"energetic, emotionally moving, and full of a whole spectrum of colours" — Scott Noriega
Andrzej Panufnik (1914-1991) was a Polish composer and conductor born in Warsaw. His father, Tomasz Panufnik, a violinmaker, and mother, Matylda Thonnes Panufnik, a noted violinist, pianist and composer, exposed him to music from an early age. In 1932, at the age of 17, he entered the Warsaw Conservatory to study at first percussion, later majoring in both theory and composition. After the completion of his degree, he travelled to Vienna to study conducting with Felix Weingartner, eventually following him, after the Anschluss, first to Paris, then London. But he returned to Warsaw during the war ywars, participating in the highly restricted musical life of the city, most notably performing with Lutosławski in duo-piano concerts. Many of his early works were destroyed, not due to the war, but rather to a female tenant that had moved into his apartment when he left to care for his ailing mother - she saw the papers and assumed that they were all trash. His interest in various Modernist techniques caused him strife in the then Stalinist controlled Poland. In the mid-1950s, while on tour in Zurich, he made his move to escape his homeland, eventually settling in England and becoming a British citizen in 1961. It was not until 1990 that he returned to Poland, now a country with a democratically elected government. He was knighted in 1991.
But this release features not only that composer's music, but also the music of Roxanna Panufnik, the composer's daughter. Born in London in 1968, Roxanna, too, had musical exposure from an early age, later studying at London's Royal Academy of Music. She has gone on to composer a wide range of compositions - opera, ballet, choral works, chamber music, music for film and television, and solo piano works - which are performed the world over. The current release features her original compositions, but also reworkings or arrangements of her father's works, originally for voice and piano, for solo piano.
Andrzej Panufnik has three major works for solo piano. The 12 Miniature Studies (1947, rev. 1955/1964), which were initially called Circle of Fifths, is comprised of a series of études beginning in C sharp (Major / Minor) and successively moving down a fifth at a time, until finally reaching the key of G sharp, a fifth above the first; each étude shares a similar melodic line, so that interest in maintained through the contrast of tempo, dynamics, meter, and other musical aspects. Reflections (1968) was completed within days of the birth of Roxanna. It is, in the composer's own words, representative of "contemplation… and reflections in the tangible sense… based on constant reflections of a single triad with its perpetual transpositions used both vertically and horizontally." It is a sparse-sounding work, with an angular melodic line, and harmonic clusters reminiscent in sound of Bartók's night music. The Pentasonata (1984) is the composer's last work for piano, written in the composer's 70th year, and dedicated to his wife. The work predominantly uses a pentatonic scale, and is composed of five sections, the first and last of which use a meter of 5/8 or 5/4. The beginning and ending play with the meter creating fascinating rhythmic features, while the middle of the work is more slow and contemplative. It is a perfect example of the composer's will to "achieve a balance between heart and mind, intellect and emotion."
The transcriptions of Modlitwa (1990/1999, arr. 2013), based on an unfinished song, and the three (of five) songs, set as a miniature suite here entitled Hommage à Chopin (1949/1955, arr. 2013), are both lyrical compositions, similar in feeling, and - besides the playfully quirky second of the Chopin settings - all meditative in nature. The original compositions of Roxanna Panufnik are comprised of two works here. Second Home (2003, rev. 2006) is, according to the pianist and booklet writer, "a series of variations on the Polish folk theme Hejne ino, fijołecki leśny! and expresses her sentiments for her father's Polish homeland." The second work, Glo, is short, a minute-and-a-half in length, and was written to commemorate the death of a family friend.
Throughout this recital Clare Hammond proves to be a very fine advocate of this music. Her interpretations match the goal of the composer: Not only are they well thought out and intellectually stimulating, but also energetic, emotionally moving, and full of a whole spectrum of colours - in a word, bracing. Recorded in excellent SACD sound, particularly luminous, and with well written and informative program notes, this is a release that everyone should own. Buy it. You'll enjoy it for years to come.