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Andrzej PANUFNIK (1914-1991)
Symphonic Works - Volume 5
Metasinfonia - Symphony No. 7 for organ, timpani and string orchestra (1978) [25:57]
Sinfonia Votiva - Symphony No. 8 (1981; rev. 1984) [25:01]
Concerto Festivo for orchestra (1979) [15:52]
Michael Oberaigner (timpani) (Metasinfonia)
Jörg Strodthoff (organ) (Metasinfonia)
Konzerthausorchester Berlin/Łukasz Borowicz
rec. 26-28 October and 21 December 2010, Konzerthaus, Berlin, Germany
CPO 777 684-2 [67:13] 

It has been a delight and a challenge to follow the progress of this Panufnik series from the breathlessly and voluminously enterprising CPO. No single company has done so much for this composer and conductor - during his time with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra he presided over the first London performance of Rubbra’s Seventh Symphony on 8 October 1957. Unicorn, during the days of LP and latterly CD, came in second behind CPO. CPO are very much a current label while Unicorn inhabits the secondhand realm.
 
Votiva has been recorded before - most famously by Seiji Ozawa. In that case it was coupled with a work by Sessions on a parsimoniously filled Hyperion CD. The symphony was also included on a now pretty obscure CD by Norman Del Mar with the BBC Symphony Orchestra alongside Szymanowski: Symphonies Nos. 3 and 4. Those BBC broadcast tapes dated from 1983. They were issued in 1995 on Carlton BBC Radio Classics IMP 9124.
 
The Metasinfonia was first recorded on a Unicorn LP (DKP9049) alongside the same composer’s Universal Prayer. I have a tape of what I believe to be the first performance and quite apart from its musical characteristics it is memorable in that it catches some ‘well-wisher’ in the audience who shouts out in exasperation ‘Thank God!’ when the piece ended. Truth to tell it is one of Panufnik’s most sombre works - even Gothic. It’s not where I would tell someone new to Panufnik to start their journey. Still, it is extremely atmospheric and as much part of the Panufnik experience as the Elegiaca and the Heroic and Tragic Overtures. In any event it makes the Metasinfonia conveniently accessible for appreciative discovery.

The Votiva - also a late work - proceeds with evolutionary languor and tension. It’s in two movements of which the second launches with the staccato violence and dynamism typical of the middle movement of the Elegiaca. The closing panic-manic pages resonate with alarm though the very end has the sound of the bells simply decaying into niente. The short Festivo operates at a less exalted level. This three movement concerto for orchestra rings the changes on his usual slow-fast-slow template. Here the structure is reversed. The outer segments make edgily joyous vitality with percussion and wind. They bookend a movement in which Panufnik’s profoundly moving and glitteringly anthem-like writing for strings and bells establishes a familiar link back to the Sacra. It is akin to Arvo Pärt’s Cantus

The earlier volumes of this CPO series must be mentioned as they have been reviewed here (vols. 1-3 and vol. 4). Surely there will be more. I hope there will be more.
 
The recording quality is very satisfying - assertive yet detailed and with depth and subtlety. The documentation is well up to CPO’s best standard.
 
Start with the earlier volumes especially 1 and 4 but once you’re hooked you will need this for sure.
 
Rob Barnett