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Seen & Heard
Editor in Chief
Andrzej PANUFNIK (1914-1991)
Sinfonia Sacra (1963) [20:19]
Sinfonia Rustica (1948) [24:28]
Sinfonia Concertante for flute, harp and strings
(flute); Osian Ellis (harp)
Monte Carlo Opera Orchestra/composer (Sacra; Rustica)
Menuhin Festival Orchestra/composer
rec. Salle Alcazar, Monte Carlo, 1-3 June 1966; No. 1 Studio,
Abbey Road, London, 20 February 1975. ADD
BRITISH COMPOSERS SERIES 3522892 [66:46]
Hot on the heels of Explore's enterprising
reissue of the much later Mistica and
Sfere comes this CD presenting three
analogue tapes. All three are EMI originals
but Sacra and Rustica were probably
better known in their LP days from a
The symphonies featured here are Panufniks
first (Rustica), third (Sacra) and fourth.
The first two are separated by the breathtaking
Sinfonia Elegiaca recorded in mono by
its dedicatees, the Louisville Orchestra
and Robert Whitney (see First Edition
FECD-0017). The Rustica and Sacra have
been issued before initially on LP (EMI
ASD 2298) and then on Unicorn (RHS315).
Unicorn reissued them on CD (across
UKCD2016 and UKCD2020). It was well
worthwhile; the technical team who made
those tapes captured a vibrant sound
and captivating performances.
Panufnik’s soulful surging grandeur
is very much to the fore in Sacra.
Across its four movements this work
echoes with leonine thrusting trumpets
and the auburn roar of the horns. The
strings are reverential and laden with
a distant melancholy. There are no discords
in music which speaks directly to a
universal audience. The antiphonal fanfares
and the clean presentation of instrumental
lines recall Janacek’s Sinfonietta.
Then again we may also hear Roy Harris’s
paean-singing symphonic strings. The
Sinfonia Rustica also uses antiphonal
effects between the prescribed two string
orchestras and the eight wind instruments.
This right-left dialogue is strongly
apparent in the first and final movements
as is the contrasted instrumental striation
between warm middle range and coarsely
thrusting bass. The orchestration is
again cool and clear – sometimes Sibelian
– though never icy. At other times it
is jaunty in the manner of Kodaly and
Prokofiev. The honeyed coaxing hymn-like
warmth of theme and treatment found
in the Vision II - Larghetto of
Sacra are also to be found in
Con espressione of Rustica.
The ‘signature’ of the Sinfonia Concertante
is declared by flute and harp. Once
again there is a plangent unhurried
beauty to the writing that is contrasted
with determined propulsive almost modernistic
strings in the second of the two movements.
The very short finale is a chilly-edged
Postscriptum with a thematic
contour of hymn-like resonance.
This disc comes with the composer’s
very personal and communicative notes.
This is consistently satisfying music
articulated through minimal means. Panufnik
enthusiasts will already have scooped
this up for the first appearance on
CD of the Sinfonia Concertante.
If you are new to this composer then
do try this excellent entry disc. It’s
the best possible introduction and you
get a taste of the marginally more austere
composer Panufnik became in the 1970s.
Initiates will also want to hear his
Heroic Overture and Tragic
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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