Andrzej Panufnik

A host of high-profile concerts and events take place for the 100th anniversary of the birth of the distinguished international composer Sir Andrzej Panufnik (Sept 1914 – Oct 1991). Born in Poland, he spent half his life working in England and was knighted for his services to British music in his last year.

As well as major performances from the leading British orchestras and a day of celebration at Kings Place featuring the Brodsky Quartet and Friends, plans for his centenary extend to books and CDs, giving UK audiences an unprecedented chance to explore the life and work of a man described by Sir Georg Solti as one of the most important composers and conductors of the twentieth century.

Panufnik was a witness to the most tragic political and social upheavals of the 20th century, living through the Nazi occupation of Poland, the Warsaw Uprising, and the post-war imposition of Soviet Socialist Realism, before making a dramatic escape to the West in 1954. His relationship with Poland remained troubled from then on; his music was banned there for decades and his name could not appear in dictionaries, press reviews, books or any other publications. In 1977, after a 23-year long silence, Panufnik’s music was once again heard in Poland, and in 1990 (the year before his death) he made a momentous return to his native country to conduct a programme of his works to open the Warsaw Autumn Festival.

Panufnik made England his home and, in 1961, took British nationality. From 1957-59 Panufnik was musical director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, his last official position before deciding to concentrate on composing and, in 1963, Panufnik won the coveted Monaco composition prize for Great Britain for his still most widely loved and admired work, Sinfonia Sacra. In the same year, he married the author and photographer Camilla Jessel. Panufnik’s extensive output includes 10 symphonies, three string quartets and concertos for piano, trumpet, cello, bassoon and his favourite instrument, the violin.

Panufnik100Despite political oppression in Poland – from where he defected in 1954 – and lack of institutional support in his adopted UK, musicians championed his music during his lifetime and he remains a composer much admired by many of today’s leading artists, including conductors Sir Antonio Pappano, Vasily Petrenko, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, the Brodsky Quartet, the Tippett Quartet, the Silesian Quartet and soloists including Vadim Repin, Maciej Grzybowksi, Ewa Pobłocka and many others.

He will be much celebrated in his homelands, Poland and UK, but also in USA and elsewhere.

Adding to an already extensive catalogue, CPO completes its major survey of Panufnik’s symphonies and concertos. Running to eight CDs, with performing honours shared between the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Berlin Konzerthausorchester, this collection signals the welcome return of all Panufnik symphonic works to the recording catalogue. Pizzicato reviews here and here.

Treasure Island Music brings together a limited-edition box set collection of recordings previously issued on Unicorn Kanchana and Conifer which includes a wide range of Panufnik music recorded over several decades by the London Symphony Orchestra, London Musici and others.

Pianist Claire Hammond has recorded Andrzej and Roxanna Panufnik’s complete piano works for BIS, while Heritage issue great American bassoonist Robert Thompson’s recording of the Bassoon Concerto, which he commissioned from Panufnik in 1987. This unique recording is conducted by the composer himself.

Roxanna Panufnik’s music features alongside her father’s in two new CDs. Songs and piano trios feature on ‘Dreamscape,’ released on Signum (review here), with mezzo soprano Heather Shipp and the Subito Trio and The Brodsky Quartet will release ‘Messages’ on Chandos, a new CD of string quartets and sextets and the Tippett Quartet will issue the quartets on Naxos.

Panufnik’s much-loved autobiography Composing Myself is republished by Toccata Press in Spring with a 13,000-word postscript by the composer’s widow Lady Camilla Panufnik which completes the story of his life and what’s happened since his death. The new edition also includes many additional photographs and illustrations.

A new edition of the Polish translation of Composing Myself (Panufnik o Sobie) will appear in Poland in the spring, while Dr. Beata Bolesławska’s biography « Panufnik », published by the Polish state music publishers, PWM, will be published in English for the first time. Bolesławska also brings out a new book of correspondence between Sir Andrzej Panufnik and Count Zygmund Mycielski, in Polish, which brings much personal colour to the politics and social upheaval of the time.

For further information on the composer and the centenary, visit

For a full list of performances in the centenary year, please visit Boosey & Hawkes’ website here.

For more information on Panufnik 100: A Family Celebration at Kings Place please visit:

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