Tuesday 25 March 2014

Panufnik Bassoon Concerto

Robert Thompson and Andrzej Panufnik
Robert Thompson and Andrzej Panufnik
Last night (24 March) the Polish Cultural Institute hosted an event at the Polish Embassy in Portland Place, which both celebrated the centenary of Andrzej Panufnik and helped to launch the release of Panufnik's 1987 recording of his Bassoon Concerto and Sinfonia Di Speranza. Present were Panufnik's widow Camilla Lady Panufnik, and the distinguished bassoonist Robert Thompson who commissioned the Bassoon Concerto. Also present were the Polish bassoonist Arek Adamczyk and pianist Jacek Kortus who played gave us some live music, playing excerpts from Panufnik's concerto along with movements from Rossini's Bassoon Concerto.

In her introduction Lady Panufnik commended Robert Thompson for his courage commissioning the Bassoon Concerto from a composer whose work he did not know well (the two were introduced by Panufnik's publisher). But Panufnik and Thompson went on to work on the concerto closely. Thompson talked about the work's genesis, and how Panufnik first asked him what where the most beautiful notes on the bassoon that he wanted to play.

Both Panufnik and Thompson wanted a serious work which brought out the more elegiac, sombre element in the bassoon's make up and the concerto had a transformative effect on the way the bassoon was regarded as a solo instrument.

When planning the work, Panufnik learned of the murder of Father Jerzy Polpieluszko at the hands of the security forces and the whole work is dedicated to his memory. Thompson talked of how individual movements can be related to Polpieluszko 's life and death, with the long central Aria movement a kind of elegy based on Polish folk song.

Excerpts from the concerto were played live by Adamczyk and Kortus, and we also heard movements from the tape. Enough to whet our appetites and look forward to the CD. Adamcyk himself will be playing the work in the autumn.

The Panufnik and Thompson made the recording with the BBC Symphony Orchestra for BBC Radio 3 (the BBC producer was Roger Wright), along with the Sinfonia di Speranza. These have now been issued on the Heritage label HTGCD266. The disc also includes the composer's spoken introductions to both works.

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