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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    

IV British by choice, the influence of other traditions

10 Franz Reizenstein


Franz Reizenstein was born in Nuremberg on 7th June 1911. His father, a doctor, was interested in painting and other artistic matters, and provided his family with a helpful and sympathetic background. Franz’s sister was artistic, his brother was an amateur violinist, while he himself, from an early age, displayed remarkable gifts as a pianist and composer. He also possessed perfect pitch. So it seems likely that, in different circumstances, he might well have made his mark as a child prodigy. And it was not just a case of his being a composer who also played the piano. His technique was capable of the biggest works in the piano repertoire, and throughout his life the twin pursuits of piano playing and composition made up the two equal halves of his musical personality, and were inextricably bound together, each influencing the other.

In 1930 Reizenstein went to the State Academy of Music in Berlin, where he studied composition with Hindemith, piano with Leonid Kreutzer.

Hindemith required of his pupils that they should acquire at least a working knowledge of all the standard orchestral instruments. As Reizenstein said:

He arranged for his students to take up different wind and stringed instruments in turn... We played together regularly and provided most of the music by composing it ourselves. We would not let anyone listen to the ghastly noises we produced-not that anybody wanted to but we did learn how to write for the various instruments.

Hindemith thought most highly of him, and three guiding principles established during his years of study were never lost sight of later. First, a sense of tradition as being something present, active and growing. He became closely, intimately acquainted with the classical and romantic repertoire, and saw his function as a composer in terms of a continuation of that tradition. Second, a strictness and a discipline in composition, particularly as far as counterpoint was concerned. Third, a rejection of dodecaphony, atonalism, serialism, and all other avant-garde experiments. He aligned himself artistically with the established norms of tonal composition, as far as idiom and structure are concerned, and worked from that basis without reservations. His knowledge and love of the standard nineteenth century repertoire were too profound to admit of their being usurped by an allegiance to one of the more experimental schools of thought that began to be rife in Europe in the 20s and 30s, and have grown since.

An article on Hindemith’ summarises his teacher’s, and his own, aesthetic standpoint:

In all branches of the arts there exists a desire to delve into decadence and revel in the macabre, both things far removed from Hindemith’s ideals. Vociferous advocates of surrealism, who proudly proclaim that they have freed music from the shackles of tonality, tend to minimise Hindemith’s great achievements because he had the courage to expose the basic errors of their doctrine. Any music cast in traditional form or idiom is suspect in their eyes, even if it is of first-rate craftsmanship. They may continue their delicious dance around the serial golden calf indefinitely; this is of little consequence to the general public, who will decide in the long run which kind of twentieth century music it wants to hear. Some irresponsible critics, over-anxious to jump on the avant-garde bandwagon, present a false picture of Hindemith’s position in present-day music, but most musicians agree that his music will live for a long time to come. [The Listener, 20th March 1964].

As soon as Hitler came to power in Germany, Reizenstein realised the evils of Nazism, particularly for those of Jewish birth; and so in 1934, at the age of twenty-three, he left and came to England-the first contemporary composer to do so. His choice was helped by the fact that an uncle on his mother’s side lived at Kingston. He continued his studies at the Royal College of Music in London; composition with Vaughan Williams, and (later) piano with Solomon.

He never subsequently lost his respect for, nor the influence of, Hindemith, in spite of the very different influence exerted by his new teacher. He found Vaughan Williams much freer, less rigid; just as influential, but in a different way, as his was a dominating personality, both musically and spiritually. Other pupils found this to be the case, that Vaughan Williams was overwhelming as a teacher to all but the strongest; but in the case of Reizenstein it is difficult to think of anyone in England at this time who could have provided him with a more inspiring contrast to Hindemith, or who could better have introduced him to the nascent English tradition, which was from now onwards to form the background to his work.

From Solomon, who revolutionized his attitude to the piano, he learned insistence on tone-quality in piano playing, and on the greatest control of touch, in so far as touch is the chief means of varying tone quality. Control of tone, particularly at a pianissimo dynamic level, and mastery of legato-a sense of melodic continuity, in spite of the up-and-down movement of the keys and hammers-were the cornerstones of this technical approach, which Reizenstein derived from Solomon. And technique arose from the music itself.

Later (1958) Reizenstein was given a post at the Royal Academy of Music as teacher of piano; and later still (1964) at the Royal Manchester College. He was never appointed to teach composition at any of the official music colleges in this country; and he only did so on a more humble, semi-amateur basis, in evening classes at the Hendon Music Centre and, much later, in America.

The later 30s were years of difficulty for him, of struggle and privation. He was entirely involved in music, dedicated and professional. Both then and subsequently, composition and recitals were his life; but not, to start with, his livelihood. All his energy went into music-making, yet he was never saturated. It was inevitable that sooner or later he would triumph; but this was not to be before he had undergone considerable hardship. On the outbreak of war in 1939 he was interned on the Isle of Man, along with many others of non-British birth whose naturalisation papers were not quite in order. In Reizenstein’s case, a concert tour of South America in 1937/8 [With the Violinist Roman Totenberg, who later played in his Boston concerts, 1966 (see p. 148).] had interrupted the continuity of his residence in this country. However during his internment he was active in arranging concerts and performing in them.

Throughout this period Vaughan Williams helped him as much as he could; by writing on his behalf during his internment, by putting work in his way, such as piano arrangements or editing. Later in the war Reizenstein volunteered for the army, but was not accepted owing to his poor eyesight. He was given a job as a railway clerk for a while-and he even managed to write part of his Viola Sonata, Op. 20, during this period.

Just as his musicianship was made up of two equal halves-piano playing and composition - so his personality displayed two chief features, the serious and the funny; the romantic and the impish. As he took pleasure in observing, he was born under Gemini. He took great delight in jokes, whether musical or practical; and these found a natural outlet in the diversions of Gerard Hoffnung in the 50s, which were a much needed counterbalance to the overwhelming seriousness that came over British music at this time. For these extravaganzas Reizenstein contributed specifically humorous scores (a notoriously difficult task), such as ‘Lets fake an opera.’, or ‘Concerto popolare’. He also introduced a light note into more solemn surroundings; for instance into his choral work Voices of Night. Moreover, an element of fun formed an important part of his personal relationships. But he also liked peace, and the beauty of nature, which he found particularly conducive to composition.

Of his forty-eight compositions with Opus numbers, three-quarters consist of piano and chamber music. This was the medium in which his romanticism found the most apt expression. His pleasure in chamber music was the pleasure that comes from intelligent, cultured discourse between colleagues. He was fortunate in finding excellent musicians to perform his works, a fact which is itself an eloquent testimony to their worth: Max Rostal, Leslie Parnas and Maria Lidka, who was a regular member of his Trio. [Franz Reizenstein (Piano), Maria Lidka (Violin), Rohan de Saram ’Cello). (Also Derek Simpson and Christopher Bunting in earlier years)]

Reizenstein’s first published work (1936) was the Piano Suite, Op. 6; but the first piece that brought him wide acclaim was the Prologue, Variations and Finale, Op. 12, for violin and piano, written for Max Rostal (1937-8), and later re-written for violin and orchestra, Op. 12a. The first ideas for this piece came during the South American tour in 1937, between Buenos Aires and Santiago de Chile; the finale is based on South American rhythms, ‘en forme d’une Danse Fantasque’. The movements follow without a break, and are characterized by a brilliantly rhapsodic virtuosity, and an insight into instrumental technique, shown by a knowledge of fingering, free use of harmonics and so on, not often found among English composers. The form is cyclic; that is to say, four themes are heard throughout, first stated in the Prologue and developed in the Variations. The range of mood is wide, the texture highly varied.

After leaving Hindemith, he gave rein to his romanticism; which is to say that the effect of the music comes from the way its movement is controlled-at what dynamic, pitch or volume; with what degree and rapidity of harmonic consonance or dissonance-rather than from any theoretical organisation of the musical elements abstracted from, and independent of, their resulting sound.

Another outstanding piece for violin and piano is the G sharp sonata Op. 20, written for Maria Lidka. This has greater tonal freedom than the earlier piece. If the combination of major and minor modes may be traced to Vaughan Williams, and the prevalence of the interval of the fourth to Hindemith, the overall style is considerably more than the sum of these two constituent parts. The opening movement, in strict sonata form, develops great warmth in its long-sustained arch-like phrases, a marked characteristic of this composer; and this is admirably balanced by the second movement, which is a scherzo in all but name, and which contains Spanish rhythms, such as the Jota, and passages which recall the strumming of a guitar. The finale juxtaposes a slow violin cantilena, which has a misterioso piano background, suggestive of the rustling of trees in the wind, against a more vigorous, more contrapuntal section, in which the instruments discourse on equal terms. The main subject of the first movement returns, and the work concludes in a blaze of romantic glory.

This work marks the end of the first phase of his work, and there followed a two year gap (1945-47), partly devoted to film work, before he embarked on the central, most productive period of his life. This began with the Scherzo, Op. 21, and ended with the Second Piano Concerto, Op. 37; between these two works are included most of the large compositions by which he is chiefly known. First come two outstandingly successful pieces, the Cello Sonata, Op. 22, and the Piano Quintet, Op. 23. With the Cello Sonata Reizenstein emerges from his two-year silence with increased stature, and with greater command of his individual style of poly-tonality. Within the accepted limits of sonata form, implicit in a tonal idiom, he develops greater freedom of line than in works of the earlier period. Both instruments are used in virtuoso manner, and the characteristic juxtaposition of contrasted moods occurs in the second (scherzo) movement, in which a vivace theme, built in fourths, is followed by a poignant, rhapsodic, cantabile theme (lento), full of tonal ambiguity and contrast of colour-the sine qua non of romanticism. The finale is graded in excitement; an adagio introduction, which contains most of the material to follow, leads to the main A major theme (allegro amabile), which in turn develops into agitato.

The Piano Quintet, which was his favourite, is the largest of Reizenstein’s chamber music compositions, and most fully sums up his contribution to this branch of music. Refined, polished, its four movements firmly grounded in the classical sonata structure, the work can justifiably be placed beside the great chamber works of the past. In his development of the melodic-harmonic-tonal methods of the nineteenth century, and within the context of the English tradition, Reizenstein discovered his characteristic polytonal idiom. And the slow second movement of this Quintet, in which by definition the pace of harmonic change is comparatively slow, is an excellent illustration of the fresh discoveries that lay in store in 1949 for a composer who was able to pursue a path that, according to some, was played out. The chromaticism after [o] is complete, and the twelve notes are used freely; yet never once is the tonal control lost. This section of the slow movement also contains much rhythmic and contrapuntal development, yet always within the framework of a regular underlying metre, so fundamental to the chamber music style.

The scherzo movement gains in brilliance from the larger ensemble. The material, taken from what has gone before, is shared between the instruments with a sense of gay abandon which Reizenstein never surpassed. There is no contrasted mood in this long movement, but nor is there any need for it; the momentum, once established, runs its appointed course. Not till the finale do we encounter any slackening of intensity; starting andante sostenuto, the music builds up, as in the Violin Sonata, to allegro vivace, then agitato. After considerable contrapuntal work, canonic imitation and so on, the instruments come together on the final page for a brilliant conclusion.

To this middle group of works also belongs Reizenstein’s small but important output of choral compositions. The first of these, the cantata Voices of Night, Op. 27, was written in 1950/1, and first heard in June 1952. The appeal of this work immediately led to two more commissions-the radio opera Anna Kraus, Op. 30, and the oratorio Genesis, Op. 35, which was first heard at a Three Choirs Festival in 1958. The librettist for all these works was Reizenstein’s close friend, the poet Christopher Hassall, who also collaborated with Walton (Troilus and Cressida) and Bliss (Tobias and the Angel).

Both Voices of Night and Genesis suffer to some extent from the swing away from the old oratorio tradition that has already been referred to, though Voices of Night suffered less than the other work in this respect, since its subject is not specifically religious; moreover the composer’s sensitivity to the English language helped to make it a popular success. The work is a sequence of poems invoking night, starting with the onset of night, finishing with the dawn. When the poetry is romantic, contemplative, the composer achieves a most apt result. Such moments occur on No. 1 ('How lovely is the heaven of this night’) and No. 10 (‘On thy cold shore, O Death’); the music and the words develop in true partnership. But in the poems whose mood is less reflective, the function of the music can only be to add colour to the words; and in such circumstances, with banality just around the corner, Reizenstein’s characteristic idiom needed to be held severely in check to avoid inconsistency between words and music. No. 3 (‘Sweet Suffolk Owle’) and No. 4 (‘The bread is all baked’) are examples of this more objective sort of word-setting. The composer’s model for this aspect of his work was Vaughan Williams’ Five Tudor Portraits; it is no surprise to hear that Vaughan Williams approved of Reizenstein’s vocal style. But such word-painting, verging sometimes on naivete, implies a lessening of the role of music in relation to the poetry; and this was precisely one of the reasons contributing to the decline of the old English oratorio.

Reizenstein’s second choral work, the oratorio Genesis, consists of the story of the Creation, as related in (Genesis, interspersed with poems from various sources to add imagery to the original story. As well as arranging the text, Hassall contributed one poem, in which he sets forth the tendency of our age to risk the negation of God’s creative work through the misuse of man’s knowledge; other poets represented are Blake, Milton, George Herbert. The soloists are the same as in the other choral work-soprano and baritone. Curiously, however, the oratorio is in many ways more successful than the cantata; the composer himself preferred it. Though it attempts less, it is better integrated, and more developed a work, and though it fits more obviously than the cantata does into a limited tradition, rooted in the past-the much-vaunted British choral tradition-it is more consistently compelling than the other work, whose roots are shallower. Its style is more characteristic of its composer’s maturity; the use of the fourth may be traced to Hindemith, the use of moving triads to Vaughan Williams, but the polytonal counterpoint is the product of the two, and a marked feature of Reizenstein’s idiom.

Can it be that one accepts the somewhat academic convention of fugal choruses in a specifically sacred work, whose milieu is an English cathedral, with fewer reservations than one has about such a device in a work designed for concert use? For instance, the choral writing in No. 3a of Genesis (‘And Man became a living soul’) may be conventional, but it is at the same time considerably more evocative, and apt, than the fugal writing for male chorus in Voices of Night with which Reizenstein seeks to adorn the immortal words:-

He who goes to bed, and goes to bed sober,

Falls as the leaves do, and dies in October;

But he who goes to bed, and goes to bed mellow,

Lives as he ought to do, and dies an honest fellow.

Such an admirable sentiment hardly requires traditional fugal treatment, or indeed musical treatment of any sort (except perhaps satirical) for its full message, with all its undoubted depth of philosophical insight, to be conveyed.

But the fugue is an illustration of the lighter, impish side of Reizenstein’s personality. It is intended as a joke.

After Genesis two further works complete the central group of compositions: Five Sonnets of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, for tenor and piano, Op. 36, and the Second Piano Concerto, Op. 37. Then followed the second gap in his output, lasting from 1960 to 1963, which was at last broken by two pieces for wind instruments. As all Hindemith pupils were obliged to write for, and to play, all orchestral instruments, writing for the wind instruments came naturally to Reizenstein; particularly the clarinet, which he played with greater application than the others. His last composition was a Sonatina for clarinet, Op. 48, of which he had completed only two movements at the time of his death [The manuscript is dated July-September, 1968]. This piece was intended to be as approachable a work as the Oboe Sonatina, Op. 11, written over thirty years earlier.

The last years of his life were prolific, and his compositions included the three Solo Sonatas, the Concert Fantasy for viola, the Second Piano Sonata in A flat, Op. 4c, and the Concerto for String Orchestra, Op. 43.

The Concert Fantasy, Op. 42, was finished in 1966 in Boston, U.S.A. It was written for Elizabeth Holbrook, and in addition to calling for a virtuoso technique, it is a substantial recital piece, exploiting an instrument whose repertoire is somewhat limited in this respect. It is in one continuous movement, whose various sections alternate slow with fast. The tonal scheme is classical, while some material (at [G]) introduces a new display technique for the viola. It is possible that Reizenstein was influenced in this work by the Walton concerto; the two composers were on friendly terms, and Reizenstein admired Walton’s music. This was his first composition for the viola; and he followed it the next year with another major work, the Solo Sonata Op. 45, also written for Elizabeth Holbrook.

It is perhaps surprising that his natural bent for the piano, combined with his innately romantic temperament, did not result in more compositions for that instrument. But such works as exist are big pieces, and they repay the closest study. The Twelve Preludes and Fugues, Op. 32 are a brilliant exposition of that polytonal idiom, made up of the coupling together of the major and minor modes in a contrapuntal texture. The whole composition is dedicated, very appropriately, to Hindemith, since the order of the keys is that of Series I evolved by Hindemith as the foundation of his theory in The Craft of Musical Composition. The Series presents the notes in the order of their relationship to the nucleus tone C. It is also used as the main theme of the first Prelude. Unity is achieved between each pair by introducing the Fugue subject into the Prelude, though sometimes in a disguised form; in some of the pairs, there is no break between the Prelude and its accompanying Fugue [In Nos. 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11. The composer has suggested possible groupings for performance when it is not possible to play the complete set: 3, 4, 5; 6, 9, 10; 3, 7, 8; 1, 2, 3, 4; 11, 8, 12,; 11, 12]. This composition, with its combination of contrapuntal ingenuity and sheer intellectual toughness, obviously recalls Hindemith’s Ludus Tonalis.

A nine year gap separates it from the next piano piece, the Second Sonata, Op. 40; and indeed twenty years separate the two piano sonatas from each other. The first, dedicated to Walton, had been widely heralded, on its publication in 1948, as one of the most important works of the century; with the second, Reizenstein reached mature fulfilment. If romanticism can be defined, at least in part, as the outpouring of music in terms suited to a particular instrument, then this second sonata is romantic pianism par excellence. It is also intellectually and dramatically conceived. It opens with a slow motto (tranquillo), partly melodic octaves, partly B-A-C-H [The notes B flat-A-C-B natural] harmonized in triads. From this the first movement (allegro) is derived. The second movement is in memory of Christopher Hassall, who had died the previous year (1963), and uses material derived from the opening of Genesis. The Finale, largely in two parts only, is a brilliant vivace, almost a perpetuum mobile. The motto theme triumphantly concludes the work.

Reizenstein’s last large-scale composition was the Concerto for String Orchestra, Op. 43, which was not performed until January 1969, after his death. It is in no sense a virtuoso concerto; neither soloist nor solo group is set against the rest of the orchestra. It is a work of a subdued nature, though calling for strength and urgency in performance, and the four movements are of serenade dimensions, in which the instruments are used in different relationships to each other, whether homophonic or polyphonic. The tonality of the first and last movements is C, while the other two movements use the tonality a minor third lower (A) and a minor third higher (E flat) respectively. The first movement uses a miniature sonata form, with little or no development, and the second theme (poco meno mosso) grows as a countersubject over the first. The customary scherzo is highly characteristic of this composer, while the principal theme of the slow movement moves in short, cumulative phrases, and its two appearances are separated by imitative passage-work, starting in two parts. After an introduction in E flat minor, based on the third movement material, the finale starts, inevitably, with a fugue in G Fourths predominate in the working out, and after a brief interlude (un poco tranqillo) the fugue subject is recapitulated, starting on F and in a varied form.

Orchestral composition did not come easily to Reizenstein. Not only did Hindemith’s training make it more difficult for him to think, and write, orchestrally, but the linear, contrapuntal style that was so peculiarly his, was not suited to the orchestral medium. His purely orchestral works are few, and reflect his sense of fun: the concert overture Cyrano de Bergerac, for instance, is light in style. He also wrote the Ballet Suite, Op. 15, which was commissioned by the Arts Theatre. He started a symphony, but never finished it.

It was in the concertos that he achieved fulfilment as an orchestral composer. In the two piano concertos, particularly, he found in the sheer joy of a virtuoso solo part sufficient compensation for the general absence of that contrapuntal and fugal development which was so central to his style, but which is somewhat out of place in a romantic solo concerto.

In the use of a tonally-centred idiom, such as Reizenstein’s, the degree of musical intensity imparted to the listener can be measured by the frequency of change of the tonal centre. Frequent changes, close together, induce a sense of approaching climax with much greater urgency than infrequent changes, more widely spaced out. Clearly an instrumentally-conceived phrase is susceptible of greater rapidity of change than one which is vocally conceived; the human voice can only with difficulty assimilate frequent changes of tonal centre. And it is remarkable that the rate of tonal change in the first piano concerto is greater, generally speaking, than in the second concerto, which came after the choral and vocal compositions, and was influenced by them to some extent.

Reizenstein’s true style has an inner vitality, a poetry, which lies in the content of the notes rather than in the notes themselves. The concertos differ from the chamber music works in that they demand a more rhetorical, emotive, exuberant style, which is proper to the romantic concerto, but which can all too easily lead to empty excess, as sections of the violin concerto show.

But his insight into string writing make the cello and violin concertos rewarding, if difficult, to play. The early Cello Concerto is perhaps less original a work than the other, and not readily accessible to the ordinary listener, though Reizenstein himself liked the work, and Leslie Parnas, who had played it through with the composer in Boston, during rehearsals for the Sonata, performed it for the BBC in 1969 [Bryden Thomson conducted the BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra], and intends to take it into his repertoire.

The salient points of Reizenstein’s tonal idiom may be summarized under the time-honoured headings of melody, harmony and rhythm. Among his most frequent melodic characteristics are a breadth of phrase, a symmetry of design; also a fondness for a group of notes (two or more) a semitone apart, followed by a major or minor third, or triad perhaps, either upwards or downwards; by this means the composer combines chromatic and tonal elements in the melodic line. His harmonic style rests on two foundations, already mentioned; one, the combination of different tonal centres, to produce an effect of polytonality; the other, the prevalent use of the fourth, which derives from Hindemith’s teaching. As far as Reizenstein’s rhythmic structure is concerned, a regularity of metre was an intrinsic datum of his contrapuntal technique, and his sense of rhythm was an essential part of his unfailing craftsmanship. The avant-garde meant nothing to him; he was not so much an innovator as a searcher-out of existing techniques. Furthermore, as already mentioned, his ability to write a genuine vivace, scherzo movement was inherently part of his style, and singled him out from most English composers. Indeed it was a reflection of his lively personality and sense of humour, which found such witty and pungent outlet in his contributions to Gerard Hoffnung’s musical extravaganzas in the 50s.

One such work, the Concerto Popolare, or Piano Concerto to end all Piano Concertos, was heard in November 1956. The story behind it is as follows:

'Once upon a time a pianist and a conductor were engaged to play a concerto with a well-known orchestra. Unfortunately, the management omitted to specify which concerto. The pianist came prepared to play the Grieg, but the conductor decided otherwise. It was to be Tchaikovsky’s famous First-or none at all! Musicians are naturally temperamental and neither would give way. Eventually after a struggle during which fragments of Grieg, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Gershwin, Beethoven, popular songs and other oddments were heard flying through the night air, the pianist was overwhelmed by the superior forces. He gave way, not without a gallant attempt to have the last chord.’

The performance, we are told, was a resounding success in every sense of the word.

Of equal importance to him was his highly successful work as a concert pianist, from the moment when he first won recognition in the 30s, right through to the end of his life. He first made his name by his performance of Hindemith’s Ludus tonalis, as well as of his own works. His last engagement as a pianist was, perhaps appropriately, on Nuremberg Radio, in September 1968, when he played his Second Sonata and Zodiac Suite, Indeed, at the very moment of his sudden death the following month, he was preparing Hindemith’s Piano Concerto, Kammermusik No. 2, Op. 36, for a broadcast

Reizenstein was a natural pianist. As well as playing his own works, he was conversant with the broad stream of the classical repertoire. His playing had nobility, and a wide emotional range; he also possessed, in full measure, the composer’s urge not merely to analyse what he played, but to investigate for himself the lesser-known byways of music; and his catch included rarities, such as Tchaikowsky’s Concert Fantasy, Bizet’s Variations Chromatiques, and Dvorak’s incomplete Piano Concerto, which he edited, revised and arranged-as Dvorak himself had at one time intended to do.

Curiously perhaps, Reizenstein had no very high opinion of Hindemith’s piano style, which he considered awkward, unpianistic. He did however play his teacher’s piano pieces frequently, and Ludus Tonalis was the model, as we have seen, for his own investigations. He had a great admiration for Bartok’s work, particularly as shown in that composer’s understanding of the piano; though he never copied the percussive style. 1 The other contemporary composers that chiefly excited his admiration were Walton and Shostakovitch.

His appearances in concerts and radio performances were very frequent; moreover, towards the end of his life, when his name was more known internationally, his services as teacher, lecturer and panel member began also to be in demand. He spent six months in 1966 (January-June) as visiting professor of composition at Boston University in America, where he went at the invitation of Professor Jean Philips to teach composition, with particular reference to his own works. While there he appeared in two concerts specially devoted to his own compositions. This provides one more instance of the enthusiasm and the readiness with which American musicians acknowledge the proven worth of British composers, which their British colleagues are sometimes very slow to give; Gerhard and Fricker are two further instances of this unfortunate trend. In the case of Reizenstein, a number of fine compositions, particularly in the field of chamber music, and a marked individuality of idiom, place him among the important composers of the contemporary period.


List of compositions by Franz Reizenstein


1 Solo Sonata for Cello (later rev. as Op. 44)


2 Theme, Variations & Fugue for Clarinet Quintet (rev. 1960)


3 Fantasy for piano


4 Four Silhouettes for piano

5 Wind Quintet


6 Suite for Piano

6a Three pieces for Violin & Piano (arr. from Op. 6)

7 Elegy for Cello and Piano (pub. with Op. 18)

8 Cello Concerto (rev. 1948)

He once turned the pages for Bartok at a Wigmore Hall concert.

9 Divertimento for String Quartet


9a Divertimento for Brass Quartet (2 Trumpets. Horn, Tuba)

10 Three Concert Pieces for Oboe & Piano

11 Sonatina for Oboe & Piano


12 Prologue, Variations & Finale for Violin & Piano

12a Op. 12, arr. For Violin & Orch.

13 Partita for Flute & Piano

13a Op. 13 for Flute & String Trio

14 Impromptu for Piano


15 Ballet Suite (pub. 1964)


16 Piano Concerto No. 1

17 Intermezzo for Piano

18 Cantilene for Cello & Piano (pub. with Op. 7)


19 Sonata No. 1 in B for Piano


20 Sonata in G sharp for Violin & Piano


21 Scherzo in A for Piano

22 Sonata in A for Cello & Piano


23 Quintet in D for Piano & Strings


24 Legend for Piano

25 Trio in A for Flute, Oboe & Piano


26 Scherzo Fantastique for Piano



27 Voices of Night S.&B.soli,Ch.&Orch.

28 Concert Overture Cyrano de Bergerae

29 Serenade in F

29a Serenade in F (for wind instruments)


30 Radio Opera Anna Kraus


31 Violin Concerto


32 Twelve Preludes and Fugues for Piano


33 Fantasia Concertante for Violin & Piano


34 Trio in one movement (ded. to Vaughan Williams)


35 Genesis Oratorio, Soli Ch.Orch.


36 Five Sonnets of E. B. Browning (for Tenor & Piano)

37 Piano Concerto No. 2


38 Duo for Oboe & Clarinet

39 Trio for Flute, Clarinet & Bassoon


40 Sonata No. 2 in A flat for Piano

41 Zodiac-Piano Suite


42 Concert Fantasy for Viola & Piano


43 Concerto for String Orchestra


44 Solo Sonata for Cello (rev. from Op. 1)

45 Solo Sonata for Viola


46 Solo Sonata for Violin

47 Arabesques for Clarinet & Piano

48 Sonatina for Clarinet & Piano (2 movements only completed)

other works without Op. No.:

Five imaginative pieces for Piano (1938)

Short educational pieces

Musical Box, for Piano (1952)

Capriccio (1938)

A Jolly Overture (1952)


Scores in collaboration with Gerard Hoffnung:

Concerto Popolare (Piano Concerto to end all Piano Concertos)

Let's Fake an Opera (The tales of Hoffnung) (librettist William Mann)


Film scores include:

Highlights of Farnborough (1951)

The House that Jack built (1953)

The Sea (1953)

Island of Steel (1955)

Jessy (1959)

The White Trap (1959)

The Mummy (1959)

Circus of Horrors (1960)

and others


11 Matyas Seiber


Matyas Seiber came to this country to take up residence in 1935, at a time when the broad pattern of the musical life of England consisted of the establishment, and the consolidation, of the standard repertoire, and when the nascent English tradition was just developing, mainly under the benevolent tutelage of Vaughan Williams. The general attitude of most musicians tended to a narrow parochialism; English music as a whole was not yet ready or stable enough to admit the influence of continental developments; few indeed were aware of, or susceptible to, the new paths that were currently being unfolded in Europe and America.

Moreover, when Matyas Seiber came here at the age of thirty, he was unknown; he had not yet achieved distinction, and he lacked those academic or official qualifications which are required of musicians before they are admitted to teach in the established English institutions. Little wonder, therefore that he was to be faced with long years of struggle before any sort of recognition came his way. There is a gap in his serious output after 1935 [Particularly in his 12-note composition, for which there was then no audience in England. The Second String Quartet, a strictly serial work, was finished in 1935; not until 1944 did he return to a serial style-and quite a free one this time-with the Fantasia Concertante for violin and orchestra, written for Max Rostal]; meanwhile, in order to earn a living, he turned his hand to anything and everything. But versatility had always been one of his chief characteristics. Broadly speaking, his musical personality may be considered under two main headings: his work as a teacher, and his work as a composer - in that order.

He was born in Budapest in 1905, and studied under Kodaly at the Royal Academy there. By 1925 he had written several highly colourful student works, including the Sonata de Camera for violin and cello; then, like his teacher before him, he set out on his travels. He was a remarkably susceptible musician, and wished to discover for himself the multifarious strands that made up the fabric of European music between the wars. These strands, some of them mutually incompatible, were chiefly folk music, early music, jazz, popular and light music, serialism.

After leaving Hungary in 1925 he travelled widely, visiting North and South America, as well as many European countries. He eventually settled in Frankfurt, where he taught jazz at the Conservatoire. He stayed there until 1933, when he had to leave Germany under Hitler. During these years his ability as an executive musician also spread in many directions. He was a pianist and conductor; he directed music in a theatre; he formed workers’ choruses; he was cellist in a string quartet [The Lenzewesky Quartet]. When once again, after 1933, he was compelled to move his residence, he eventually, in 1935, settled in England, where he lived for the rest of his life, until he was killed in a car accident in South Africa in October 1960.

If his innate curiosity was to give his compositions a variable quality, it also made him one of the most sought-after teachers in England, catholic in taste, wide-ranging in experience. He was never appointed to the staff of any of the major teaching institutions, yet- his ability to inspire pupils placed him in the same category as Hindemith or Nadia Boulanger. His pupils, who came eventually from all over the world, included Francis Chagrin, Malcolm Lipkin, Reginald Smith-Brindle, Peter Racine Fricker, Anthony Milner, Don Banks, Hugh Wood, and many others. Thus was his influence most directly and most strongly felt [Particularly in the 1950s. See p. 156].

His teaching technique was unorthodox; he was concerned with the writing of music, not academic exercises. His mind was agile, logical, penetrating; yet the personal style of each pupil was never interfered with, nor was the necessity for the individual student to discover his own solutions ever lost sight of. How each pupil went about his craft was his own affair; but he could expect the results of his labours to be scrutinized with minute and often devastating attention to detail, down to the smallest particle.

Seiber’s views on teaching were summarized in a talk he gave in 1955:

I believe in a few fundamental principles. First, that learning or teaching composition is a purely practical matter (no mystery and no theory). It’s like learning to’ make shoes. Just as a shoemaker learns step by step how to cut the right size of upper soles so as not to pinch, how to make joints which don’t creak etc., so the student must learn how to present ideas, how to lead from one to the other, how to make joins.

We all agree that we can’t teach inspiration, but we can teach the technique of how to make the most of that inspiration, if there is any. I believe that composition is a technique which can be best learned by imitation, like other crafts. I think the ideal solution would be to have a sort of ‘composing workshop’, like some of the great painters had 'painting workshops’. The composer would be given small tasks, details in the master’s works, and then be corrected by the master and shown how he would have done it. The composition student, in fact, should be a kind of apprentice.

The second point I believe in is that composition is an entirely traditional discipline. There is no short cut-you Have to go through the techniques which your predecessors developed, because these are the entire foundation of our present day techniques.

Also I believe that one of the essential things in the training of a young composer is analysis; and I mean analysis in depth, down to atoms and cells, discovering how a kind of life-process goes on, like in any living tissue.

His own compositions include every species of music, reflecting the range of his curiosity. Inevitably some of the works are experimental. His Hungarian origin is apparent in a number of pieces, particularly early ones; both specifically, as in the arrangement of Hungarian folksongs, and indirectly in such a work as the Elegy for Viola and Chamber Orchestra. His interest in light music, and the folk music of many countries, usually found an outlet in the commercial world of films, radio or television, which was his chief source of income. His fondness for jazz led to some hybrid attempts to bridge the gap between that idiom and more conventional composition; for instance the Improvisations for Jazz Band and Symphony Orchestra, which were written in collaboration with John Dankworth; or the Two Jazzolets for dance band, which date from his years at Frankfurt, and use a 12-note style in a jazz context. His study of early music led to the two Besardo Suites for orchestra, which were based on the music of the sixteenth century lutenist-composer Jean-Baptiste Besard [Particularly the Thesaurus harmonicus (1603)].

But the greatest scope for the force of his musical intellect was provided by Schoenberg’s 12-note style, and serialism, with which he overlaid these other more intuitive characteristics. Serialism, he considered, showed the way music was going; it was the international style, while the other styles were merely national, even local. It was in chamber music, and particularly in the works for violin and piano, that he developed his particular brand of serialism, the use of a permutation technique, based on a small group of notes and intervals. Chief among such chamber works are the Second and Third String Quartets, and the Permutazioni a cinque for wind quintet; his most characteristic violin and piano works are the Concert Piece (1954) and the Sonata (1960). He was particularly stimulated by the combination of two such dissimilar instruments, and the Concert Piece is an ingenious, totally chromatic work, based on the permutations of a 4-note group. [The idea that the study of aesthetics is automatically and necessarily equated with 'vagueness’ was the common view among most musicians, and is still widely held. See my Contemporary Music, p. 2]

In many ways the work recalls Schoenberg's Fantasy, Op. 47, which was written only five years previously. Its texture is varied and lucid; its originally conceived sonorities cover the full range of the instruments; both players are treated as equal partners, and the composition as a whole is conceived as a virtuoso showpiece for them.

The 12-note row, on which the piece is based, is made up of three segments, each of which contains the basic motif of four notes, in the form of two semitones a tritone apart. This motif is then transposed twice. In the course of the composition the three segments change, as well as the sequence of notes within the segments. The structure of the work as a whole is that of a free fantasy, though balanced; the contrasted sections are later repeated in varied form. The first performance of the work, which is dedicated to Tibor Varga, was given by Eli Goren and Peter Wallfisch at a fiftieth birthday concert for the composer at Morley College, on 15th May 1955.

The sonata is similarly severe, and he introduced its first performance with a characteristically detailed analysis of its construction. His concluding words sum up his attitude to composition as a whole:

This sort of analysis might sound too mathematical, too calculated, as if music was put together with the help of a slide-rule. But in my opinion, this is the only way in which a composer may profitably talk on his own work. To talk in vague, aesthetic terms doesn’t come into his province.

Such constructive principles, such mathematical regularities as I mentioned, are never preconceived ideas with me. They develop as I go along working on a piece. I still cannot do what so many of my younger colleagues seem to be able to do so successfully, namely to plan out the whole work on the basis of these mathematical or architectonic calculations. For me the act of composing is still a journey of discovery; I explore all these possibilities inherent in the material as the piece begins to grow and unfold, and then I draw the consequences from them.

It means re-composing many things, until everything begins to fall into place. I know that this is a much more painful and time-consuming procedure, yet I still cannot bring myself to do otherwise. After all, it is for every composer himself to decide his place between freedom and strictness; he has to learn how to be coherent and organised, without losing the ability to listen to the unexpected, unaccountable and involuntary promptings of his own imagination.

In deciding his own personal ‘place between freedom and strictness’, Seiber opted for freedom. He was more concerned with the development of thematic material than with following any rules. On the other hand, he had studied and knew his Schoenberg, and moreover the force of his own intellect imposed its own strictness; so if his thematic material was mathematically conceived in the first place, as it frequently was, its development could only lie along strict lines. Therefore, if his work were to achieve warmth, this would only come from some other source than serialism.

So his use of this technique was by no means consistent or dogmatic; several pieces were quite traditionally conceived, for instance the Elegy for viola and string orchestra or the Tre Pezzi for cello and orchestra; while in others an innately lyrical style was placed somewhat inconsistently in a serial context; the Third String Quartet, the Quartetto Lirico, is a case in point.

Warmth of inspiration and strictness of idiom, however, came together, with the most positive results, in the two works with which he reached his highest point of stability and fulfilment as a composer; these were the two cantata settings of words by James Joyce, Ulysses and the Three Fragments. The texts of Joyce acted as a peculiarly powerful stimulus to Seiber's imagination, and in one sense supplied that poetic, lyrical and cohesive element that is sometimes missing from his more abstract works.

Seiber’s cantata Ulysses for tenor solo, chorus and orchestra (1949), is based on passages from the novel of the same name by Joyce. It starts where the hero, Mr. Bloom, contemplates the starlit summer night, with ‘the Heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit’. This leads to a contemplation of the universe, the vastness of space, stars and galaxies of immeasurably remote eons and infinite futures. In antithesis to this, there is the minuteness of some living organisms, the incalculable infinity of molecules contained in a single pinhead. His thoughts turn to eclipses, and the sudden stillness which comes with them. His conclusion is that all this is but a Utopia, and the ‘Heaventree’ a product of his own imagination.

Never was Seiber more sure that he had to set a passage to music. Like the text, his work is in five main sections, each in question and answer form.

The first section is atmospheric, suggesting the magic of night. A 3-note motive begins the movement, in the low strings, and this becomes the central core of the whole work.

The second movement is a passacaglia, to suggest the gradual build-up of size, the vastness of the universe. The climax comes with the addition of a choral fugue, to the words ‘of our system plunging towards the constellation of Hercules’.

The third section, the only quick-moving movement, describes the minuteness of organic existence on earth. The 3-note group is extended into a 12-note fugue theme.

The fourth section, conceived as a Nocturne, recalls the hush of mystery during an eclipse. In this ‘Homage a Schoenberg’, Seiber took the two opening chords of Schoenberg’s piano piece, op. 19 No. 6, added two more of his own, and thus attempted, in 12-note terms, to express the quietness and remoteness he was seeking.

The fifth section, ‘Epilogue’, refers back to the ‘Heaventree’ ideal, and the music reverses the order of the opening section; starting with the bright colour of high strings, it moves gradually down to the low, dark sounds of the beginning, before fading into nothing.

When Ulysses was first performed in 1949 it made a considerable impact, and did more than any other of his works to establish Seiber’s reputation as a composer.

Nine years later, when the Basel section of the I.S.C.M. commissioned him to write a chamber cantata, he returned to James Joyce for the text of the Three Fragments (1958), for speaker, wordless chorus and instrumental ensemble (flute, clarinet, bass clarinet; violin, viola, cello; piano and percussion). This time he chose passages from Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. He explains his reason in these words:

A few passages of lyrical beauty, and of great dramatic power, stuck in my mind ever since I read them, and were, so to speak, ear-marked subconsciously for future use. Now it seemed the appropriate time to make use of them.

The cantata is in three movements. The first starts atmospherically, like Ulysses, with the words ‘A veiled sunlight lit up faintly the grey sheet of water’. With the words ‘He heard a confused music within him’, the four voices of the chorus sing in four different tempi, while the orchestra adds further to the general melee with a rhythmical irregularity. Then gradually the sound recedes.

In strong contrast to this, the words of the second movement are a dramatic, terrifying description of a child’s vision of the Day of Judgement. The music is wild, jagged, harsh.

The third movement reverts to the mood and material of the first before fading away to nothing.

Seiber’s importance on the contemporary English scene lies primarily in his influence over other musicians and composers, particularly his pupils, and through his connection with Morley College. English music lacked a first generation of post-Schoenberg composers; by his precept and example Seiber supplied something of what was lacking, and demonstrated one highly intelligent and reasonable approach to the problems inherent in the 12-note style. If it is improbable that his music will evoke a wide or permanent response-partly because his roots lay elsewhere, partly because his eclecticism was so pronounced-nevertheless, he has without question indicated a path and held up a standard for others to follow.

In a sense, though the character and environment of the two men could hardly have been more contrasted, Seiber fulfilled the function and represented to the serial 50s something of what Walford Davies represented to the far-off and very different 30s. Walford Davies might be described as an intermediary musician, who spelt out what was happening in an evolving situation; his subject was the recently established concert repertoire, as well as the narrowly-defined field of church music. Seiber performed much the same service in the post-Schoenberg 50s. His subject was the contemporary scene, and in particular the narrowly-defined field of serialism.

He himself was well aware of the need for traditional roots if a composer’s work is to be of more than ephemeral interest; he was also well aware of his debt to Joyce for the warmth and inspiration of his two cantatas; as he said shortly before his death:

Whether or not I shall have the opportunity of setting more of James Joyce’s words I really cannot tell now. But for these two extracts I am eternally grateful to him. They are great literature, beautiful poetry, which has inspired me to write my two favourite works. No matter how often I read these passages, I always feel the same thrill as I felt when I read them for the first time.

12 Egon Wellesz


When Humphrey Searle went to Vienna to study under Webern, he could hardly have foreseen that in a short time a colleague of Webern, a composer steeped in the Viennese tradition, was to make his home in this country; and had he wished to study under him, he would have needed to travel no further than Oxford, where he had himself once been an undergraduate.

Egon Wellesz was born in Vienna on 21st October 1885. He was a fellow-student at that university with Webern, who was two years his senior, and like him was also a private pupil of Schoenberg;’ but in his composition he followed a different path from Schoenberg. Composition and musical history were the central features of his student period; he was under Guido Adler for musical history, and eventually took his doctorate with a thesis on the eighteenth-century Viennese composer Giuseppe Bonno, whose importance for Wellesz was chiefly that he was a contemporary of Gluck. Already Wellesz was showing a strong inclination towards opera, which was to occupy his main attention as a composer for the next thirty years. [1904-1906, when Schoenberg was thirty].

It was impossible to live just as a composer; many, such as Mahler, were also conductors, though this involved many years of back-breaking work on the provincial circuit. So Wellesz chose another path; his work has followed the twin pursuits of musicology and composition. Though they are distinct, the one is for him complementary to the other; he brings to his composition the full range of his shrewd historical perspective. In the years up to 1938, when he came as a resident to this country, the highest points of his achievement as a composer were Alkestis (1923) and Die Bakchantinnen (1931); and it was the second of these two operas which first gave him cause to visit England.

With a truly English flair for any and every sort of anniversary, however remote, the authorities of Oxford University had noticed that 1932 happened to be the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Haydn-who had, on one of his visits to England, been made an honorary doctor of Music of that university. Would it not be appropriate, therefore, if in 1932 another Viennese composer could be similarly honoured? The thought that this lot might have fallen upon Schoenberg himself is indeed a bizarre conception. However, the success of Wellesz’s opera the previous year had been noticed by H. C. Colles, a pillar of the Oxford Establishment; and this, coupled with his earlier success in Alkestis, as well as his work as musicologist, was the decisive factor in his favour. As luck would have it, another musician who also received an honorary doctorate at the same time was Edward Dent, the Cambridge professor whom Wellesz had invited to be president of the I.S.C.M. in 1922, after he and Rudolph Reti had formed it in Salzburg the previous year. Wellesz in 1932 had a very considerable reputation, and the words of the official peroration-'musicae hodiernae dux et signifer’-were not merely empty rhetoric.

Wellesz sprang from the Viennese tradition, at a time when it reached its flowering in literature and art as well as in music; and the composer who exercised by far the strongest influence over him to start with was Mahler. As a boy of twelve he heard Mahler conduct The Magic Flute, Lohengrin, The Flying Dutchman, for the first time at the Wiener Hofoper; and the impression was indelible. Indeed, the impression of Mahler’s performance of Der Freischutz was so strong on the young Wellesz that the very next day he himself began to compose. Again, when he first heard Mahler conduct Beethoven’s ninth symphony, of which he (Mahler) made his own highly personal reading, and even made alterations to the scoring, the sound of Mahler’s version of it was for Wellesz a ‘school of orchestration’. Many years later he returned, on 26th June 1960, to the rebuilt Wiener Staatsoper, at the invitation of the conductor Karajan, to speak about the achievement of Mahler as an opera director. This occasion marked the centenary of Mahler’s birth, and Wellesz re-lived some of the experience of his youth. The cultural ethos that prevailed at the turn of the century in the Viennese tradition-the spirit of innate conservatism coupled with a certain revolutionary radicalism; also the idealism and perfection that were epitomized by Mahler-was indeed very different from the contemporary situation prevailing today. Yet it has guided Wellesz.

Mahler’s ten years’ directorship of the Vienna Opera began on 11th May 1897, when he first conducted Lohengrin there; later that year he was appointed managing director. He exercised an extraordinary personal magnetism. Everything that he, or his designer Roller, placed on the stage had to ‘mean’ something; it was not enough for it merely to be there. But the performances in which he rose to the greatest heights were those of the operas of Mozart. Music was for him, according to Wellesz [Robert Schollum, Egon Wellesz, p. 9], ‘... a holy art’, (eine heilige Kunst), and each performance was an experience which would continue with the listener for many days. He was, according to Bruno Walter [Bruno Walter, Gustav Mahler, p.30 foll. (English edition)] who was his assistant, passionately devoted to the stage, and brought the whole house, singers, orchestra and audience alike, under his spell.

This also had the greatest formative effect on the young Wellesz, whose musical background during his early years at Vienna was thus made up of Mahler, Bruckner, Strauss and Schoenberg; beyond them, Ravel, Debussy, Bartok and to some extent Stravinsky; and, later still, Honegger, Milhaud, Poulenc and Hindemith, all of whom were his friends. His immediate colleagues, in a circle that was select and personal, were Berg and Webern; it was the latter who-in 1935-arranged a fiftieth birthday concert for him.

Wellesz heard a great deal of music, but always kept to his own path. After his period at the university, musicology and composition, coupled with the very strong Viennese operatic tradition, combined to focus his attention on opera. He studied the works of Fux, Cavalli, Monteverdi, Cesti, and the nature of seventeenth-century Venetian opera, and produced books on these topics, as well as editions of the scores; thus Wellesz anticipated by fifty years the work of some recent musicologists in this country. He explored the possibilities of the classical tradition, based on Greek antiquity, which was such an integral part of the Viennese opera.

Thus Wellesz the musicologist spurred on Wellesz the composer. When considering the whole history of opera, he considered that a great period had ended with Gluck, the eighteenth-century opera composer, who could be claimed as Viennese until he moved to Paris. After Gluck’s departure the Austrian tradition was open to foreign influence; the tradition of Rossini, Donizetti, Bellini was alien to that of Vienna, which was much more truly reflected in Beethoven’s Fidelio.

The Gluck tradition, however, lived on in France. Within a story of classical simplicity, and with just three characters, Gluck made both words and music entirely subservient to the expression of every shade of feeling experienced by the hero and heroine, and was not interested in mere vocal display, or such stereotyped devices as the da capo aria. This was the Greek ideal of dramatic art, that poetry, music and dance should unite in underwriting the drama, whose basic facts were traditional common property. The Gluck ideal was later epitomized in Berlioz’s Les Troyens.

Wellesz attempted to take up where Gluck left off; and his friend Edward Dent adds an interesting footnote [Opera, p. 51 (Pelican edition 1st ed. 1940)], clearly referring to Wellesz, when he says that although Gluck could not serve as a model to be imitated, in spite of some attempts, and although Mozart’s operas are free of that technical clumsiness which occasionally spoils Gluck’s works on the stage, nevertheless what was important in Gluck’s operas, as in Gluck’s own mind, was not the technical method but the moral outlook, and in so far as Gluck had any style of his own, that style could only be imitated by someone with the same philosophical principles.... He could only be venerated as the expression of a moral ideal; and for that he still stands even now.

Moreover in the ballets of Gluck, Wellesz saw the first application of the principles of modern dance techniques; and it was this development, rather than, for instance, the French-influenced Russian Ballet, which visited the Wiener Oper in 1914, that influenced Wellesz when he made the dance a very central, and emotional, part of his dramatic expression.

His first ballet, Das Wunder der Diana, Op. 18, was written in 1914. The libretto was by Bela Balazs, who also wrote those of Bartok’s The Wooden Prince and Bluebeard’s Castle; and the story is similar-of temples animated by the moon-goddess, and lovers transfigured; of transportation from an atmosphere of passion into one of other-worldly passionlessness; of serenity as if, by transformation of a boy and a girl, everything unstable has disappeared. This score was a preparation for Alkestis, Op. 35; but several other stage works, as well as other compositions, intervened. These included songs, four string quartets, two orchestral Pieces, the Prologue, Op. 2, and the Suite, Op. 16; and piano pieces, such as the Three Sketches, Op. 6, which are tonal experiments, like Schoenberg’s Op. 11; the stage works were the opera Die Prinzessin Girnara, Op. 27 (1919), and the Persian Ballet, Op. 30 (1920). This was written for a Russian dancer and choreographer, Ellen Tels, who had come to Vienna with her own small company. Two other intermediate works followed; the one-act ballet Achilles auf Skyros, Op. 33, with a libretto by Hofmannsthal, and a piece for coloratura soprano Aurora, the material of which was used later in Alkestis. Alkestis was the work with which Wellesz first successfully established himself as a composer. It continued the rediscovery of the classical Greek tradition of Gluck, which had been already begun in Achilles auf Skyros.

The libretto of Alkestis was by Hofmannsthal. He had written the play in 1893; now he altered the opening scene, and then suggested that Wellesz should similarly alter, and match, the ending. This change involved a final chorus. Hofmannsthal was fond of insisting that the music needed plenty of space; as Goethe said, it needed to be ‘widely meshed’. Moreover, it also needed the ballet. At the first performance of the work in Mannheim, the ballet was performed by the dancing schools of the town. [By a strange coincidence another Alkestis was produced about this time (1922); that of Rutland Boughton at Glastonbury].

It was subsequently produced in ten different opera houses in Germany, including Berlin in 1932. And though it was contemporary with Berg’s Wozzeck, Wellesz’s Alkestis could hardly have been a more total contrast.

First, it was ‘grand’ opera, in the traditional sense of the word, as opera had been for centuries. It belonged in the traditional opera house, just as a work such as Carmen, based on daily life, belonged more appropriately in the Opera Comique-where, indeed, it was first performed. But the material of Alkestis was mythical, heroic, not everyday. The use of ballet, which also earned Schoenberg’s approval, was a logical extension of this principle.

Second, Wellesz was concerned that his style should be linear. He did not so much occupy himself with the theoretical discipline of a 12-note technique, or with the serial fragmentation of the material, as with the achievement of long melodic lines. This characteristic was later to be the hallmark of his symphonic style.

No account of an opera composer working at this time in Vienna would be complete without reference sooner or later to Strauss, who exerted such a great influence over all aspects of music and over many musicians, including Schoenberg and Webern. Wellesz’s approach to opera, however, differed markedly from that of Strauss; if it resembled anyone else’s it resembled Bartok’s. Wellesz adopted a course of daring independence. He was also directly influenced by Hofmannsthal, who was much more to him than just a librettist; he provided a sense of stable literary values in an age of experiment and uncertainty; he represented the Austrian tradition, as distinct from the German tradition of Thomas Mann. Hofmannsthal became estranged from Strauss; and as Wellesz differed so much in outlook from Strauss, his operas could not be done under Strauss. So his next dance-drama, Die Opferung des Gefangenen (‘The sacrifice of the prisoner’), op. 40 (1925), was performed in Berlin when Strauss did not wish a performance in Vienna. (Many other composers found the same difficulty, including Berg.)

The story of Die Opferung, originally an old Aztec play, describes the Mexican civilization before the arrival of the Spanish; the survival, in the form of tragic drama, of the past grandeur of an old heroic world [This theme was also recently (1964) adapted by an English playwright, Peter Schaffer, into The Royal Hunt of the Sun, which dealt with the Incas of Peru].

This work was followed by a light, one-act opera, with words taken from Goethe, Scherz, List und Rache, Op. 41, which may be approximately translated ‘funning, cunning and gunning’. But then in 1929/30 came the fourth and last of the series of ‘heroic’ operas, Die Bakchantinnen, Op. 44, for which Wellesz wrote his own libretto, with Euripides once again as a starting-point.

The series of classical ‘heroic’ operas is thus as follows:

1. Achilles auf Skyros

The young Achilles, awakening to life, chooses the path of a hero.

2. Alkestis

The wife of King Admetus, who is ready to suffer death for the idea of kingship.

3. Die Opferung des Gefangenen

The young prince who consciously chooses to die, and will be worshipped as a hero after his death.

4. Die Bakchantinnen

Pentheus, the man of action, is above the law as king, and sees in the new cult of Dionysus a force that will destroy his tangible world-order. He feels that mysticism, by becoming a practical fact, through a cult, leaves that sphere to which it belongs, and destroys the existing power-structure.


Die Bakchentinnen was his last Viennese opera; it also marked the culminating point of his achievement in that field. It calls for mime as well as chorus-work, and for this the stage-designer Roller agreed to make use of the sixty to seventy members of the ballet company of the Viennese Opera-who sang as well as danced, when it came to the performance. For its first performance in Vienna, on 20th June 1931, the conductor Clemens Krauss required no fewer than sixty chorus rehearsals and twenty orchestral rehearsals. The work made a great impression in Vienna, but could not be repeated in Berlin for political reasons.

After this, until he came to England in 1938, Wellesz’s composition took a different turn; songs with orchestra, a piano concerto, a mass; and above all, his first full-length orchestral work (1934-36) Prosperos Beschworungen (Prospero’s Incantation [‘Prospero’s Incantation’ is the composer’s translation, as it appears on the score. H. C. Colles however insisted that ‘Prospero’s Spell’ is a more exact translation, and more ‘Shakespearian’]), Op. 53; five symphonic pieces based on Shakespeare’s Tempest. [Score published by Universal Edition]

The style of his works up to Prospero may be seen to follow a pattern. His earlier works began somewhat experimentally, but the larger forms that he later worked with required a more linear style. His thought is linear; and just as his interest veered away from Western Gregorian Chant towards the long lines of Byzantine Church Music, so is this reflected in the long, melodic lines of his own works, particularly those for one instrument. A particularly clear example of this characteristic occurs in Die Opferung des Gefangenen, at the end, just before the prisoner is killed. He has asked to dance once more with his own warriors; but this request is met with silence-that is to say, refusal. There follows a melody for a slow dance, which lasts for fifty-five bars (bars 1200-1255), during which a song of mourning is also heard from the Prince’s own people.

This is a very different approach from the pointillism that characterised Schoenberg’s style, and the fragmentation of the material, which is one of the chief characteristics of serialism; and whereas Wellesz might use an atonal idiom in smaller works, such as the solo Violin Sonata, Op. 36, in which he develops an extended tonality, something more was needed when larger forces were involved. The solution he arrived at was to write in blocks, with the crossing of one melodic line with another to produce varieties of key (polytonality) or varieties of rhythm (polyrhythm). Each line has a distinct character and vitality, while the blocks prevent the work becoming rhapsodic.

An example of this ‘emerging tonal complexity’ in Alkestis (bars 1516-1519), based on the differing tonal implications of combined linear blocks, is quoted by Reti [In Tonality Atonality Pantonality, p. 136]. His idiom is melodic, and the rhythmic continuity is usually straightforward. He eschews harmonic novelty, and favours instead the substance which comes of contrapuntal treatment of the material. He considers that nothing palls quicker than novelties, and particularly excessive harmonic colouring, of the sort that several late romantic composers indulged in. Indeed, historically speaking, harmonic novelty had reared its head in the works of the sixteenth century Gesualdo, only to be discarded by his successors when they built larger structures. So Wellesz draws a parallel today.

The style of his operas centres round his conception of operatic drama. Whereas a novelist takes his material from life, a dramatist takes his material from the great subjects of antiquity. So opera builds on a traditional foundation. But the fate of an opera, according to Wellesz, is decided on the stage, not in the orchestra pit; the contrasts of mood, which keep an opera moving, are underlined by the music. So for the death of the queen in Alkestis (bars 44-77) the characteristic Greek atmosphere is obtained by just clarinet and percussion; the expressive music, noted by Reti for its polytonal character, occurs earlier also at bar 550, for the moment when the women bring flowers after the death of Alkestis; in Die Opferung the death of the prince is musically illustrated at bar 1300. The chorus forms an integral part in all these operas. As Reti put it [In Egon Wellesz, Musician and Scholar (Musical Quarterly, Vol. 42, No. 1, January 1956)], Wellesz achieves ‘a blend of inner austerity with the splendour of festive choruses and glittering choreography’.

The first performance of Prospero took place on 19th February 1938 in Vienna, under Bruno Walter. A further performance was arranged in Amsterdam on 13th March, by the Concertgebouw Orchestra, also under Walter; and a repeat of this on 16th March in Rotterdam. These performances certainly took place; indeed, Wellesz looks back with characteristic Viennese affection on the concerts, particularly as the violin solo in the third section of Prospero (‘Ariel’s song’) was played by Arnold Rose, the brother-in-law of Mahler.

But on the very day of the Amsterdam concert, 13th March 1938, Hitler entered Vienna, and Austria was annexed to Germany. War was now inevitable in Europe. Thus ended the world that Wellesz knew, and many like him, particularly those of Jewish extraction. There was nothing for him, therefore, but to strike roots elsewhere, and begin afresh-at the age of fifty-three. Ten years later he was to return to Vienna, as a visitor, to be greeted by former students and friends; but this could hardly be foreseen in 1938.

H. C. Colles and Edward Dent arranged for him to come to England. In view of his doctorate, he was made a Fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford; later (1947) a Reader in music; this position he retained until 1957, though he continued to teach after then. It was not Wellesz the composer who was given this academic post, but Wellesz the musicologist; and however distinguished his name might be among international European musicians, there were, so he was told, those at Oxford, and in the more sound-proof ivory towers of this country, to whom his name meant little or nothing. Could he not write a book in order to establish his name in those quarters where it was appropriate that it should be established?

His work as a musicologist had for many years focused on Byzantine Chant, in which he was already known by the 30s as a specialist. He discovered clues to the interpretation of neumatic notation, so that by 1917 the notation of Byzantine Church music was deciphered and transcribed; and gradually it became possible for Western musicians to explore this hitherto unknown territory. In 1931 a conference in Copenhagen brought together those chiefly interested in this work, and it was agreed to set about publishing the texts of Byzantine musical manuscripts. This complete edition, Monumenta Musicae Byzantinae, was started in 1935 by the Danish scholar Carsten Hoeg, H. J. W. Tillyard, Professor of Greek at Cardiff University, and Wellesz. So when Wellesz came to Oxford, it was arranged that his manuscripts and Byzantine photographs should be brought to this country; whereupon he set about his work. A History of Byzantine Music and Hymnography was published ten years later. Wellesz later also became one of the editors of the New Oxford History of Music, and of the History of Music in Sound.

His arrival in Oxford was followed by a gap of several years in his creative output. The last work that he wrote in Vienna had been a part-song Quant’ e bella giovinezza, Op. 59. Not till 1944 does Op. 60 appear-his Fifth String Quartet, ‘in memoriam’ of former days. Beginning maestoso, with a long and violent unison, the work uses a 12-note style. Four more string quartets were to follow. There is a large number of chamber works included in his output, and generally speaking their style is more concise and direct than the larger pieces. Four players can be more agile than forty; and Wellesz frequently precedes bigger works with smaller ones, just as Aurora had paved the way for Alkestis.

But it was in the next year (1945) that he started on the new path that he has pursued consistently since; that of a symphonist. He has been practically the only composer of the Viennese tradition to develop the symphony since Mahler, and his nine symphonies form the focal point of his output during the period of his residence in Oxford, just as the operas had formed the focal point of the earlier period of his life [He wrote an opera, Incognita, based on Congreve, which was performed on an amateur basis by the Oxford University Opera Club. It stands in line of descent from Strauss’s Rosenkavalier]. The last five symphonies in particular form a group which may be compared with the ‘heroic’ operas; in them also Wellesz sought an ideal of a new classicism.

The First Symphony came about somewhat unexpectedly. In August 1945, when he was staying at Grasmere in the Lake District, he was reminded of the Salzkammergut, the district near Salzburg that he knew so well. A theme occurred to him, which invited symphonic treatment; the next day another theme came to him. Immediately, as if in a trance, he sketched out his First Symphony in C, Op. 62, in just three weeks. It was, he says, the most exciting work of his life. The scoring was finished later that year. Its three-movement structure is still classical, for the sake of thematic cohesion, though the development is fugal-a device which he used later in the fifth symphony. The work was performed in 1947 by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra under Celibidache, and later, on 22nd June 1948, in Vienna under Josef Krips, for which Wellesz returned to Vienna-for the first time since the war.

The Second Symphony, Op. 65 which followed two years later, he called his ‘most English’ symphony; not only is the character of the English landscape portrayed, but the composer’s preoccupation at this time with English poetry is also echoed. The four movements have a clearly defined tonality. The work still retains traces of romanticism, and is a blend of heroic and sombre colours. It was performed in this country under Adrian Boult and Walter Goehr; when it was played in Vienna under Karl Rankl, on 21st June 1949, Wellesz returned again for this performance. The following month also his Octet, Op. 67, was performed by the Vienna Octet at the Salzburg Festival. It was a busy summer for the composer.

The Third Symphony, Op. 68, written between 1949 and 1951, stands somewhat apart from his other symphonic work, since it contains recollections of other Viennese composers, and is the only symphony not published. Very different was the next symphony, the fourth, Symphonia Austriaca, Op. 70. A thematic motif, taken from the fourth String Quartet, gives the work a unity, like an idee fixe. But the composer has now mastered symphonic form; the structure is firm, the contents dramatic.

Thus was the stage set for the five symphonies (5-9) which form the highpoint of his orchestral compositions. The Fifth Symphony, Op. 75, was written over three years, and finished in Oxford on 2nd September 1956. Meanwhile, in these years Wellesz had travelled widely; to America in 1954, where he was invited to stay at the Byzantine Institute at Dumbarton Oaks, when he lectured at Yale, Princeton and Columbia Universities, travelled all over the country and heard his music played in several places; to Constantinople in 1955, where he addressed a congress on Byzantine music. His name was internationally known; except, strange to say, in England, where he had already been resident for over fifteen years, but where his music was scarcely heard, if at all. But at this time English musicians were just discovering Schoenberg, Berg and Webern; they had not yet alighted upon Wellesz. Not for nearly ten years was his Fifth Symphony given its first performance in this country, by Hugo Rignold and the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, on 21st October 1965. The same orchestra and conductor also performed the sixth and seventh symphonies in the following years [The Sixth Symphony was first played at Birmingham on 29th September 1966; the Seventh Symphony on 21st November 1968]. Very slowly the balance began to be restored.

In the Fifth Symphony Wellesz goes back to the tonal adventures of his youth; and this time the experiments succeed. What he had aimed at when young, his experience as a composer now enabled him to achieve; a more daring style now becomes tempered with the introversion of age. The solemn but brilliant opening is similar in mood and texture to the opening of the second of the Three Sketches for piano, Op. 6, written in 1911. He adopts a 12-note style, not as a dogma, but in order to give the structure a certain cohesion. The characteristics of his style are all here in abundance; particularly the linear counterpoint over a simple rhythm. The basic tonality of the symphony is D, and the shape of the 8-note row, first sounded in unison, also includes the tonality of E flat; this polytonal implication after its initial, harsh presentation, in bar 5, is worked out in the course of the symphony. At the point of recapitulation in the first movement. after a slower middle section, the speed quickens, and the row is stretched from 8 notes to 12, and is combined with its own retrograde to form a fugue subject [Bar 163; score published by Hans Sikorski, Hamburg].

The second movement, ‘Intermezzo’, is a short, bright scherzo, also starting in unison, with the row transposed, and with interjections of 5/8 metre into the prevailing pattern of 6/8. A little accompanimental motif, which first occurs towards the end of the vivo (at bar 88), forms the connecting link with the next movement, as it gives shape to the 12-note theme, as well as underlying colour to the harmony. The theme is given out adagio molto by a solo bass clarinet, and answered by the oboes in retrograde. The development of this movement is contrapuntal, as the theme is first inverted, then treated as a canon between the bass instruments and the brass (starting at bar 29), while the violins develop a brilliant counter-subject. This leads, typically of the composer, to a unison climax. After a more lyrical middle section, the main theme is recapitulated, once more in unison, and the movement ends firmly.

The first three notes of the original 8-note row are inverted to form the bass pattern of the finale. The maestoso character of the first movement is here brought to the fore, and the tragic grandeur of the theme takes on the form of a funeral march; muted trombones and tuba (bar 53) enhance this effect. The slower middle section reverts to the material of the first movement, after which the bass-pattern and the funeral march are recapitulated. The symphony finishes grandly, with the expected unison declamation of the main note-pattern, sounding the E flat and D tonalities round which the work is built.

Wellesz in this work makes a marked contribution to the development of the symphony as a contemporary form. How many composers, indeed, have reached a point of climax with their fifth symphony! Both in the overall conception of the whole, and in the technical execution of detail, he has developed a new form while not losing sight of the classical principles of symphonic construction. The features-rhythmic, harmonic, melodic-of his initial 12-note row are used variously to give different colour to the themes of each movement, while underlying the work as a whole is a mood of tragic, heroic solemnity, which develops towards the final grandeur of the climax at the end. In his use of the row, Wellesz is contrapuntal rather than serial. He can invert, transpose, and perform the recognized contrapuntal tricks, with considerable deftness; but always the technical procedures are subservient to the expressive needs of the music, and the character of the movement, just as in his operas.

The Sixth Symphony, Op. 95, was written nine years later, in 1965, and several important works separated it from the fifth; notably a setting of the first of Rilke’s ten Duineser Elegie, Op. 90, and also the one-movement Music for String Orchestra, Op. 91. The Sixth Symphony took only three months, including the scoring (5th April-7th July). It is in three movements, and like the fifth has a basic tonality of D, with a polytonal implication of E flat. It opens, again like a funeral march, slow and heavy in 5/4 metre, with brass and woodwind dominating, and the first movement grows all of a piece from the beginning. The strings enter ff in the seventh bar with the principal theme, a broad and very big, arch like cantabile, whose wide intervals recall Wellesz’s early works. The mood is intense, with just occasional moments of contrasting lightness. When the principal theme returns (bar I57) it is not an exact repetition, and after four bars it is suddenly cut off; the mood of The funeral march is recaptured,-and the movement ends menacingly. The second movement is light, quick, transparent, scurrying to and fro in triplets and semiquavers. A more sustained tranquillo middle section, for strings only, separates the quick outer parts of the movement.

The third movement, Adagio, opens with all the violins quietly and expressively singing their 12-note melody, very differently presented now from the theme in the first movement. Over a rhythmic ostinato in the bass a climax is built up, but in contrast to this theme follows the most delicate part work for solo instruments. The ending is one of peaceful. reconciliation.

Wellesz has said of this symphony that it is concerned with one idea, presented in three aspects. It is a contrast more of moods than of thematic presentation of the note-row, as the Fifth Symphony was.

The Seventh Symphony, Op. 102, is also in three movements, and was written between 11th October 1967 and 21st January 1968. Although it is entitled ‘contra torrentem’, because Wellesz sees the symphony as being against current trends, nevertheless he has proved himself master of that new classicism in symphonic form that he himself opened up. It continues directly from the point reached in the Sixth Symphony, though it is more concise, and covers a wider range of expression, with the greatest intensity. In accordance with his earlier practice, Wellesz derived material from a work written just before; in this case a cantata, Mirabile Mysterium, Op. 101, commissioned by the Vienna Radio for the Italia Prize, 1969.

The disposition of the movements of the Seventh Symphony is the same as the sixth, with the first and third movements broad, sustained, and acting as a frame for a more lively, joyful middle movement. But this time the violins, largely in unison, develop a feeling of ecstasy, which is theirs alone; the concluding bars consummate this mood.

The sombre character of the music, established at the opening, pervades the work; even the lighter texture of the middle movement is offset by heavy brass chords. The finale is the most extended of the three movements, and the most important, with a resolution of the mood forming the conclusion; beginning and ending with very sustained string writing (sehr breit), and quickening in the middle, at [45] -3.

The Seventh Symphony was followed by a ten minute symphonic piece, at the request of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. This Symphonischer Epilog, Op. 108, which is an intensely concentrated work, might be also described as a tragic epilogue; and once embarked on this course, Wellesz the symphonist could hardly stop. He felt that this work needed a second part; and thus arose the finale of the Eighth Symphony, which was written before the other two movements of it.

The Symphonic Epilogue was finished on 11th December, 1969; the Eighth Symphony, Op. 110, was written between February-June, 1970. That freedom in the thematic working-out of ideas, which is already apparent in the Seventh Symphony, and carried on in the Epilogue, is pursued still further in this and in the next symphony. A movement is not divided into sections, according to the classical procedure; but the development starts from the very beginning. From the sum of his symphonic experience Wellesz in his maturity took what was essential for the music, and wrote just that; the pure reality of sounds, naked colours, in a lighter surrounding texture, and without full harmonization-the opposite of Strauss, or of Schoenberg. In this sense the music is implicit rather than explicit, and its construction a comparatively free and loose working-out of ideas.

The symphony is in the now customary three movements; sustained outer movements enclose a quicker, scherzo-like section. The third movement, Molto tranquillo, which was composed first, is both substantial and complex. It opens with a phrase built round the interval of the second (B flat-A flat), which recalls the funeral music in Alkestis (bar 495 foll.). Biting scoring, with flutes and three high oboes (bar IS) leads to an increase of intensity, and the music is characterized by broad lines and wide intervals, spelt out in notes of small value.

Having completed the finale, the other two movements came quickly to Wellesz. The opening Lento has a long solo for the trumpets as a leading idea. This is later recalled-not repeated-with mutes, against the static chords of divisi strings. The material of this symphony is diverse, yet the work is homogeneous. Here Wellesz has applied the principles of Mozart, that whereas each 2-bar section of an 8-bar sentence may contain material of diverse interest, nevertheless the overall phrase is a unity. In this case, though the juxtaposed motifs are different, yet the whole musical experience is coherent. The material is firmly controlled, however loose the structure.

The central Allegretto, in triple metre, represents the scherzo movement, with just a suggestion of a very short trio for flute and oboe. The scoring in this movement is slightly pointillistic, with very short motifs, even single notes, distributed between the instruments. The style of the trio is picked up at the beginning of the finale.

Following the completion of the Eighth Symphony, Wellesz was faced with the congenial task of celebrating his 85th birthday-on; 21st October, 1970. To mark the occasion, chamber music concerts were given at the Austrian Institute in London, as well as Oxford, Vienna and elsewhere, by the (Vienna) Philharmonic String Quintet, for whom he wrote Four pieces for String Quintet, Op. 109. But already his mind was turned towards the possibility of the next symphony; and this was started in November.

The Ninth Symphony, again in three movements, is a continuation of the eighth. Like its predecessors, it was composed over a comparatively short period of uninterrupted work. The speed is remarkable. The sketch of the first movement was finished by 20th December. On Christmas Day the middle movement was sketched out in essentials-and has since remained basically unaltered. The very next day, 26th December, he started work on the final Adagio. The entire symphony was scored between 22nd January - 6th February, 1971.

By this time the chromatic tendency of the 12-note technique had become so much second nature to Wellesz that, like Schoenberg in Moses und Aaron, he no longer concerned himself with the mechanics of it-as he had in some earlier works. Here the composer in his maturity writes what he wants to write, of the sort of symphonic music that by now he had forged for himself from the style of the Second Viennese School.

The first movement, Andante Moderato, opens with characteristic vigour, and the music immediately works towards a point of intensity (bar 31). A 3-note motif; with a prominent dotted rhythm, acts as a unifying point of climax. It occurs again in bar 137, and at the end. The slight pointillism noticeable in the previous symphony is here carried to a much greater level, and the scoring differs markedly even from bar to bar. Orchestral colour is used more than in earlier symphonies; for instance the horns feature prominently, often in unison; one of the most dramatic and powerful effects, discovered by the 85 year-old composer. Leading motifs are given to certain instruments; for instance a falling figure to the harp. As before, the composer is concerned that nothing should overlay or obscure the absolute sounds of his orchestra.

The scherzo movement, Allegretto grazioso, is of very light texture. The harmonic movement is slow, and static passages alternate with evanescent, shimmering sounds. The central trio this time is just hinted at by tremolo strings.

The concluding Adagio contains the essential Wellesz. Like the finale of the Eighth Symphony, it is of complex construction, though free. It opens with a powerful unison violin melody, whose long line, and characteristically wide intervals, gradually rises, then falls. This process is immediately repeated, with rhythmic diminution, and the music grows in intensity to bar 20. The 12-note motif of the first movement comes as a contrast, as well as a unifying link in the symphony. The following section, a hocketus melody in the woodwind, and a rubato passage, leads to the strings resuming the original tempo at bar 55, with a recollection of the first movement rhythm.

A stricter, more martial pulse, beginning at bar 58, leads inevitably to a powerful section (bar 75-85), when the first movement rhythm becomes again more prominent. The strings recall the beginning of the movement (bar 103), and after bar 115 the woodwind and horns, in 3-part harmony, and equal crotchets, have a simple passage, like a chorale. The final moment of the symphony is heralded by a high note (E flat), by two desks of first violins, which gradually swells up to ff, only to fade.

To the work of the Second Viennese School Wellesz added the symphony. Schoenberg, Berg and Webern had been effectively inhibited from writing symphonies by the overwhelming influence of Mahler; Wellesz forged a new symphonic style, over a remarkably rich 25-year period (1945-1970) which also exactly coincides with the period covered by the present study.

Between the first and ninth symphonies he never once varied the make-up of the symphony orchestra. Not for him the experimentation of Tippett, or the novelty of Gerhard. This is one illustration of those forgotten ideals, that striving after perfection, that emanated from Mahler, but which now no longer activate the avant-garde; it is also entirely consistent with Wellesz’s avoidance of novelty, whether of harmony or sonority.

At his very first lesson with Schoenberg-an unforgettable experience-the latter had shown him the harmonic novelties at the opening of Strauss’s Salome. Soon however Wellesz noticed that these novelties appeared flat indeed in comparison with the more striking novelties of Schoenberg’s own work. Novelty, Wellesz concluded, was a false god; once heard, it ceases to be a novelty. Therefore he did not pursue it.

His achievement in the symphonies particularly since the fifth, has been to take the greatly increased possibilities of expression of today’s various musical idioms, and, using only what he needed of them, to fashion a new conception of symphonic form. In many ways the contemporary composer is faced with precisely the opposite situation from that which confronted the classical composers, who first forged the conception of the symphony. They worked from the basis of a fixed key, and an established diatonic scale of seven notes, to which they added the additional expressiveness of the remaining five chromatic notes in whatever proportion and to whatever extent was compatible with the overall tonal scheme. The contemporary composer, however, works from the basis of twelve notes, whose organization may or may not be serial as he sees fit; nor is this licence confined to pitch only.

From such total chromatic freedom, which is clearly inconsistent with the classical principles of symphonic form, Wellesz worked inwards and deduced a structure that was compatible with his chosen idiom. He sees the contemporary situation of the symphony as not unlike what it was prior to its formulation by Haydn, who poured out music, and from the resulting stream fashioned a symphonic structure. Now Wellesz sees the necessity to refashion the symphony; and for structural contrast, corresponding to the classical sonata form, he does not so much introduce a second theme as make use of different melody and varied movement. He has built a new edifice, without losing sight of the old.

13 Roberto Gerhard


Few composers in Britain today have had a richer, fuller artistic life than Roberto Gerhard. After a slow, gradual growth, his compositions increased steadily in later years in both number and range. Artistic vision and intellectual vigour made for his insatiable curiosity about music of many different periods and styles. Indeed, the assimilation of fresh ideas and influences was part and parcel of his creative personality. This particular period of time requires of the composer not just that he should be aware of the forces and influences at work around him, but that he should also interpret them; and Gerhard proved fully equal to this challenge.

The work, no less than the composer himself, can be approached on many different levels, all of which are valid, and any one of which will lead the enquirer into ever more complex and intricate side-turnings; pointers to the working of a daringly original mind. There is, first, the surface-level of a piece, those themes or motifs which give it its cohesion; next the subtler undercurrent of unity, that inner subconscious structure, those details that are implicated in the folds of the texture that make it hang together; this is particularly the case in the later works from 1957 onwards.

Listen, says Gerhard; do not look, or analyse, or follow in a score. So the first impression that reaches the listener is one of the craftsman in sound; and first impressions are often the strongest and most valid. But underlying the sound-craftsmanship is an intellect at once rigorous, tough, all-demanding. The structure, form or shape (call it what you will) must bc consistent throughout; if a work is serial, the series must be logical, in both its vertical and linear use. The two hexachords must interlock. Again, underlying all his work was a philosophy at once liberal, compassionate, far-sighted, powerful enough to guide him through the inevitable setbacks and difficulties of a long and varied life. He wrote innumerable lighter pieces, arrangements and settings, largely for economic reasons, including an electronic sound track for a film made by two Cambridge doctors, Audiomobile No. 2 ‘DNA’; yet these he looked on as just as real an artistic experience as his more serious work. He admitted, as we shall see, a number of lighter pieces into the definitive list of his compositions; Alegrias for example.

He was born at Valls near Barcelona on 25th September 1896. His mother was French, his father Catalan. His awareness of the upsurge of nationalism in Spanish music that we associate particularly with Albeniz and Granados was increased when he studied the piano with the latter in Barcelona (1915-16). More importantly, he studied composition with Felipe Pedrell, until Pedrell’s death in 1922. The eighty-year-old professor would refer to his young pupil as ‘Benjamin’, and hint, somewhat mysteriously, that he was destined to further his work. And indeed, twenty years later, Gerhard was asked for a single-movement piece to mark the centenary of Pedrell’s birth (1841), to be played on the Latin American service of the BBC. This work, though written, was not performed; but the composer had become so caught up in it that he extended it into a three-movement work of symphonic size, and gave it the title Pedrelliana. He took material from Pedrell’s opera La Celestina (1903), which was a sort of Spanish Tristan and Isolde, and used it as a starting point for his own work. Curiously enough, Falla, another Pedrell pupil, took the same opera as a basis for a piece; but he quotes it much more directly than Gerhard does. As usual Gerhard became entirely absorbed in the work, and the third movement is about Pedrell himself, whose life Gerhard saw as tragically split between the divided loyalties of musicology on the one hand and composition on the other.

Like Falla, Gerhard looked beyond Spain for that spur to deeper means of expression and a wider sense of artistic direction than provincial Spanish life provided. But whereas his compatriot had travelled no farther than Paris, to the congenial world of Debussy and Ravel, Gerhard travelled to Vienna and Berlin, where for five years (1923-28) he was Schoenberg’s pupil.

This was that extremely fruitful time when Schoenberg was just formulating his 12-note technique. 1924 saw the first purely 12-note work of Schoenberg (the Piano Suite, Op. 25), and in December of the following year Berg’s Wozzeck was first produced in Berlin. The young Gerhard could hardly have chosen a more climactic moment; he was witnessing the birth of one of the driving-forces of twentieth-century music.

But he did not immediately adopt Schoenberg’s style. Indeed, during these years he wrote little; only the Wind Quintet (1928), which though not entirely serial, uses certain serial devices-for instance the Passacaglia bass in the second movement, and the principal melody in the third. This work throws into relief certain problems inherent in the 12-note style, which Gerhard sought to solve for himself; the dichotomy between the principal and the subsidiary pares in a texture of imitative counterpoint; the inconsistency of using such sharply differentiated instruments as flute, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon in a style that makes for unity and homogeneity above all else. But Gerhard is an unorthodox Schoenbergian. For instance, his concentration on pattern, one of the most intellectual inventions of the human mind, has nothing to do with the linear series of his teacher. As we shall see, Gerhard was later to make a marked and highly original contribution to the craft of serial composition.

Returning to Barcelona, he became, among other things, head of the Catalan Library, where he edited early Spanish music. He also wrote articles and translations for various magazines. In 1938 he was a member of the I.S.C.M. jury in Warsaw [Where Alan Rawsthorne’s Symphonic Studies were first played.], and on his return he found that Barcelona had fallen to Franco in the Civil War, and the Catalan government was exiled to Paris. He therefore remained in Paris until June 1939, and meanwhile enquired of his English friend Edward Dent about the possibility of leaving for England.

As President of the I.S.C.M., Dent was much more in touch with musical developments and continental musicians than the majority of his English colleagues and contemporaries. He and Gerhard had met as early as 1932 at the Vienna Festival, and so now, as Professor of Music at Cambridge, he was able to suggest that his friend be awarded a ‘research studentship’ at King’s College. In 1939 Gerhard moved to Cambridge, where he lived happily until his death on 5th January 1970.

Before 1923 Gerhard’s compositions were slight; short piano pieces, a piano trio, some songs; notably Seven Hai-Kai, settings from the Japanese for high voice, wind instruments and piano, which were influenced largely by Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire.

Between 1929 and 1939 his works comprised chiefly a setting of Josep Carner’s poem ‘L’Alta Naixenca del Rei en Jaume’, and two ballet scores. The first of these, Ariel, was given a concert performance under Hermann Scherchen at the Barcelona Festival of the I.S.C.M. in May, 1936 [When Berg’s Violin Concerto was first played.]; the second, Soirees de Barcelone, was not performed owing to the outbreak of war. Webern conducted his Cancons Populars Catalanes at an I.S.C.M. concert in Vienna in 1932.

On his arrival in England in 1939, two more ballet scores immediately occupied his attention. The first, Don Quixote (1940), was played first as a concert suite before being staged as a ballet at Covent Garden (1950). The characters that spring from Don Quixote’s feverish mind spurred Gerhard on to one of his most characteristic and colourful stage works. Within the principal Don Quixote theme is included a little tune from Gerhard’s home in Spain; this gives rise to a note-row, which is treated serially all through the work. The second ballet, Divertissement Flamenco, was Gerhard’s response to a commission from the Ballet Rambert. Though Catalan, not Andalusian, he considered that he could write a Flamenco as well as the next man, and the ballet was performed in Birmingham in 1943. It has been made into a concert suite, Alegrias, and the style is that of a composer enjoying himself in lighter vein. The libretto concerns a bull fight, and Gerhard has musical fun not only at the expense of the bull but of the choreographer. For instance, in the finale (Jaleo) gipsy tunes are used for the dragging off of the corpse, while Chopin’s funeral march blares out from the trumpets. For a model, if one is needed, we could turn to Falla’s Three Cornered Hat, which is based on Andalusian tunes, or the finales of some of Bartok’s String Quartets, which are characteristically Hungarian, but not inconsistently so.

Another ballet was performed in Cambridge the following year, by the Kurt Jooss Company: Pandora. If certain qualifications surround this piece-its length, for instance-no such qualifications surround his next and most ambitious stage work: his only opera, The Duenna (1945-47).

When his wife Poldi returned home one day with a secondhand copy of Sheridan’s famous comedy, which she had bought for sixpence from a bookstall, one glance was enough to persuade the composer that here was a perfect opera libretto; and he began work that very day.

Gerhard’s opera is based on artificiality. It is pastiche in a serious setting, partly tonal, partly making use of a free 12-note style. If pastiche may be defined as indulgence in a style that you like, then Gerhard enjoyed writing this neoclassic mimicry. But the important clue to pastiche, he considered, is that the character of the impersonator should not be lost sight of.

Points of resemblance and similarity between Gerhard’s The Duenna and Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress are too close to overlook. These become all the more remarkable when we remember that Stravinsky’s work was the later of the two; it was not produced until September 1951, in Venice. Gerhard’s work has not yet been produced, though it was given a concert performance in Wiesbaden in 1951.

Both composers chose eighteenth century subject material; both use a hero, a heroine and a villain, cast as tenor, soprano and bass respectively; both use a formalised scheme of arias, recitatives, and so on; both use an E tonality in Acts I and III, with a contrasting tonality in the middle act; each composer has left his own persona distinctly recognizable, however much he relies on earlier material. Stravinsky may have had Mozart or Donizetti in mind [Particularly Cosi fan tutte. cf Memories and Commentaries p. 158], but his fingerprints are clearly impressed all over the score. So with Gerhard.

The set numbers of Sheridan’s play fall naturally into strophic songs. These are simply tonal. It is in the connecting, secondary passages that Gerhard introduces more chromatic, contrapuntal texture. Motifs and ostinatos are used to help in establishing characters and relationships; the tritone, for example, the atonal interval par excellence (just as the fifth is the tonal interval par excellence), is used throughout the work to express any undesirable or awkward turn of events. Such a stylistic oscillation, between tonal and 12-note, could result in inconsistency unless it was welded into an artistic unity by the overriding personality of the composer. And this Gerhard achieves.

As an example of this contrast, the first scene of the second act ends with a drinking trio, in which the composer found to his delight that the words fitted perfectly with a Spanish rhythm; he proceeds to indulge this happy discovery for over three hundred bars, and the mood is jovial:

Fill a cheerful glass

And let good humour pass

Immediately, the opening of the next scene is entirely contrasted, and a sombre 12-note introduction leads into Luisa’s somewhat wistful song. Sheridan’s play has been set by other composers apart from Gerhard. The author’s own father-in-law, the composer Thomas Linley, cooperated with his own son (also Thomas) in setting it, and this piece had a long run at Covent Garden, starting on 21st November 1775. More recently, Prokofiev’s opera, Betrothal in a Nunnery (Op. 86), is based on Sheridan’s play, with a libretto by the composer. Curiously enough it was first staged in Leningrad on 3rd November 1946, exactly the time when Gerhard was engaged on his version.

After the opera there followed the first of the purely orchestral masterworks by which Gerhard will be permanently remembered, the Violin Concerto.

This was first performed at the Florence Maggio Musicale in 1950, conducted by Scherchen, with Antonio Brosa as soloist. Strictly speaking this work is Gerhard’s second violin concerto. An earlier essay in this form, written soon after his arrival in Cambridge, was abandoned just on the point of completion because the composer was dissatisfied with it; yet not so much with its musical material, some of which was used in other works later, as with the solo violin technique, which, so Gerhard held, needed to be one of the main justifications of a solo concerto. If the solo writing does not represent a carrying forward of past achievement for the soloist, why should the work necessarily take the form of a concerto? By this Gerhard did not mean indulgence or exhibitionism on the part of the solo violinist; simply that the spark of creative necessity (a Schoenbergian concept) needed to be focused on to the solo writing. Gerhard was his own first and sternest critic, and since his earlier violin concerto did not, in his opinion, pass this test, he decided to abandon it. But the lesson learnt from this was applied in the next concerto, whose very essence, and ‘instrumentality’ would be unthinkable in any other form than that of a violin concerto. [1. See Rufer, Composition wish twelve notes, p. 83. Schoenberg had celebrated his seventieth birthday on 13th September 1944.]

For the first time the twin problems of structure and sonority are triumphantly and originally solved in an orchestral context. It is serial in part only. After the first movement cadenza at [31] there is a 12-note section, molto vivace con spirito. The slow movement uses the 12-note series of Schoenberg’s Fourth String Quartet, while the last movement is largely autobiographical. The suggestion of the Marseillaise at the opening recalls the fall of France in 1940, as well as the composer’s French mother; the use of a Catalan folk-tune recalls the Abbey of Montserrat, where his father died.

Two further concertos span an important and formative period of Gerhard’s artistic development which then ensued: the Concerto for Piano and Strings (1951), and the Concerto for Harpsichord, Strings and Percussion (1956). They have common features; both are characteristic of their composer, who makes for simplicity and directness with such devices as regularity of metre, pedalpoint (with which the piano concerto opens), repeated figurations, a sustained semiquaver pulse, imitative entries, and so on. The piano concerto starts freely, and later becomes serial, while the series of the harpsichord concerto, with its falling minor thirds, has an inbuilt diminished seventh chord, which makes for awkwardness.

Though written in the same year as the harpsichord concerto, the Nonet could hardly be more different. Two quartets of wind, one woodwind, one brass, are linked by a highly original choice of continuo instrument, an accordion. Certain sonorities are striking, but the piece as a whole presents the opposite use of the 12-note style to that revealed in the harpsichord concerto. Whereas that was brilliant, glittering in texture, full of contrast, based on tonal exploitation of the note-row, this work is more academic, dense in texture, opaque and heavy in sonority. Its non-thematic construction places all the more burden on the colour of the instruments to save the music from monotony.

During this period (1950-55) Gerhard developed his original conception of a rhythmic series. This he intended should do in the field of time what Schoenberg’s note-row did in the field of pitch; and the pivot work, in which he first worked out his idea, was the First String Quartet. The first movement of this work was written in 1950, the remainder in 1955. The second movement is a free improvisation, but the third and fourth movements apply the working of a time-series; the third movement (Grave) in rallentando, the fourth (Molto Allegro) in acceleration, which makes the motifs more easily comprehended.

Some of Gerhard’s thoughts about the nature of serialism are summarised in an article written about this time [‘Tonality in twelve-tone music’ in The Score, May 1952]’, in which he puts forward the hypothesis that the 12-note technique is a new formulation of the principle of tonality. The word tonality, derived from the Greek tonos, implies something stretched; but it had hitherto been taken to refer only to pitch. Why confine composition to an imitation of Schoenberg’s pitch serialism? Most rhythm is thematically derived, yet rhythm, though interrelated, is something independent; it governs the temporal order of a piece, the way the music unfolds in time. Boulez had evolved a time-series, for instance in Structures, but Gerhard found this unsatisfactory because of the octave relationship between a note and another note twice its value. The essence of Schoenberg’s pitch-serialism was that each of the twelve notes was different; and octave displacement did not alter the note itself, any more than in the diatonic system the inversion, or octave displacement, of a chord altered its character.

Gerhard’s solution was to construct a numerical rhythmical series using prime numbers, and to interpolate the two groups of six (or three groups of four, or whatever the division of the twelve might be) in just the same way as Schoenberg interpolated the two hexachords of his pitch-series. Thus if one group uses seven beats, another thirteen, and they both start together, they will not coincide again until ninety-one beats later (7 x 13); how many bars this constitutes will depend on the metre.

This central development in Gerhard’s thinking took place between the first and second symphonies. The First Symphony (1952-53), which is in three movements, breaks entirely fresh ground in symphonic composition, in that, while retaining certain traditional links, it does away with themes. In place of the classical procedure of thematic form, with its exposition, development and so on, Gerhard substitutes a succession of long, melodic arches, serially constructed, and constantly varying in texture and rhythmic intensity; now the pace is quick, events crowd in on one another; now it is slack, lazy, and the parts have more breathing-space. The work is serial, though the later part of the first movement is somewhat freer, and uses motivic development. The most remarkable characteristic of Gerhard’s orchestral writing is his use of the strings. He condenses his original conceptions of orchestral sonority into the string writing, which is at all times highly effective, if occasionally extremely difficult. Moods alter; the music veers now this way, now that. The symphony as a whole can best be compared to a day, from sunrise to sunset, where the constantly shifting rays of light create effects of emphasis, climax and release, in a continuing and unbroken cycle. Interestingly enough, from the Second Symphony onwards (1957), all his works are a continuous movement, without breaks which he considered unnatural.

With the Second Symphony he completes the separation, not just from the traditional thematic principle, but from his own earlier serial thinking. The numerical series, which, apart from the first String Quartet, is first used in this work, makes for closer coordination of the texture, a more taut temporal order. But the processes of composition are irrelevant for the listener, who is concerned primarily with the sound; it is unfortunate that the sound of this symphony, which is to some extent a transitional work, as it marks the composer’s striking out into the more complexly abstract territory of pure sound, is not so characteristic of Gerhard as some other works. It resembles that grey, anonymous Esperanto which was the style adopted in the 50s by innumerable European serialists whose individuality it is almost impossible to pick out; the absence of themes imposes great burdens on the listener's ability for concentrated listening at the intellectual level.

The number of percussion instruments is greater, the number of notes sparser, than in the First Symphony. Seven percussion players are called for, and the various categories of instrument (tom-tom, cymbal, wood-block, Korean block, etc.) are graded into small, medium and large. This was the standard practice of the European avant-garde.

In its original form, the second main section of the symphony (Lento, bar 471) opens with an ostinato pattern for percussion which twice returns after intermediate sections for other instruments. The dynamic level is extremely low. There follows a little spiccato fugal section for strings (comodamente), similar to the opening of the Nonet; a cymbal-roll leads straight into the Molto Vivace final section, whose speed is disguised by the fragmented nature of the texture.

Yet that the Second Symphony occupied an important turning-point in his creative growth is proved by the fact that he later subjected it to basic revision. It was re-written under the title Metamorphoses [Published by Mills Music], of which 181 manuscript pages were finished when the composer died. It is in three movements, compared with the two main sections of the earlier symphony, and these three movements, according to notes left by the composer, represent the final, complete version of the work. It was his last manuscript composition. A projected fifth symphony was not finished.

The Third Symphony, Collages (1960), was commissioned by the Koussevitzky Foundation. It introduced yet another technical innovation, magnetic tape. Gerhard had used electronic effects in two earlier pieces: first as background for a radio play Asylum Diary, next for a recitation of Lorca’s Lament for The Death of a Bull-Fighter. In the Third Symphony tape and orchestra were juxtaposed in a way whose results could not be foreseen. The overall programme of the work is, explicitly this time, the span of a day from dawn to night; the sections invoke (in order): the dawn; the silence of plant life; the tumultuous world of man; the world of unconsciousness; re-assuming consciousness; cities in the distance; the calm of night.

Gerhard’s individual interpretation of the serial idiom was to reach its mature fulfilment in two orchestral works, the Concerto for Orchestra and the Fourth Symphony. but three other works intervene: Concert for 8 (1962), Hymnody (1963) for seven instruments, percussion and two pianos, and The Plague (1963), adapted from Camus for speaker, mixed chorus and orchestra.

It was in the Concerto for Orchestra (1964-65) that Gerhard reached that maturity in the new style which the Violin Concerto had in the old. In the Concerto for the first time the process of composition without themes, with the work based solely on those intangible, instinctive processes of constantly alternating and varying the timbre, intensity and duration of sounds of a very wide sound-spectrum, has been fully assimilated. His break with his former style is thus complete. The principles governing Gerhard’s serialism, as well as his intentions underlying this key work, are expressed as clearly as they could be by the composer’s note at the front of the score:

The present work is in one single movement. Its form largely depends upon three contrasting types of continuity which, in their alternation, strongly affect our passage-of-time consciousness. The first type is characterized by a high rate of eventuation. Tone plays solo here, so to speak, and tonal configuration is the leading composition principle.

The second type is represented by almost static yet pulsating constellation-like patterns. Here time is playing solo and temporal configuration, based on ‘time-lattices’, is now the leading principle. Pitch is merely subsidiary here and, therefore, free use is made of a number of sounds of indeterminate pitch obtainable on some instruments by unorthodox ways of playing them.

The third type of continuity might be likened to action in very slow motion. Comparatively little happens here, and everything casts long shadows, conjuring up, ideally, the magic sense of uneventfulness. A characteristic feature of this type of continuity is the virtual suspension of metre (only presented for the convenience of notation). This, together with a conspicuous freedom of tempo, is what reminds me of a possibly last, tenuous link with the ad lib. spirit of the old cadenza.

The piece, which was first heard in Boston, on 25th April 1965, lasts twenty-one minutes. It carries on where the Second Symphony left off; absolute priority is given to sonority, from which Gerhard assumes the structure will automatically be formed. Texture has supplanted thematic repetition as the deciding factor in the shape a piece takes. This is in accordance with the earlier principle of sonata form, which followed naturally from the use of thematic composition, and contrasted keys. The unorthodox ways of playing the instruments that the composer refers to include the strings being played with the finger-nail below the bridge, col legno on the tail piece, the finger-tip tapping the belly, and so on.

The achievement of the Concerto for Orchestra was further consolidated in the Fourth Symphony. This work, more assured in idiom, and stronger in texture than the second, was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic as part of the celebration of its 125th anniversary, and performed in December 1967.

Among the smaller pieces, it remains to mention three short and straightforward piano Impromptus (1959), dedicated to Lord and Lady Harewood; also the Second String Quartet (1962), which was commissioned by the University of Michigan, following Gerhard’s visit there in 1960. This twelve-minute work is remarkable for its fragmenting the series into 6, 8, 7, even 3-note sets; it also anticipates those effects which were later to be used in the Concerto.

Gerhard’s work is remarkable for many reasons. He was one of the very few British composers of the 60s who, having forged a style within the limits of total serialism, could still call it his own. His musical personality was sufficiently pronounced for his later serial works to reach beyond that technical anonymity that claims most.

He was one of the composers who benefited directly and positively from the swing towards serialism in the 60s; indeed, without it, and the active support of William Glock, it is more than doubtful, first, whether his music would have flowered as it did in the last decade of his life; next, whether it would have been heard to the extent it was. It was a remarkably productive period for Gerhard in which, having opened up his new serial world, he proceeded to occupy it; not only with the large-scale orchestral works, but with smaller pieces for chamber ensemble. His last three chamber works had astrological titles: Gemini (1966), a duo concertante (as it was originally called) for violin and piano; Libra (1968) and Leo (1969) for various ensembles.

The composer’s note to Gemini is characteristic:

The work consists of a series of contrasting episodes, whose sequence is more like a braiding of diverse strands than a straight linear development Except for the concluding episodes, nearly every one recurs more than once, generally in a different context. These recurrences are not like refrains, and do not fulfil anything remotely like the function of the classical refrain.

It is a brittle piece, of alternating movement and stillness for each instrument, and containing many of the avant-garde characteristics of piano-playing: cluster chords, glissando on the strings, and so on.

Libra, the Balance, was the composer’s own Zodiac sign. Like Gemini it could also be seen as a series of contrasting episodes, or better, heard as a series of contrasting sonorities. Leo, his wife’s Zodiac sign, also for chamber ensemble, was the last composition published in his lifetime; and it ends, appropriately, with a long diminuendo over a rocking piano bass.

Gerhard, like Stravinsky, travelled a great distance in terms of creative discovery; his style covers a wide spectrum. His artist’s curiosity was impelled by philosophical and intellectual energy. Even when expressing himself verbally, which he was sometimes reluctant to do, he took a delight in finding exactly and precisely the correct word or phrase to describe what was probably an abstruse, metaphysical idea. Clarity of speech reflected clarity of thought; nothing was more alien to Gerhard’s aesthetic than the imprecise, ill-formed, aleatoric approach to art.

The visitor who was fortunate to engage him, or perhaps overhear him, in conversation, would come away several hours later a considerably richer man. Thought-provoking ideas, paradoxes, aphorisms were carefully enunciated, for later consideration. One writer has noted several [In The Score (September 1956)]; some more are:-

Sound imagined is real; sound heard is reflex.

Composing at the piano removes a dimension of imagination.

The necessity of redundancy...

Repetition makes structure (cf Paul Klee)

Schoenberg put forward a way of handling pitch; he did not solve formal problems.

The composer feels thoughtfully, thinks feelingly.

Only when sound transcends its material nature does it excite the musical imagination.

Surprisingly, he rarely taught. Since 1939 he neither taught nor lectured at Cambridge, though in 1967 he was made an Hon. D. Mus. of that university. It was an American University (Ann Arbor, Michigan) which in 1960 persuaded him to accept an engagement as ‘visiting professor’. He returned to America the following year, to Tanglewood.

Gerhard’s aesthetic has a broad, philosophical basis. He felt a kinship with scientists, and the scientific attitude. Music, he maintained, was the pre-eminent art of the nineteenth century; this hegemony then passed to science. He moreover derived much benefit from Paul Valery, whose research into the multifarious problems connected with the creative process led him to conclusions with which Gerhard was in sympathy.

Apart from the use of a numerical series, his style is dominated by the smaller intervals rather than by the compound intervals which so appealed to Webern; also by his interpretation of serialism according to what he would call ‘tonal’ principles; chiefly, that is to say, the principle that the hexachords, of which there are sixty, can have permutations also within them. The music as a result grows in many directions, and is full of inner melody. He was fond of quoting the Byzantine definition of the smaller intervals as somatic, or substance-forming, and of the wider intervals as pneumatic, or insubstantial.

Another characteristic is the ostinato technique. If repetition is the corner-stone of structure, ostinato is the corner-stone of repetition. It is central to Gerhard’s style, and to his building of texture. Texture starts for him as imagined sound; composition finishes when the imagined sound has become real, and the moment has become crystallised.

At a rehearsal of the Fourth Symphony, a copyist was rash enough to suggest that a certain passage be cut. The ensuing conversation throws a light on Gerhard’s personality as well as his music; an element of seriousness is concealed, in true Anglo-Saxon style, beneath the lightness of the moment:

G. You are lucky I am not Schoenberg; he would have bitten your head off!

Cop. I knew you would not bite my head off!

G. You should have said - I am not Schoenberg.

Cop. Perhaps one Schoenberg is enough?

G. One Schoenberg is more than enough!



14 Andrzej Panufnik


Like Reizenstein, Panufnik combines executive with creative musicianship. Unlike him, however, he had already attained eminence in both fields, conducting and composing, before leaving his native Poland in 1954.

One of the most remarkable features of the British attitude to musicians from other countries is that while the warmest welcome is extended to visitors, the reception accorded to newly-arrived citizens from other countries is ambivalent, and considerably less fulsome. Composers who have taken up residence in this country, and become British citizens, have found obstacles in their path which are inexplicable to any who do not fully understand the full implications of that ominous and much-quoted phrase ‘English reserve’. And so, in the case of Panufnik, who is one of the most gifted composers in Europe today, in spite of his residence here, and his British nationality, his services as a composer and conductor are in demand in every other country of the Western hemisphere except London, where he lives.

He was born in Warsaw in 1914. His father was originally an engineer, but later he devoted himself entirely to making stringed instruments; he was extremely knowledgeable on the early Italian violin, and he constructed two completely new models of his own, Antica and Polonia, which became famous. He also wrote scientific books on the art of Violin making, which are to be found in the library of the British Museum. Andrzej Panufnik’s mother, of partly English origin, was a highly accomplished violinist although she never played in public. After a period at the Warsaw Conservatoire, where he studied the groundwork of composition under Kazimierz Sikorski, he proceeded, in 1937, to the Vienna State Academy, where he studied conducting as one of the very few and rigorously selected pupils of Felix Weingartner, and at the same time, acquainted himself with the 12-note style of Schoenberg and Webern. Panufnik has always considered his work as a conductor to be complementary to his composition; it has brought him into contact with music-making, and it has helped to give him that insight into the use of instruments which every orchestral composer needs. He has never been a career conductor.

He was also a creditable pianist, though he never considered himself as a concert soloist. He rounded off these formative years of study by going first to Paris, then to London. In Paris he concentrated his attention, naturally, on French composers, while continuing to work as a conductor under Philippe Gaubert. In London, which he visited in }939, he acquainted himself with the early period of English music, largely by research at the British Museum. He also heard several concerts at the Queen’s Hall. In short, few musicians in their twenty-fifth year have emerged from their student period better equipped to embark on their life-work.

He returned to Poland in 1939; and almost immediately the war broke out. He remained in Warsaw all through the Nazi occupation, and the difficulties and troubles of those years may well be imagined, on the personal as well as on the musical level. The city of Warsaw was completely destroyed, and the hell and agony of the Polish nation reached its dire climax in the ill-starred uprising of 1944. In such severe conditions, what music could there be, except on a makeshift basis? Orchestral concerts were ‘for Germans only’, and the performance of Polish music (especially Chopin) and of works by Jewish composers was banned by the Nazis, so music-making often had to be underground. Indeed, that any music was made at all seems miraculous; and yet it was at an underground concert in 1942 that Panufnik’s Tragic Overture was first heard. As well as working at his own composition, Panufnik played duets for two pianos with his contemporary, Witold Lutoslawski, and for this purpose they made transcriptions of some hundred works, from Bach and Mozart to Stravinsky and Szymanowski, and other banned composers. Tragically and mysteriously, all these transcriptions by both the composers, with the exception of the Lutoslawski Paganini Variations, were lost in the Warsaw Uprising. But unspeakably more tragic was the loss, also in the 1944 Uprising, of all the music that Panufnik had ever composed; not only that, but his brother Miroslaw lost his life as a member of the Polish Underground Resistance Army. What better way had the composer of keeping his brother’s name alive than by dedicating the re-written Tragic Overture to his memory?

After the war he became conductor of the Cracow Philharmonic, then director of the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra. He began to travel extensively as guest conductor to foreign orchestras. He resumed composition, and in the years immediately after 1945 he was free to develop as a composer in whatever direction he saw fit. Gradually, however, political pressure began to be felt more intensely, and the Soviet principles of ‘Socialist Realism’ were applied more severely. Music, like every other art, was looked on as an instrument of political propaganda; the composer was required to write mass songs and patriotic cantatas; all ‘formalism’ was proscribed, whether it was that of Debussy, Hindemith and Schoenberg, or of the Impressionist school of painters. This political pressure gradually became a stranglehold, which reached a climax in the years following 1949. Several works were banned, and some composers, including Panufnik, came under official criticism. It was only later, after 1956, that a more liberal atmosphere began to be felt, which was shown in the Warsaw Festival of that year. This liberalisation was the result not only of political events but also of a courageous struggle by the Polish composers; and certainly Panufnik’s dramatic protest two years before helped to influence the situation.

Much of the development in contemporary Polish music can only be understood in the light of these events; after 1956 Polish composers at last were able to experiment as regards their musical language, and at the same time, in a subtle manner, they were thus able to demonstrate against the Soviet regime which had so fettered their speech, and to emphasize that their cultural allegiance lay with the West. Therefore, after 1956 they excitedly pursued post-Webern serialism and post-Cage aleatoric devices.

Panufnik, however, followed a different path. For him the heart of the Polish tradition, and thus of his true style, lies in that spiritual, emotional, tragic, heroic feeling that can be traced from Chopin; he has never found any compensating satisfaction in an abstract theory or system, though he was acquainted with the serial technique.

He was highly respected in Poland, and well-known both as a composer and conductor. He was elected, among other things, the vice-president (jointly with Honegger) of the International Music Council of U.N.E.S.C.O. in Paris. He travelled extensively, and had been to England several times, for instance for the I.S.C.M. festival in 1946, when his Five Polish Peasant Songs were performed [On July 12th 1946, by the BBC Chorus, in the Goldsmiths’ Hall, London]. At last, however, in spite of outward success, he could endure the artistic stagnation and the political control in Poland no longer; so in 1954 he decided to leave the country. It was a bold and radical step to take at the age of thirty-nine particularly as he would be leaving behind in Warsaw all his most valued and personal possessions; his manuscripts, and his pricelessly valuable collection of over fifty stringed instruments, old Italian as well as new ones constructed by his father. However, after a concert in Zurich, instead of returning to Warsaw, he came to London. His action and protest, which he made known through every available source, has never been forgiven by the Warsaw Government, and his music is still banned in Poland and all communist countries. He knew no one in England, nor had he any financial backing. Apart from one concert with the Philharmonia Orchestra, his conducting engagements continued to come from abroad. The first year after his arrival was spent, as the list of his works shows, in rescuing and revising his works for publication: such works, that is, as he had managed to bring from Poland. After a few years’ residence he did get two BBC commissions [The Rhapsody and Polonia Suite], and later he was for two seasons (1957-9) conductor and musical director of the City of Birmingham symphony orchestra. He succeeded Rudolf Schwarz, who had been conductor since 1951, and was succeeded first by Sir Adrian Boult, for just one season, then by Hugo Rignold. But it was one thing to appear as guest conductor on the international circuit; it was quite another to devote a fuller proportion of time to the artistic direction of a provincial English orchestra with a very unadventurous audience and management committee. However, in addition to the standard repertoire, Panufnik introduced the Birmingham audiences to the work of several British composers. He conducted the first performances of Edmund Rubbra’s Seventh Symphony and Lennox Berkeley’s Second Symphony, and a Symphonic Prelude, Polonia, by no less a composer than Elgar. He presented only four of his own works. Above all, he showed particular interest in early English music: Avison, Arne, Boyce, Byrd and Purcell. Indeed, it is more than probable that he was much better acquainted with the early music of the country of his adoption than most Englishmen.

But he found, as many have, that the demands of composition and those of a conducting career are incompatible. Since leaving Birmingham in 1959 he has devoted the greater part of his time to composition, and confined his conducting to guest appearances. These have been mainly abroad, in such places as Buenos Aires, Lisbon, Paris, Stuttgart and elsewhere.

Of his works nothing survives prior to 1944. These included Symphonic Variations, a Little Overture, a Psalm for soloists, chorus and orchestra, and several chamber works and piano pieces.

But some other pieces were reconstructed. One in particular, the Tragic Overture, was firmly enough imprinted on his mind to be rewritten later. Apart from its central position in Panufnik’s creative consciousness, it is characteristic of the composer in style, mood and technique; it serves therefore as the best introduction to his music.

Panufnik’s principles and methods of composition are highly individual, and, more so than with most contemporary composers, are an essential clue to an understanding of his music. Whereas Sartre used to say that ‘existence precedes essence’, in the case of Panufnik a deep, spiritual feeling, a poetic intuition, precedes creativity. Many lesser composers adopt to music an emotional attitude of one kind or another, whether deep or not, as a substitute for the rigorous discipline of composition; many a hack religious work, for instance, or aleatoric sketch, has been written on this flimsy and threadbare aesthetic basis. Others, again, accept the necessity for strictness, but lack that underlying intensity of feeling which gives warmth and power to the finished structure; many a composer, whether academic or avant-garde, has became so mesmerised and preoccupied by technique as to mistake the means for the end of his art.

But Panufnik, like Messiaen (who is only six years his senior), treats each stage as equally indispensable and important. The spiritual content decides the very structure of the composition. First, the emotional involvement, from which derives the innate character of the themes; these in turn dictate the form of the composition; lastly come the progressions, tone-colours, and so on. Thus has Panufnik restored that balance in contemporary music between content and style-between what you say, and how you say it-which is always the first casualty in any war between irreconcilable partisans, of whatever viewpoint. And what snobbery is there that is more fierce, or more irrational and exclusive, than an aesthetic snobbery?

In no piece is Panufnik’s method more clearly shown than in the Tragic Overture. A 4-note cell pervades the work like a motto. It accumulates great warmth and strength. The other most apparent features are economy, discipline, tidiness. The structure of the piece approximates to sonata form. The first thematic idea leads to a progressive increase in tension, built up entirely from the 4-note motif, which culminates at [8] (Boosey and Hawkes’ edition). The second idea consists of a quiet, sustained melody in minims, first given to the flute at [9], while the 4-note motif serves an accompanimental purpose. The development consists of the inversion, augmentation and diminution of the motif in various sections of the orchestra.

The recapitulation consists of the working of the material up towards a different kind of culminating moment, at [60], at which point the violins and woodwind immediately sing out the secondary theme (ff, cantabile), while the accompanimental quavers are given to the brass. When, after [71], the brass join the other instruments in the sustained minims, the only section of the orchestra left to hammer out the 4-note motif is the percussion; and so, up to the end, an antiphonal ostinato is maintained between the side-drum and the bass-drum, with occasional interjections from the tom-tom and the cymbals. The 4-note cell, which pervades the work from the first note to the last, gives it its melodic as well as its rhythmic character. It is also susceptible of development, and allows greater freedom to expand than a series which uses all the twelve notes. Another work which is constructed on similar principles is the Heroic Overture, which was written for the Helsinki Olympic Games, 1952, and was awarded a prize in a competition in Warsaw that same year.

But the Tragic Overture epitomises the two most striking features of his idiom; These are his use of tonality, which is extended to a highly individual, chromatic polytonality; and an accumulated intensity of emotional feeling. These features come together in his favourite device, the simultaneous use of conflicting degrees of the scale, a major-minor duality.

The first published version of this work (Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne, 1948) already shows Panufnik’s new way of writing a score; the instruments which are not playing are not indicated in the traditional manner by a stave, key and rests-a space is left and notation is only started when the instrument comes in, the stave disappearing once more when the performer has nothing to play. Panufnik invented and first used this kind of notation in the early 40s, with the intention of making the score clearer and more transparent for conductors, alleviating the usual necessity of pencilling in additional markings. (Frequently a much-used score which has been in the hands of many conductors becomes quite illegible.) Panufnik’s simplified method of writing the score was later adopted by numerous composers, including the majority of today’s avant-garde.

Panufnik is primarily an orchestral composer. Choral and vocal music does not come easily to him, though one example, Universal Prayer, is among his major works. Chief among his orchestral compositions so far are the three symphonies and the piano concerto, while shorter pieces include Lullaby, Landscape, and more particularly the exquisite Nocturne. With all his compositions it is the basic conception that is all-important; in the case of the Nocturne this conception was like an arch; the music beginning from nothing, working towards a tutti, then returning to nothing, whence it came; the end mirrors the beginning (a side-drum roll). This piece was awarded first prize in a competition in Cracow in 1948.

Some works are inspired by traditional Polish folk-melodies, and are therefore not so characteristic of the originality of the composer. However, his approach to folk-lore is very much his own, and is different from, for example, Szymanowski, Bartok or Vaughan Williams. An example of this is Hommage a Chopin, which exists in two forms; one is for soprano and piano, the other is for flute and strings. The work is based on rustic melodies and rhythms from Masovia in central Poland, where Chopin was born. Other works which originated in this way are the Five Polish Peasant Songs and the Polonia Suite, and some others.

Highly characteristic, however, and of great importance, though they are deceptively slight, are the piano pieces: the Miniature Studies and Reflections. The studies make the fullest use of piano texture and sonority. Starting in C sharp major-minor, the key of each study moves to a fifth lower than the one before, so that the twelve notes are encompassed in the overall scheme. A quick movement is succeeded by a slow one, loud alternates with soft, until the final study, which starts pp and works a gradual crescendo up to ffff, mollo secco. Each study, needless to say, is built round just one pattern, or motil For originality of conception these pieces are unequalled by the piano compositions of other British composers; only Fricker and Reizenstein invite any kind of comparison. The nine pieces, also called microstructures, which make up Reflections use even more economy of technique.

Of Panufnik’s symphonies, the first, Sinfonia Rustica, is partly based on Polish folk-themes. It divides the strings into two stereophonic groups, each made up in the proportion 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, with the wind in the middle, though without clarinets and percussion. The four movements of the symphony are given markings according to the mood of the music: con tenerezza, con grazia, con espressione, con vigore. As a whole, the work shows a fresh, original concept of symphonic writing, which was to bear such excellent fruit later. Although it won yet another first prize, this time in the Chopin competition in Warsaw, 1949, it was violently attacked later that year at a meeting of the Composers’ Union, as being ‘alien to the great Socialist era’, and he was told by the Minister of Culture that his Sinfonia Rustica had ‘ceased to exist’. This was the crucial period when the regime really started to put very strong pressure on creative artists in all fields, to impose the method of ‘socialist realism and force the composers to write music for the ‘broad masses’ with a clear political propaganda message. To avoid giving way to this pressure, Panufnik turned to the early Polish music of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (which was not proscribed), and finding by research some unused themes of several composers of that period, wrote two works, Old Polish Suite and Concerto in Modo Antico, without any harmonic or rhythmical distortions, in the style of the period. (Also, fifteen years later, he returned with one work to this style, when he wanted to write a special occasional piece for a concert celebrating Poland’s Millennium of Statehood and Christianity in 1966; this was the Jagiellonian Triptych).

The second symphony, Sinfonia Elegiaca, is constructed in one continuous movement, in three sections: molto andante, molto allegro, molto andante. It was first performed in Houston, Texas, by that champion of the contemporary composer, Leopold Stokowski [Stokowski also gave the world premiere of another work, Katyn Epitaph, ten years later, 1968, with his American Symphony Orchestra in New York]. The first and third sections were later (1957) used for a ballet, Elegy, presented in Seattle and New York by the City Center Joffrey Ballet, conducted by Seymour Lipkin. As a symphony, the conception is of a central section of savage and percussive energy, flanked on either side by music of sombre gravity.

Many of Panufnik’s works are of symmetrical construction; and none more so than Autumn Music, written in memory of a friend who, through a long, incurable illness, ‘experienced her last autumn in 1960’. Its three main sections (A-B-C) are hinged together like a triptych, by two very short Interludes, and it is of symmetrical construction, with the climax in the middle of the central section, which is itself in a mirror form. The material, athematic and very simple, consists of germ-cells of two intervals. The first section, A, and the second interlude, is based on major and minor seconds; the last section C is based mainly on the minor third and minor second, like the first interlude. In the middle section, B, which is contrasting in character to the others, the telescoped melodic lines in canonic writing are taken from a chord built in thirds only. This stands like an axis in an almost perfect symmetry; the symmetrical construction of the work as a whole is also emphasised by its texture, rhythm, tempo and dynamics.

But it is the third symphony, Sinfonia Sacra, which calls for chief attention. It was composed, under a grant from the Kosciuszko Foundation, for Poland’s Millennium of Christianity and Statehood (1966), and won first prize for Great Britain in the Monaco competition, 1963. This time the source of inspiration demanded that the symphony should be particularly Polish in character, and that it should emphasise the deeply-rooted Catholic tradition of that country. Therefore the composer chose the first known hymn in the Polish language as his starting-point. This is a Gregorian chant called Bogurodzica (‘Mother of God’), which represented for the Poles what the Lutheran Chorale represented for the Germans, a secular as well as a sacred hymn, heroic as well as religious; and this quality pervades the symphony.

Sinfonia Sacra is Panufnik’s culminating symphonic work up to now The indefatigable Leopold Stokowski 1 who gave the first New York performance, described it as ‘most powerful, extremely original’; the first London performance was not given until 1968 and even then not by one of the London orchestras [On 23rd November, 1968, by Constantin Silvestri and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra]. But this symphony has had many performances abroad, including two performances in Paris, one of them televised. The symphony was also used with brilliant success by the choreographer, Kenneth MacMillan, for his ballet Cain and Abel at the Deutsche Oper, West Berlin, in November 1968.

The work is in two parts; Three Visions and Hymn. The Visions, which follow without a break, are strongly contrasted. The first is an extended fanfare, a colloquy built in fourths, between four trumpets which are placed at the four compass-points round the orchestra. The Second Vision uses strings alone to create a mystic, contemplative atmosphere. The material anticipates the melody that is to come later. The Third Vision, far the longest and most dramatic, mounts to a climax of agitation, an orchestral shout of protest, which is suddenly cut off, to be followed immediately by the Hymn. This expresses the adoration and warmth of a simple prayer to the Virgin. It starts with very quiet string harmonics, which gradually dissolve to allow the music to grow gradually, until the Bogurodzica melody breaks through in full splendour, a recall of the opening fanfare brings the work to a climactic end. As in the Tragic Overture, a 4-note cell is used, for instance after [251, where a cross-rhythm is introduced to give both refinement to the movement of the music and excitement to the tension. Intervals are also used as cells of development; the fourth in Vision I, the major second in Vision 2, the minor second in Vision 3.

But analysis does not give the whole picture; it is a mistake to dwell too long on the many technical aspects of the work of this most spiritual and poetic of contemporary composers. Certainly the order and consistency of a piece demand a rigorous discipline; neither the component motifs, viewed horizontally, nor the use of harmony or tonality, viewed vertically, can be left to chance; indeed, Panufnik considers that the aleatoric principle runs contrary to the composer’s art, which is anything but accidental.

The year 1970 was a busy and important one for the composer: not only did he appear as a conductor for the first time for many years in London [On 11th May, at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. The concert included his Autumn Music], but the year also included three premieres. First, on 7th February, the ‘Cantata for young singers and players’, Thames Pageant, given by sixteen schools in the Richmond area. Two treble-voice choirs are placed on either side of the hall, and the orchestra is divided between the junior players, who play with open strings, simple recorders and percussion, and the senior players, whose part is more difficult, and includes four brass instruments. The work is a suite of seven sections, with words written by the composer’s wife, Camilla, descriptive of the River Thames.

The following month saw a premiere of a very different sort. Following the success of Cain and Abel to Panufnik’s music, the choreographer Kenneth MacMillan commissioned the composer to write a new ballet for performance in Stuttgart; and this took place on 8th March. Miss Julie, a ballet in two acts, was based on the Strindberg play, and enjoyed great success at its first performance.

The third premiere of this year was on 24h May, in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York, when the redoubtable Leopold Stokowski conducted Universal Prayer. This conductor had already, as we have seen, championed Panufnik’s work in America; on this occasion he performed the new work twice to the vast audience that filled the largest of Anglican cathedrals.

Universal Prayer represents a fresh departure for Panufnik; not only is his purpose a deeply-felt one, grand and solemn, but his interpretation of the sense and sound of the words is new. Pope’s heartfelt text comes from his Essay on Man, written about 1715, and it seemed perfectly suited to the composer’s purpose, which was to write a prayer detached from any religion, but suited to any individual man. Pope’s prayer is addressed to the one God of every race, every religion, every age: Jehovah, Jove or Lord. Panufnik finds this inspiring and significant for this age, and his dream is that people of different religions, and of different races, should take part in the performance, through which they will unite their feelings.

The structure of the work is symmetrical in all its aspects: texture, rhythm, tempo and dynamics. There are thirteen verses in the poem, and the seventh verse, musically, represents an axis. The first verse corresponds with the last, the second with the twelfth, the third with the eleventh, and so on. These verses are divided by interludes which are also constructed symmetrically, as are the introduction and coda.

The scoring is for four solo voices, three harps, mixed chorus and organ. It is written stereophonically, on two distinctive levels:

Level I: Four solo voices and three harps. The music is written with precise indications of rhythm and tempo.

Level II: Organ and chorus, written senza mesure. Each chorus-singer chooses freely his or her own rhythm on the three words ‘Father of all’. The chorus throughout have just one note B natural-and they also retain independence from each other rhythmically, and make themselves heard as individuals.

The material is most simple, and the whole work is based only on one triad, made up of the notes F-B-E, which is constantly transposed, and used melodically and harmonically, or both simultaneously. This is a new departure in Panufnik’s expressive language, simple, yet awesome.

The central feature of his art, which should remain uppermost in our minds, is the poetic content. This is not only the point from which the composer sets out to compose; it is also the source of colour and vitality in the unique, residual impression created by each finished structure; it is that suggestive spark of creative intuition which, the strongest of all weapons in a composer’s armoury, most surely strikes a responsive chord in the listener's consciousness.



The Works of Andrzej Panufnik


1 Trio, for Piano, Violin, Cello


2 Five Polish Peasant Songs (voices & wind instruments)


1 Tragic Overture


2 Lullaby, for 29 strings, 2 harps


2 Nocturne, for orchestra


1 Twelve miniature studies, for piano solo


2 Sinfonia Rustica


2 Hommage a Chopin a) soprano & piano b) flute & string orchestra


3 Old Polish Suite


3 Concerto in modo antico


1 Heroic Overture


2 Rhapsody, for Orchestra


1 Sinfonia Elegiaca


2 Polonia-Suite for Orchestra


1 Autumn Music, for Orchestra


1 Concerto for Piano and Orchestra


1 Two Lyric Pieces


2 Sinfonia Sacra


2 Song to the Virgin Mary (choir a cappella)


2 Landscape, for String Orchestra


3 Jagiellonian Triptych, for strings


2 Katyn Epitaph


1 Reflections, for piano solo


1 Universal Prayer (Pope), for 4 soli, choir, 3 harps, organ


I Thames Pageant (cantata for young players & singers)

# A second or third year added after the date of a composition indicates the year of its

reconstruction or revision.

The categories into which Panufnik’s works fall are:

1. Abstract, independent, composed according to self-imposed discipline, often with whole sections, or even whole works, built out of germ-cells of two or three intervals.

2. Based on, or inspired by, Polish folklore and history; founded on a kind of free tonality, often using a major-minor duality.

3. Composed from themes by Polish composers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

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