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Andrzej PANUFNIK (1914-1991)
Sinfonia Sacra (1963) [20:19]
Sinfonia Rustica (1948) [24:28]
Sinfonia Concertante for flute, harp and strings (1973) [20:50]
Aurèle Nicolet (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
EMI CLASSICS 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 Unicorn-Kanchana LP.
 
The symphonies featured here are Panufnik’s 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 Overture.
 
Rob Barnett
 



 


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