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Andrzej Panufnik

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Andrzej Panufnik - composer and conductor, born in 1914 in Warsaw, died in 1991 in Twickenham. He studied various musical subjects, including composition under Kazimierz Sikorski and Witold Maliszewski at the Warsaw Consevatory, and later in Vienna (conducting under Weingartner) and in Paris.

During the years of occupation he played in a piano duo with Witold Lutosławski, appearing in Warsaw cafes, mainly At the Actresses' and Art and Fashion. For the needs of these appearances they prepared over 200 arrangements of classical works. Witold Lutosławski told Zofia Owińska: "We had in the repertoire a lot of classical music, from the organ toccatas of Bach [...] to Ravel's Bolero, which was our cheval de bataille. [...] We played entire cycles of waltzes by Mozart, Schubert, and Brahms. [...] We also freely paraphrased, as with portions of Bizet's Carmen, and even with some humor [...] with Monti's Czardas... All this went up in flames. I was able to bring with me only one single piece which we played with Panufnik - the paraphrase of Paganini's Caprice no. 24. It was created when the harpist of the Warsaw Philharmonic, Markiewicz, who was a waiter at Aria cafe, persuaded us to do so".

In his autobiography Panufnik reminisced: "Sometimes we'd play jazz just for fun... At times, to avoid boredom, we improvised our own jazz pieces... [...] we would draw a diagram indicating the tempo and the harmonic outline in a given number of measures [...], however we never revealed to the public our secret that we were improvising instead of performing composed and carefully prepared pieces".

There existed between the two composers a quiet rivalry, and after the war their relation cooled significantly. Panufnik developed a compositional and conducting career, but in 1954 he emigrated to England, by the same token condemning himself to artistic absence in Poland. His music gradually returned to Polish concert halls beginning with the 70s. Panufnik's triumph was his visit to Poland in 1990, when 11 of his compositions were performed at the Warsaw Autumn.

According to Tadeusz Kaczyński, Witold Lutosławski referred to Panufnik as a great composer. "He particularly admired his Violin Concerto, which he valued higher than the Sinfonia sacra."

kt / trans. mk