In the autumn of 1960 Andrzej Panufnik decided to leave for the US, to try to establish himself there. After arriving in New York he turned to Leopold Stokowski, who tried to help, but his efforts did not bring the hoped for results. Panufnik therefore approached the Kościuszko Foundation, a Polish-American organisation concerned, among other things, with promoting Polish culture, for financial support. He suggested that the organisation should commission a symphony celebrating the forthcoming millennium of the Polish state. The idea gained initial acceptance and, at the end of December 1960, full of hope for a better future, Panufnik returned to England.
On his return from America, the composer rented a room in an old house in the small village of Adderbury near Oxford. He spent there a few months, finishing his overdue Piano Concerto, the first performance of which had been promised to the Birmingham orchestra for January 1962. In the meantime he received a letter from the Kościuszko Foundation, confirming the award of a grant for writing a symphony. And so, immediately on completing the Piano Concerto, he was obliged to begin work on the commissioned composition. However, he decided that prior to that he had to move. Unhappy with a situation where he had no continuous access to a piano, he rented a tiny house near Dockenfield in Surrey. There he had a piano at his disposal and could work in peace, all the more so since the house was in a quiet area, surrounded by fields and woods where he took long walks which he always loved. He put the finishing touches to the score of Piano Concerto and began work on the new symphony.
Before the premiere of the Concerto, at the end of December 1961, Panufnik received documents granting him British citizenship. Less than two years later, his bond with his new homeland was to be sealed by his marriage to a young Englishwoman, Camilla Ruth Jessel, a woman who gave him happiness and surrounded him with infinite love and devotion, acting as a guardian angel of all his undertakings.
Fate had brought her and Andrzej Panufnik together in the late summer of 1960, before his departure for the US. Camilla heard about Panufnik from Neil Marten, who worked for the British Foreign Office and at one time was involved with Panufnik’s escape to the West. For a while, Camilla worked as Marten’s assistant. Marten had told her about Panufnik, suggesting that she might help him in looking after his correspondence, correctly suspecting that the composer, by nature impractical, was totally neglecting his affairs.
They were immediately attracted to each other, but did not suppose they would ever meet again, since their first encounter took place just before Panufnik’s departure for the US, and Camilla’s departure for Paris where she was to study. However, at the end of 1961 they met again, this time at the House of Commons, where Panufnik had come to see Neil Marten, and Camilla came to photograph Members of Parliament for a local newspaper. They were delighted to have met again, and Camilla willingly agreed to help the composer to deal with his correspondence and to look after his neglected professional affairs. They thus began to meet every day, and gradually grew close.
At that time the composer was working on the symphony for the Kościuszko Foundation, to which he gave the title Sinfonia Sacra. He was to receive the promised funds only on completion, which meant that he lived extremely frugally. In November 1962 he decided to spend the winter in Spain, to save on heating bills. He went alone to Calpe-Alicante on the south coast of Spain, wanting to concentrate only on work; however, his longing for Camilla won out and he asked her to spend Christmas with him. After she left, the composer got down to work on the symphony and completed it by the end of January 1963. He sent the final copy of the score to the publishers at the beginning of March, and less than a week later he welcomed Camilla, who was returning from a photographic assignment in Kenya, Uganda and Somalia, at the airport in Madrid. They spent a few days together in Madrid and then went to Paris, where Panufnik hoped to meet Zygmunt Mycielski, his friend of many years’ standing.
During his stay in Paris Panufnik succeeded in interesting the French Radio, RTF, in his Autumn Music. While there, the composer also heard about the Composers’ Competition in Monaco and, with Mycielski’s warm encouragement, sent to it the score of his newly finished Sinfonia Sacra. This turned out to be an excellent idea – Sinfonia Sacra won the first prize in Monaco, and this success allowed the composer to view his future with more optimism. After returning to London he proposed to Camilla, and on 27 November 1963, the couple were married.
Their wedding present from Camilla’s parents was a long-term lease of an old house at Twickenham near London; they moved in there immediately, and spent their first months as a married couple renovating and furnishing their new home. Marriage and having a home gave the composer the stability he needed and allowed him to concentrate purely on his creative work.
The second half of the 1960s also saw an improvement in Panufnik’s professional affairs. In 1965 he was honoured with the Sibelius Centenary Medal for Composition and, towards the end of 1966, BBC Radio, until then hostile to him, broadcast an extensive programme about his music. Thus, gradually, Panufnik was beginning to build up his professional standing in Great Britain.
The end of the 1960s also saw important events in the composer’s private life – his daughter Roxanna was born in 1968 and, a year later, his son Jeremy.
The 1970s were decidedly the most fruitful period in Panufnik’s creative development – during that time he composed four symphonies, Violin Concerto, String Quartet No. 1 and a number of minor works. His music won increasing recognition both in Great Britain and beyond. It also became a subject of interest to choreographers, and some of his works were used for ballet arrangements. In December 1970, while recording Heroic Overture and Autumn Music for the Unicorn-Kanchana record company, the composer worked closely with the London Symphony Orchestra, and this initiated a happy collaboration which lasted many years.
The year 1974 saw the publication of a booklet entitled Impulse and Design in My Music. It contained authorial commentary on all Panufnik’s compositions written prior to 1974.
The blossoming of Panufnik’s creativity in the 1970s also enhanced his standing in the musical world of Great Britain. Another source of satisfaction for the composer was the fact that, after years of absence, his music was again being played in Poland. In 1977 the censor’s ban on his name was withdrawn, and in the autumn of that year his Universal Prayer was heard during the Warsaw Autumn Festival. After that, Panufnik’s works appeared in Warsaw Autumn programmes nearly every year.
The composer’s thoughts were soon to turn again to his homeland, as a result of the immensely important historical and political events which were soon to take place there. The coming years were to see the rise of the Solidarity movement, and enormous changes in Poland’s political system.