europe.

Act-alone defectors such as these had a relatively immediate, if sometimes high-risk transition from communist Poland to the capitalist West.  Panufnik’s escape, however, was prolonged (six days) and he was totally dependent on others for its successful outcome.  In effect, he did not spring free; he was sprung.

Scan 5The best-known narrative of Panufnik’s flight from Warsaw to London via Zürich comes from his autobiography, Composing Myself, published 33 years later in 1987.  His fear and nervousness are vividly recalled, but how accurate is his account?  In the first of two related articles, posted today, I compare his story with an official one-page Polish memo written in Switzerland the day after Panufnik landed at Heathrow.

Read on!

• Letters from 1950

Reproduced here for the first time is a letter dated 21 April 1950.  It is from Andrzej Panufnik, who expresses his desire to write a Revolutionary Symphony.  Not heard of this work before?  That’s not surprising, because he never wrote it. Instead, the project transmuted itself into his Symphony of Peace (1951).

Scan 4The source of this letter, and of letters from over 50 other Polish composers, is a file I stumbled across in a Polish archive, half a century after it was sent.  I have written about Panufnik’s letter and Lutosławski’s before, and my article on this collection was published online by the Polish Music Center in Los Angeles in 2002.  I have now republished it here – File 750: Composers, Politics and the Festival of Polish Music (1951) – alongside updated appendices.

These letters from 1950 provide an insider’s view of how composers navigated the system of commissions and funding at the height of socialist realism, what they had already written that they deemed suitable, what they wanted to write, how they justified their proposals, how much they thought they were worth financially, and how much the Minister of Culture rated them.  There are further research questions to be asked of this primary material, not least of which is the fact that the majority of the proposed compositions never materialised.  Here, for starters, is my initial survey from 2002.

• The Spoils of Warsaw

One of the many joys of visiting Poland over the decades has been searching out scores, books and recordings (not to mention classic posters and dark spadziowy honey).  This year was no different.  I’d not been in Warsaw since last November, so there was plenty to catch up on and to indulge my hunter-gatherer tendencies.

There are two major music shops in Warsaw.  One is SAWART (online Polish-language link here) on Moliera at Plac Teatralny near Teatr Wielki.  The other is the shop in what used to be the Akademia Muzyczna Fryderyka Chopina and what is now the Uniwersytet Muzyczny Fryderyka Chopina.  You can also find CDs and DVDs in branches of EMPIK and at Teatr Wielki’s own shop.

Books

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 16.00.45Two Panufnik volumes have appeared in Poland in his centenary year.  The first is a reissue of his autobiography Composing Myself (1987), translated in 1990 as Panufnik o Sobie (Panufnik on Himself), although this paperback omitted the photographs from the UK edition.  It has been republished in hardback as Panufnik. Autobiografia with a supplementary section by his widow Camilla covering the final years of his life.  An English-language reprint, likewise updated and with additional documentation, is in press … watch this space.

The next Panufnik publication is the third in a sequence of interview recollections published by Polish Music Publishers PWM.  Scan 3First was Górecki. Portret w pamięci (Górecki. A Portrait in Memory, 2013), consisting of 42 interviews carried out by Beata Bolesławska-Lewandowska. The second, slimmer volume inaugurated a new series ‘Rozmowy o kompozytorach’ (Conversations on Composers) and heralded a new design.  The interviews for Lutosławski. Skrywany wulkan (Lutosławski. A Hidden Volcano, 2013) were carried out by Aleksander Laskowski and focused on just four conductors: Edward Gardner, Simon Rattle, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Antoni Wit.  Both of these publications won major book prizes in Poland this year. Laskowski’s interviews will be published in English by Chester Music.

Scan 4Now comes Panufnik. Architekt emocji (Panufnik. Architect of Emotion, 2014), with a preface by the poet Adam Zagajewski.  It was launched during this year’s ‘Warsaw Autumn’ in the presence of Panufnik’s widow Camilla.  The author is again Beata Bolesławska-Lewandowska, whose authoritative biography (PWM, 2001) will be published in English by Ashgate in the coming months.  She spoke to twelve people:

Łukasz Borowicz, the conductor of the comprehensive cpo series of eight CDs of Panufnik’s orchestral music
Roxanna Panufnik, Panufnik’s daughter and composer
Andrzej Dzierżyński, the painter and family friend, whose images adorn the covers of all but one (no.2) of the eight cpo CDs
Gerard Schwarz, conductor-laureate of the Seattle SO with whom he made a CD of Panufnik’s music in 1996
Stanisław Skrowaczewski, the conductor and composer, still active on the podium aged 91, who knew Panufnik early in their lives
Wanda Wiłkomirska, the violinist whose 1980 performance of Panufnik’s Violin Concerto can be heard on the new ninateka.pl site
Camilla Panufnik, the composer’s widow and tireless supporter since they met in England in the early 1960s
Ewa Pobłocka, who has made two commercial recordings of Panufnik’s Piano Concerto, one of them under the composer’s baton
Mark Stephenson, the British conductor who worked closely with the composer in his later years
Wojciech Michniewski, an insightful interpreter of contemporary Polish music who shared the podium with Panufnik during the concert when the composer conducted his Tenth Symphony in Warsaw in September 1990
Jem Panufnik, Panufnik’s son and graphic designer and musician
Julian Anderson, composer

I’ve not had time to read the interviews properly, but one observation by Julian Anderson caught my attention.  He concludes (p.243) that ‘one of the main things that Panufnik bequeathed to Polish music after his escape was the Polish experimental creativity that developed after 1956’ (I am translating from the Polish; these may not have been Anderson’s exact words).  This demands more scrutiny than this post allows, so I will return to this anon.

Scan 5Another book just hitting the shops is a compilation of writings by the music critic and broadcaster Andrzej Chłopecki, who died in 2012 in his early fifties: Dziennik Ucha. Słuchane na ostro (Ear Diary. Sharp Listening).  Chłopecki’s loss is still keenly felt, because he was unafraid to speak his mind, was not fazed by the establishment and quizzed everyone and everything.  His writings and charismatic radio broadcasts brought zest and intelligent prickliness to musical and philosophical debate.  This collection, running to over 500 pages,  brings together Chłopecki’s columns for Res Publica Nowa – ‘Dziennik Ucha’ (Ear Diary, 1993-98) and Gazeta Wyborcza – ‘Słuchane na ostro’ (Sharp Listening, 2001-11).  His range was astonishing.  His essays give pause for thought as well as huge enjoyment.  Sadly, they are unlikely to be translated into English.

However, there is good news on a related front.  The collection of Chłopecki’s essays on Lutosławski’s compositions, published as Andrzej Chłopecki. PostSłowie (Andrzej Chłopecki. AfterWord) in 2012, is a testament to his ability to look at – and to enable listeners to hear – music afresh.  And in the case of a composer as much discussed and analysed as Lutosławski, that was a very special gift.  The book, which he oversaw in the smallest detail and signed off just before his death, has now been translated into English by John Comber and may be out by the end of this year.

Encyklopedia Muzyczna

Finally, I have completed the set.  EM’s first volume ‘ab’ was published 35 years ago.  The series was completed by vol.12 ‘w-ż’ in two years ago.  There have also been supplements, necessary given the protracted timespan of the encyclopaedia – ‘ab’ (1998) and cd (2001) – although this process has stalled.  Instead, PWM has brought out special composer supplements: Chopin (2010), Górecki (2011), Szymanowski (2012) and Wieniawski (2011).  The Górecki volume is quite slight.  It runs to just 18 pages and was issued to commemorate the composer after his death in 2010.  It has an updated work list (but does not include posthumously released works like the Fourth Symphony), bibliography and a brand-new essay by Maciej Jabłoński.  The others supplements are more substantive: the Wieniawski has over 70 pages, the Szymanowski over 130 and the Chopin 180.Scan 2

This time I picked up a copy of the Lutosławski supplement (77 pages), published in 2013. In addition to an essay written by the late Jadwiga Paja-Stach and by Zbigniew Skowron, there are individual entries on over 60 performers, composers, poets, publishers and authors closely associated with him.  It is an honour to have been included in this distinguished gathering.

Recordings

Scan 7Various CDs have come my way in recent months, not least a range of discs from the ever-productive DUX company.  I also received a smart boxed set from Sinfonia Varsovia issued to mark the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising and the end of Word War II.  This non-commercial 3-CD set is called (a little loosely) Anthology of Polish Contemporary Music 1939-1945 and it contains much music that is hard to find elsewhere on disc.  The conducting duties for the twelve pieces are shared between Renato Rivolta (6), Jerzy Maksymiuk (5) and Jacek Kaspszyk (1).  There is an excellent booklet essay by Katarzyna Naliwajek-Mazurek.  The complete repertoire is:

Grażyna Bacewicz, Overture (1943)
Andrzej Czajkowski, Piano Concerto no.2 (1966-71), with Maciej Grabowski
Tadeusz Zygfryd Kassern, Concerto for String Orchestra (1943)
Stefan Kisielewski, Concerto for Chamber Orchestra (1944, 1949)
Witold Lutosławski, Symphonic Variations (1938)
Andrzej PanufnikTragic Overture (1942)
Andrzej Panufnik, Sinfonia elegiaca (1957, 1966)
Karol Rathaus, Music for Strings (1941)
Ludomir RóżyckiPietà. On Smouldering Ruins of Warsaw (1942, 1944)
Antoni Szałowski, Overture (1936)
Aleksander Tansman, Rapsodia polska (1940)
Mieczysław Weinberg, Cello Concerto (1948), with Marcel Markowski

Contemporary composers in Poland have as difficult time as anywhere getting their music heard and recorded, but there have been some initiatives in recent years to plug some of the gaps.  The ‘Warsaw Autumn’ annual chronicle of seven or more CDs provides a permanent reminder of live performances.  The chronicle is non-commercial, but libraries, institutes and interested individuals may request to be put on the distribution list.  The recordings come with either the Polish or English programme book for the year.  Enquiries may be made via this link.

In 2009, DUX launched an initiative called Young Polish Composers in Homage/Tribute to Frederic Chopin, in honour of the composer’s bicentenary in 2010.  The eleven CDs in the series introduced ten Polish composers and one Czech to the wider public:

Stanisław Bromboszcz (b.1980): Chamber Music, DUX 0746
Michał Dobrzyński (b.1980): Expression DUX 0752
Marcin Gumiela (b.1980): Sacred Works DUX 0753
Paweł Hendrich (b.1979): Chamber Works DUX 0754
Michał Moc (b.1977): Emotions DUX 0756
Dariusz Przybylski (b.1984): Works for Orchestra DUX 0721
• Weronika Ratusińska (b.1977): Works for Orchestra DUX 0723
Agnieszka Stulgińska (b.1978): Chamber Works DUX 0759
Sławomir Zamuszko (b.1973): Works for Orchestra DUX 0724
Wojciech Ziemowit Zych (b.1976): Works for Orchestra DUX 0722
+ the Czech composer
• Kryštof Mařatka (b.1972): Chamber Works DUX 0784

DUX prefaced the series in 2008 with a double sampler CD DUX 0635/0636, with mostly different pieces plus works by two other composers who did not go on to have had their own individual CDs: Marcin Stańczyk (b.1977) and Marcin Tomasz Strzelecki (b.1975).

On my visit to Warsaw last week I came across a more recent series devoted mostly to an older generation of Polish composers.  Under the heading Polish Music Today. Portraits of Contemporary Polish Composers, Polish Radio and the Polish Music Information Centre launched ten CDs earlier this year.  They are available via the Polish Radio online shop (click on links below), where you will also find information on each composer and tracks, but only in Polish.  The intention is to develop the project further.  The ten lucky composers so far are:

Magdalena Długosz (b.1954): PRCD 1743
Jacek Grudzień (b.1961): PRCD 1746
Aleksander Kościów (b.1974): PRCD 1750
Zbigniew Penherski (b.1935): PRCD 1741
Jarosław Siwiński (b.1964): PRCD 1747
Michał Talma-Sutt (1969): PRCD 1748
Ewa Trębacz (1973): PRCD 1749
Tadeusz Wielecki (b.1954): PRCD 1744
Anna Zawadzka-Gołosz (1955): PRCD 1745
Lidia Zielińska (b.1953): PRCD 1742

Now I must get down to some serious reading and listening…

• Signposting Panufnik

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My thanks to Michał Kubicki for taking the trouble to photograph the new sign for Aleja Andrzeja Panufnika (Andrzej Panufnik Avenue).  It was unveiled yesterday in Warsaw in the presence of Panufnik’s widow Camilla and son Jeremy. Officials present included the Mayor of Warsaw.

The avenue is located in Morskie Oko (Eye of the Sea) Park in the Mokotów district south of Warsaw’s city centre.  It runs directly east from the arterial Puławska Street that heads south through Warsaw.  The newly-named avenue leads to the Szuster Palace, where one of Panufnik’s grandmothers once lived.  It was an area that Panufnik knew very well, and it is a nice touch that the Warsaw Music Society now has its headquarters in the palace.

• Panufnik’s Mushrooms (1991)

I met Panufnik only once, and that was in odd circumstances.  Although I had been at the ‘Warsaw Autumn’ in 1990 when he made his one and only return to Poland, I didn’t meet him then.  It was not until the following year that fate intervened, a month before he died.

At the end of September 1991, I called in at the ‘Warsaw Autumn’ temporary office on the first floor of the Europejski Hotel to thank the staff for once again hosting me as a guest of the festival.  There was a lady standing there, tenderly holding a package: “Do you know of anyone going to London after the festival?”, she was asking.  I replied that I was leaving at that moment.  “Ah, could you do me a great favour?  Andrzej Panufnik has expressed a wish to have wild mushroom soup, so I have been to the forest and picked these for him.  Do you think you could take them to Twickenham?”  I was only to happy to oblige.

I was living in London then, working at BBC Radio 3, so once I landed at Heathrow I hopped into a taxi and arrived at the Panufnik home mid-evening.  I knocked on the door.  Camilla Panufnik opened it and was puzzled by this stranger standing there, holding a dubious package.  “I’ve brought mushrooms for you from Warsaw”, I spluttered. “Oh, thank you!  You must come in and meet Andrzej.”

I was led upstairs to meet the composer, who was in a quietly cheery mood and thrilled to receive these fungal goodies from Poland.  Not wishing to tire him with any prolonged conversation, I quickly bid my farewells and got back into the taxi.  I gathered later that the soup was delicious and much appreciated.  I was just glad to have been one link in a chain that brought him some contentment in his last weeks.

• New Sikorski & Panufnik websites

During this year’s Warsaw Autumn festival two new composer websites were launched.  This brings the roster of such Polish sites to eight over the past three years and they are an invaluable source for anyone wanting to learn more about Polish music.

Tomasz Sikorski‘s life and career were sadly short – he died in 1988 aged 49, and his decline is poignantly described in the biographical section of http://www.sikorski.polmic.pl/.  His music speaks of personal angst translated into obsessive repetition and an uncompromising approach to musical material, which is characteristically stark.  But it is by the same token compelling.  The focus piece is Music in Twilight, presented in video from the 2006 Warsaw Autumn.  There are a few pieces on YouTube and I wrote a post on 13 November 2013 in which I give these YouTube items (as they were available then) plus details of two recent CD issues of Sikorski’s music.

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Andrzej Panufnik needs no introduction, one might think, but his centenary year has not been as comprehensively covered in concert as one would wish.  Earlier this year, the POLMIC (Polish Music Information Centre) series in which Sikorski’s site is the latest, set up a site devoted to Panufnik.  Now, NINATEKA, hosted by Narodowy Instytut Audiowizualny (National Audiovisual Institute), has added him to its collection alongside Górecki, Lutosławski and Penderecki, whose ‘Three Composers‘ site went live at the end of 2013.  These sites are primarily audiovisual but there are also highly informative notes on each piece.   You may choose English or Polish pathways.

Almost all of Panufnik’s compositions are available on http://ninateka.pl/kolekcje/en/panufnik/ in audio format (sometimes in two performances) and there are a dozen video files. The most interesting of the latter are two fairly recent films on Panufnik: Errata do biografii (Grzegorz Braun, 2008, in English/Polish) in which Panufnik’s life is explored, especially the Polish years, and My Father, the Iron Curtain and Me (Krzysztof Rzączyński, 2009, in English/Polish), in which his son Jeremy travels to Poland to explore his relationship with his father.

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