• Panufnik Revised: 2. Nocturne & Lullaby

For the second of five articles on Panufnik’s revisions made after he had fled to England in 1954, I have combined two works from 1947: Nocturne and Lullaby.  They remain two of his most enduring compositions, and Lullaby in particular has recently won a new following.  Nocturne is also a special piece and was subsequently held up by commentators as a pre-echo of the sonoristic developments in Polish music in the 1960s.  Curiously, Panufnik chose in his revisions of both pieces to cut out textural features that might have cemented this link to younger composers back in his native Poland.

Click here for the link to the article on Nocturne & Lullaby.

P.S.  I have not yet discovered why Nocturne was first published as Notturno.  Does anyone out there know?

• Panufnik Revised: 1. Tragic Overture

With last year’s Panufnik centenary and this year’s imminent publications – an expanded reissue of his autobiography (Toccata Press) and the English-language translation of Beata Bolesławska’s 2001 monograph (Ashgate) – it seems a good time to share a series of articles that I hope will shed new light on Panufnik’s music from his Polish period.

Panufnik was an inveterate reviser, but the post-war decade was also conditioned by his situation in communist Poland, especially by his decision to leave in 1954 and settle in England.  (Last October I put up a couple of posts and related articles on this latter topic: Panufnik’s Escape (1) ☛ article: Berne Legation Memo // Panufnik’s Escape (2)article: Scarlett’s Memoir.)

While I was preparing a conference paper for a Panufnik conference in Warsaw last September (‘Rustic – Heroic – Elegiac.  Panufnik and his Revisions’), I became aware of undiscussed processes of revision lying behind the compositions that were published first by PWM in Kraków and subsequently by Boosey & Hawkes in London.  I followed this up by examining autograph scores in Kraków.

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This little series will include just the orchestral pieces, which will be covered in chronological order over the coming weeks.  (Last December I also wrote about his first mass songs from 1948: Panufnik: One Song or Three? ☛ article: Panufnik’s 3 Songs for the PZPR.)  Future posts and articles will be on Nocturne, Lullaby, Sinfonia rustica, Symphony of Peace/Sinfonia elegiaca and Heroic Overture.  The first article is on Tragic Overture, his earliest surviving orchestral composition and one which is particularly interesting for his attention to graphic detail as it was prepared for publication.

• Panufnik: One Song or Three?

343px-POL_PZPR_logo.svgLast month I spent a few days researching Panufnik manuscripts in Kraków’s Jagiellonian Library.  I was interested mainly in his working versions of major pieces from the 1940s and 50s; I will write on these shortly.  Another set of manuscripts also caught my eye.  These were of three songs written for a competition celebrating the imminent formation in December 1948 of the Polish United Workers’ Party (PZPR).  Although Panufnik professed in his autobiography to writing just one song, and that under duress, it has been known for a while, from other archives, that like five of his colleagues he wrote music to all three set texts.  But the existence of these fair copies in his own hand has not been so well-known.  I have written a short article exploring these manuscripts and their history.

• 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.


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!

• 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.


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.

• Panufnik in Warsaw (Aug-Sept)

Screen Shot 2014-08-16 at 10.38.26A phone call today from the director of the ‘Chopin and his Europe’ festival in Warsaw has alerted me to a raft of Panufnik performances that this imaginative festival is including this year.  Lutosławski was similarly honoured by the festival on his centenary last year.  In May I wrote a post here, Panufnik Centenary, giving some details of the worldwide coverage of his music in 2014.  Last week, BBC Music Magazine published my profile of Panufnik, ‘Poland’s Great Exile’ (its subtitle, not mine), in its regular ‘Composer of the Month’ slot.

I’ll pass over the loss, in the editing of the article, of my comment that the BBC Proms have ignored the Panufnik centenary.  And it remains the case that there are rather large repertoire gaps elsewhere in the centenary celebrations, such as the continuing absence of four of the symphonies (an improvement on the situation in May; see next paragraph).  Even the ‘Warsaw Autumn’, which reintroduced Panufnik’s music onto Polish concert platforms in 1977 (after a gap of 23 years following his escape to the UK) – and programmed eleven of his works when Panufnik visited Poland for the first and only time in 1990, is not marking the centenary.  It is a bit perplexing that it has passed up this opportunity to celebrate its key role.  It is, however, providing an umbrella for a three-day conference ‘Andrzej Panufnik i jego wizja muzyki’ (Andrzej Panufnik and his Vision of Music’, 24-26 September), which the Chopin Music University has organised.  The conference also includes a series of chamber concerts outside the ‘Warsaw Autumn’ programme.

The day after the ‘Warsaw Autumn’ ends, Polish Radio is hosting a concert of Panufnik’s orchestral music which plugs two earlier gaps in the celebrations: the orchestral Nocturne and Sinfonia rustica, both works dating from the late 1940s. The programme is completed by the Cello Concerto, played by Raphael Wallfisch.  The conductor is Łukasz Borowicz, whose recently completed 8-CD set of Panufnik recordings is a dynamic survey of the orchestral music.

It has been left to other festivals to provide audiences with cross-sections of Panufnik’s music, and two of these take place this month.  The Presteigne Festival in mid-Wales is one, and I posted on its repertoire in May: Poles in Presteigne.  The Panufnik component in Warsaw’s ‘Chopin and his Europe’ is as follows:

• Twelve Miniature Studies for piano (Cycle of Fifths) (1947)
• Piano Concerto (1961)
• Violin Concerto (1971)
• Sinfonia concertante for flute, harp and strings (Symphony no.4) (1973)
• String Quartet no. 1 (1976)
• String Quartet no.2 ‘Messages’ (1980)
• Arbor cosmica for strings (1983)
• String Sextet ‘Train of Thoughts’ (1987)
• Symphony no.10 (1988)
• String Quartet no.3 ‘Wycinanki’ (1990)
• Cello Concerto (1991)

• New Website for Panufnik



One of the most valuable initiatives of the Polish Music Information Centre (POLMIC), in conjunction with the Polish Composers’ Union (ZKP) and other institutes and publishers, is a series of composer websites.  The first, in 2012, was devoted to Kazimierz Serocki, and the second, in 2013,  to Tadeusz Baird.  Today, it is the turn of Andrzej Panufnik, in his centenary year.  With the launch last year of the threecomposers.pl website at NINATEKA (Górecki, Lutosławski, Penderecki), there are now accessible sources in English and Polish for six of Poland’s most distinctive composers of the second half of the twentieth century.

The leading light of the editorial team on the Panufnik site is Beata Bolesławska-Lewandowska (she was closely involved involved in its predecessors). The three POLMIC sites have similar formats, although the Panufnik site is more extensive.  It has eight principal sections, most with several sub-sections: Life, Timeline, Work, Musical Inspirations, Places, Gallery, Bibliography, Discography, plus a featured work, in this case Sinfonia sacra.

It looks as thorough and informative as its predecessors.  There are, for example, excerpts from most works at the top of their individual entries, which give useful background information on compositional circumstances, Panufnik’s concept and reception.  There is even information on the mass songs (with pages from the published scores).  The six entries under Musical Inspirations are useful little essays and a new feature (Places), possibly taking its cue from the mobile app released a year ago for Lutosławski’s Warsaw, explores half-a-dozen locations in each of Poland and Great Britain that were significant to Panufnik.

As one might expect, the Gallery of photos is especially rich, given Camilla Panufnik’s renown as a photographer.  The Bibliography is substantial and the CD Discography looks comprehensive.  There is the occasional navigational oddity (the audio excerpts are grouped under Gallery-Music), while the left sidebar can be a bit too sensitive to the touch of the cursor.  It would also be helpful sometime to have English translations of the documents that feature as photographs.

This new Panufnik site is an exceptional new resource, and a credit to all involved.  It is well worth investigating at leisure.  I wonder who will be next in this series?

Later on 16.05.14: Beata Bolesławska-Lewandowska has informed me that the next composer in the series will be Tomasz Sikorski – excellent news. His website will be launched at the 2014 ‘Warsaw Autumn’ festival.

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