It has been a delight and a challenge to follow the
progress of this Panufnik series from the breathlessly and voluminously
enterprising CPO. No single company has done so much for this composer
and conductor - during his time with the City of Birmingham Symphony
Orchestra he presided over the first London performance of Rubbra’s
Seventh Symphony on 8 October 1957. Unicorn, during the days of LP and
latterly CD, came in second behind CPO. CPO are very much a current
label while Unicorn inhabits the secondhand realm.
has been recorded before - most famously by Seiji Ozawa.
In that case it was coupled with a work by Sessions on a parsimoniously
CD. The symphony was also included on a now pretty obscure CD by Norman
Del Mar with the BBC Symphony Orchestra alongside Szymanowski: Symphonies
Nos. 3 and 4. Those BBC broadcast tapes dated from 1983. They were issued
in 1995 on Carlton BBC Radio Classics IMP 9124.
was first recorded on a Unicorn LP (DKP9049)
alongside the same composer’s Universal Prayer
. I have
a tape of what I believe to be the first performance and quite apart
from its musical characteristics it is memorable in that it catches
some ‘well-wisher’ in the audience who shouts out in exasperation
‘Thank God!’ when the piece ended. Truth to tell it is one
of Panufnik’s most sombre works - even Gothic. It’s not
where I would tell someone new to Panufnik to start their journey. Still,
it is extremely atmospheric and as much part of the Panufnik experience
as the Elegiaca
and the Heroic
In any event it makes the Metasinfonia
for appreciative discovery.
- also a late work - proceeds with evolutionary
languor and tension. It’s in two movements of which the second
launches with the staccato violence and dynamism typical of the middle
movement of the Elegiaca
. The closing panic-manic pages resonate
with alarm though the very end has the sound of the bells simply decaying
. The short Festivo
at a less exalted level. This three movement concerto for orchestra
rings the changes on his usual slow-fast-slow template. Here the structure
is reversed. The outer segments make edgily joyous vitality with percussion
and wind. They bookend a movement in which Panufnik’s profoundly
moving and glitteringly anthem-like writing for strings and bells establishes
a familiar link back to the Sacra
. It is akin to Arvo Pärt’s
The earlier volumes of this CPO series must be mentioned as they have
been reviewed here (vols.
). Surely there will be more. I hope
there will be more.
The recording quality is very satisfying - assertive yet detailed and
with depth and subtlety. The documentation is well up to CPO’s
Start with the earlier volumes especially 1 and 4 but once you’re
hooked you will need this for sure.