Polish composer Andrzej Panufnik departed for Britain in 1954, when the Communist experiment in Poland began to go sour. His music, though, remained more Polish than British. At times he seems to have aimed at a somewhat simpler version of the style of his friend Witold Lutoslawski, with whom he played duets in Warsaw cafes during the darkest days of World War II (concerts and other public gatherings being forbidden). His later works often involve the use of small melodic cells, heavily manipulated. Panufnik's Symphony No. 9 ("Sinfonia di Speranza") was commissioned in 1986 for the 175th anniversary of the Royal Philharmonic Society. The orchestra suggested a choral work on the model of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125. Panufnik rejected the suggestion, but the 40-minute symphony, although not tonal, seems to have characteristics of both the first movement and the chorale finale, with its reworked and ultimately triumphal musical motif of hope (the work's subtitle means "symphony of hope"). With a little help from the booklet notes, which are largely quoted from Panufnik's own writings about the work, the music is quite accessible. There is a six-note "hope" motif, falling into two halves, that appears at the beginning of the work in various melodic and rhythmic guises, falls away in a central section that Panufnik calls "cold"), and returns for a stirring finale. The performance here by the Konzerthausorchester Berlin under Lukasz Borowicz captures the essentially Romantic quality of the work, despite its modern harmonic world and theoretical basis, and CPO's sound engineering, executed on the orchestra's home ground of the Konzerthaus Berlin, is very strong. The very colorful Concertino for timpani, percussion, and strings, with an unusually melodic timpani part originally premiered by the great Evelyn Glennie, is a thoroughly enjoyable curtain-raiser, and either work on the program here might serve an orchestra well for contemporary programming that makes no crossover concessions but should be accessible to a wide range of audiences.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Concertino for Timpani, Percussion & Strings|
|Symphony No. 9 "Sinfonia di Speranza"|