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Andrzej PANUFNIK (1914–1991)
Symphonic Works - Volume 4
Sinfonia Elegiaca (Symphony No. 2) (1955-58) [22:54]
Sinfonia Sacra (Symphony No. 3) (1963) [22:22]
Symphony No. 10 (1988) [16:23]
Konzerthausorchester Berlin/Lukasz Borowicz
rec. 7–9 April 2010 (2, 3), 25-26 October 2010 (10). DDD. cpo/Deutschlandradio Kultur
CPO 777 683-2 [62:09]

Experience Classicsonline

This CD presents symphonies 2, 3 and 10. We have already had 1, 4 and 6; so only numbers 5, 7, 8 and 9 to go.

These three symphonies are not lengthy. Compact and lean, both in structure and content – these qualities are the order of the day.

The three-movement Sinfonia Elegiaca is familiar to me from one of the BBC's regional orchestra studio broadcasts conducted by the composer. This took place in 1975 to mark the composer’s 60th birthday. On that occasion it kept company with the Heroic Overture and the Piano Concerto (Malcolm Binns). The composer conducted the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. Do not let its early date fool you. It is deeply impressive with two meditative and prayerfully quiet movements flanking a central blitz of breathtakingly stomped out, jaggedly rhythmic violence. Borowicz softens the edges of the assault by comparison both with the composer and with the Louisville mono recording on First Edition. However the audio fidelity permits the emergence of a level of detail not previously experienced. Those outer movements sing out in keening Tallis-like felicity and with Panufnik’s peculiar brand of understated eloquence. The finale is a shade more desolate.

The Sinfonia Sacra has been much recorded and, allowing for the Heroic and Tragic overtures, is the avenue through which most listeners will approach this composer. Those antiphonal fanfares are glorious and deliver a superb spatial-musical impact suggesting a link with Janáček’s Sinfonietta and Britten's Serenade. This contrasts with Panufnik's hallmark writing for consolatory and tenderly sung-out strings. The final Hymn after three Visions trembles and shivers icily. It ends with a crashing climax like an ice-floe in motion.

We move to 1988 for his final and Tenth Symphony, ignoring the withdrawn choral-orchestral Symphony of Peace (the origin of the Elegiaca). It was premiered by Solti and the Chicagoans in February 1990. The four little movements range from cold and raw emotional wasteland, through enigmatic activity, to the sort of jagged fury typified by the central panel of Elegiaca. The final Adagio communicates as a warmly cloaked benediction for strings - a touch similar to the prayerful string writing of Alan Hovhaness. Earlier mentions of visions, prayers and meditations serve to reinforce the links between the two composers.

The note writer is Christoph Schluren.

Rob Barnett

Panufnik symphonies on MusicWeb International

CPO Vols 1-3

Sinfonia Sacra & Symphony 10 – Kord

Sinfonia Elegiaca – Louisville

Sinfonia Sacra - composer

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