An important composer would have been 100 today

He was the foremost composer in Poland when he fled to England in 1954.

Like many exiles, he struggled to rebuild his reputation. English lefties who had fawned upon him when he represented Stalin’s heaven now cut him dead in the street. He took a conducting job in Birmingham and got on with his life. Slowly, slowly the symphonies began to flow.

Happy birthday, Andrzej Panufnik. We miss you. We need to hear more of you.

andrzej panufnik pipe

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  • “English lefties who had fawned upon him when he represented Stalin’s heaven now cut him dead in the street.” Is that true (and necessary)?

    Panufnik is certainly very good. He’s Composer of the Week on Radio 3, which is a great opportunity to hear some more.

    • Panufnik came from that part of Europe where tonal traditions were ‘conscripted’ in the service of party lines. They were ‘protected’ and carefully monitored, which both preserved and straight-jacked them – but they survived, including the craft necessary to handle them. In the West, tonal traditions were thrown on the dirt heap by younger generations in an attempt to get rid of the past which had created war and decadence, and this ‘modernist revolution’ was supported by governments in terms of subsidies (and exposure, like BBC / William Glock) because it was thought that this new, inpalatable atonal music represented freedom of expression, in contrast to the East. In the Cold War, music life West and East mirrored each other in terms of totalitarian, ideological thought, with the difference that in the West, composers did not need dictatorship, they could provide that themselves.

      Panufnik did not want to embrace THAT kind of freedom…. and thus, was not acceptable to the ‘established’ circles of modern music in the sixties and seventies, and some time afterwards, because he was ‘oldfashioned’. Good for him… and since modernism has begun to crumble, such music now comes into its own right again.

      I doubt whether Panufnik is a really great composer though, his style seems rather average of Eastern-European, Shoslike bitterness, like the Overture in the video. But I should have to hear more… His violin concerto is very good, I think.

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