Sir Andrzej Panufnik, composer and conductor, was born in 1914 in Warsaw, Poland. The year 2014 will mark the centenary of his birth. Because in 2013 we have been celebrating the centenary of Witold Lutosławki – Panufnik’s contemporary, friend and a fellow composer – we will see one anniversary interlocking with the other, creating a “chain” structure characteristic for the author of Musique funèbre. Keeping in mind that the war’s tumults brought both artists together and the after-war politics and developments in Poland took them apart for long years, it is worth to take the occasion to recall the two composers’ works, as well as the historical and the cultural challenges that they faced as artists and people. Andrzej Panufnik’s works in particular need to be performed more often, recorded more frequently and propagated on a wider scale, even in Poland.

Panufnik studied theory and composition under Kazimierz Sikorski at Warsaw Conservatoire, then moved on to study conducting with Felix Weingartner in Vienna and Philippe Gaubert in Paris. He spent the war and Nazi occupation in Warsaw, giving legal and illegal piano concerts, sometimes playing piano duos with Witold Lutosławski. When the war ended, Panufnik became the chief conductor of the Kraków Philharmonic Orchestra and the director of the Warsaw Philharmonic in Warsaw. In 1950 he was elected vice-president of UNESCO’s International Music Council.

After the war, Panufnik received numerous composition prizes in Poland and abroad: in 1947 –  the first prize in the Karol Szymanowski Composing Competition for Nocturne for orchestra (1947); in 1948 – the Kraków City Award for Lullaby for 29 stringed instruments and 2 harps (1947); in 1949 – the first prize in the Fryderyk Chopin Composing Competition in Warsaw for Sinfonia Rustica for 8 wind instruments and two string orchestras (1948); and in 1952 – the first prize in the Pre-Olympic Composing Competition celebrating the Helsinki Olympic Games for his Heroic Overture for orchestra (1951-52). In 1949 he was awarded the highest state honour of the People’s Republic of Poland – first class Banner of Labour (Sztandar Pracy), and in 1951 and 1952 he received second class State Awards.

In 1954 Andrzej Panufnik left Poland. As a result, Poland’s communist authorities issued a censorship ban, prohibiting any performances or record releases of Panufnik’s works, or mentions of his name in any publications, radio or TV broadcasts. The composer settled in England, where he first continued his career as conductor (e.g. in 1957-59 he held the position of music director and conductor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra), and then gave all his time and energy to composing. He was twice awarded the Prix de Composition Musicale Prince Pierre de Monaco: in 1963 – for Sinfonia Sacra for orchestra (1963) and in 1983 – for his lifetime achievement. In 1965 he was awarded the Sibelius Centenary Medal for Composition in London.

In 1977, thanks to efforts undertaken by the Board of the Polish Composers’ Union, the culture department of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party revoked the censorship ban concerning Panufnik and his music. Already in the same year, Panufnik’s works were performed at the International Festival of Contemporary Music “Warsaw Autumn”. They included Universal Prayer, a cantata for soprano, alto, tenor, and bass soloists, chorus, 3 harps, and organ (1968-69); Dreamscape for mezzo-soprano and piano (without text) (1976-77); and Sinfonia Mistica for orchestra (1977). In 1984 Panufnik became a honorary member of the Royal Academy of Music in London, and in 1987 – honorary member of the Polish Composers’ Union (from which he had been expelled in 1954). Also in 1987 he published his autobiography, Composing Myself, in the UK.

In 1990 Panufnik received the Award of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland for his contribution to Polish culture. Also in 1990 Panufnik visited Poland for the first time after 36 years abroad. He came invited by the Warsaw Autumn Festival, during which eleven of his pieces were performed, three of which the composer conducted himself, namely Symphony No. 10 for orchestra (1988); Harmony, a poem for chamber orchestra (1989); and Violin Concerto (1971). In 1991 Andrzej Panufnik was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. In the same year he was awarded a honorary doctorate of the Academy of Music in Warsaw. He died in 1991 in Twickenham, UK. He received posthumously the Order of Polonia Restituta.

Panufnik’s two children, Roxanna and Jeremy, are artists, too. His daughter is a composer, while his son is a DJ and graphic artist. In 2009 Jem acted as narrator in Krzysztof Rzączyński’s documentary film Tata zza żelaznej kurtyny (My Father, the Iron Curtain and Me).

Lady Camilla Panufnik is a frequent guest at many musical events in Poland and exquisite ambassador of Polish music in the UK.

(Source: Polish Composers’ Union, 2013)

In association with the Polish Composers’ Union, Adam Mickiewicz Society, National Audiovisual Institute and Polish Radio, a diverse programme of concerts, recording releases, educational projects, promotional actions and publishing activities is going to be put in place in 2014, including performances of Panufnik’s works at the festival Łańcuch XI (Chain No. 11) concluding the Lutosławski Year, a special website devoted to the composer, publication of A Report on the presence of Andrzej Panufnik and his music in 1991-2013, and a series of musicology conferences focusing on the composer and other artists who lived in exile.

The logo of the Panufnik centenary was designed by Jem Panufnik. It may be awarded to institutions which join in the anniversary celebrations. The use of the logo requires prior consent from the Institute of Music and Dance in Warsaw. Lady Camilla Panufnik has also been kind enough to offer her photographs of Andrzej Panufnik to be used during the celebrations of the composer’s centenary.


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