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Andrzej PANUFNIK (1914 – 1991)
Homage to Polish Music

Old Polish Suite (1950, rev. 1955) [10:16]
Concerto in Modo Antico (1951, rev. 1955)a [14:13]
Jagiellonian Triptych (1966) [8:47]
Divertimento after Janiewicz (1947, rev. 1955) [11:31]
Hommage à Chopin (1949, orch. 1966)b [13:10]
Igor Cechoco (trumpet)a; Hanna Turonek (flute)b
Polish Chamber Orchestra/Mariusz Smolij
rec. W. Lutoławski Concert Studio, Polish Radio, Warsaw, June 2005
NAXOS 8.570032 [57:58]

During the difficult years of the Stalin era, composers who were unwilling to comply with the regime’s dictates had to find other ways to express themselves if they wanted to remain true to their artistic ideals. Lutosławski turned to Poland’s folk music and composed a number of works either based on folk-tunes or using folk-inflected tunes. That period of Lutosławski’s composing life culminated in the superb Concerto for Orchestra. Panufnik, too, had to find his own way out. He began exploring Poland’s more recent but largely unknown musical past: music composed between the 14th and 18th centuries. That is what all but one of these pieces set out to do. The sole exception is the Hommage à Chopin based on folk music from Mazowsze where Chopin was born rather than on themes by Chopin. Moreover, all but one of these pieces were composed in the years following the end of World War II. All these works were revised or re-composed in 1955, and thus belong to Panufnik’s early career. Panufnik went into some detail about the reason he composed these works. He witnessed the reconstruction of 16th and 17th century houses in the old part of Warsaw, which had been destroyed during the uprising at the end of World War II. “I felt a strong desire to undertake a similar task with fragments of Polish vocal and instrumental music of the same centuries which had suffered near oblivion.”
The earliest work here is the Divertimento after Janiewicz based on string trios by Felix Janiewicz (1762–1848) who as a young violinist came to England and became a founder member of the Royal Philharmonic Society. These lovely arrangements are for strings only.
In both the Old Polish Suite (“Suita Staropolska”) and the Concerto in Modo Antico, Panufnik does more or less the same thing as Warlock in his Capriol Suite or Respighi in his Antiche Arie e Danze  per Liuto, although Panufnik’s scoring for small forces is rather more subtle than Respighi’s sometimes opulent palette. In fact, Old Polish Suite is scored for strings; Concerto in Modo Antico is scored for trumpet, timpani, two harps, harpsichord and strings. Though composed several years later, in 1966, the Jagiellonian Triptych is roughly based on remaining material from that gathered for the Old Polish Suite. It was written for a London concert celebrating the Millennium of Polish Christianity and Statehood. It is thus in much the same vein as the earlier works and is a quite different piece than the much better known and considerably more ambitious Sinfonia Sacra.
Hommage à Chopin is the orchestration for flute and strings made in 1966 of an eponymous piece subtitled Five Vocalises for soprano and piano, first performed in Paris by Irene Joachim and Paul Collard. As already mentioned, the music is deliberately based on folk music from the part of Poland where Chopin was born rather than on themes by Chopin. This gives the music a most welcome healthy rustic flavour.
It would be idle to claim that these pieces greatly deepen our appreciation of Panufnik’s lifelong achievement, but these arrangements are all done with taste, subtlety and – most importantly – affection. Some are little known, and three had never been recorded before, which is enough for this release to be a must for all Panufnik admirers. Others will of course find a lot to enjoy here. Performances and recording are very fine. A lovely disc.
Hubert Culot


Paul Conway's article on Panufnik's symphonies


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