Panufnik writes his Old Polish Suite – one of his works paraphrasing old music.

In April the composer officially takes up residence in Warsaw, at Odolańska Street 20 apt. 5.

In June his Sinfonia Rustica is condemned as a ‘formalistic composition’, ‘alien to the Socialist era’.

In July, during a summer spent at the artists’ Rest House in Obory, Andrzej Panufnik meets Marie Elizabeth O’Mahoney-Rudnicka, known as Scarlett. The acquaintance quickly becomes a passionate affair.

One morning a new visitor appeared at our Rest House, an exquisitely beautiful girl with long, dark auburn hair, light grey eyes, and a milk-white complexion. She was wearing a white dress of fine, clinging fabric which accentuated her very attractive figure. My reaction was instant – I lost my head.



On 25 May Panufnik’s Symphony of Peace, composed during the years 1950-51, receives its première at the Warsaw Philharmonic Hall.

On 13 July Andrzej Panufnik marries Marie Elizabeth O’Mahoney–Rudnicka.

Andrzej and Scarlett Panufnik's marriage certificate Andrzej and Scarlett Panufnik

September sees the death of the composer’s father.

Panufnik writes another composition based on old Polish music – his Gothic Concerto.

After long reflection, I at last came up with a way of avoiding both confrontation and capitulation. Following the example of our architects, who at that time were enthusiastically reconstructing whole districts of the old Warsaw, I decided to undertake the restoration of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Polish music, which suffered not so much during the last war, but through the centuries of foreign invasions. I concerned myself with old composers, whose incomplete and unknown works were preserved only as mildewed fragments on the shelves of dusty libraries. Working more as a scholar than a composer, in this way I could contribute to saving at least a tiny portion of our national heritage.



On 16 May, the Heroic Overture has its first performance at the Hall of the Warsaw Philharmonic. The work is awarded the first prize by the National Pre-Olympic Committee, and for this reason the composer is able to present it in Helsinki in June. This is Panufnik’s only visit to the West during that period.

Panufnik’s daughter, Oonagh, is born on 14 September. The composer writes his Woodwind Quintet.

At last a red and wrinkled baby girl was born, healthy and strong. We gave her the Irish name of Oonagh and were overwhelmingly proud of her. She instantly changed the atmosphere of our home. I spent hours just staring at her; she was so small and perfect, every day growing more beautiful. After a while I noticed how my professional and political problems receded in importance, while this tiny creature’s smiles, or cries could make my emotions soar up, or down, in an instant. Her domination of our small flat made it even more impossible to compose. My dream of continuing the search for my own musical expression had vanished possibly for ever. Yet the enchanting little Oonagh, also in part my creation, seemed to compensate for all that was lost.



Stalin’s death on 5 March awakens hopes of a change of direction in the Communist-governed Poland. However, it was too soon for any change.

In April Panufnik departs for a two-month tour of China and Mongolia as head of a Polish cultural delegation. While he is there, the news reaches him of the tragic death of his daughter, drowned while being bathed.

I arrived at last in Warsaw, in no state to meet anyone let alone comfort Scarlett, but reality forced me to start coping with life again. There was no car to meet me at the airport. I was no longer an ambassador of People’s Poland, but an exhausted human being who had to climb with a heavy suitcase full of scores and dress suits on to an overcrowded bus heading for the city centre. I then had to hunt for a taxi – it took an hour to find one willing to take me to the part of the city where we lived.

When at last I reached the house, I went up to the first floor and knocked softly. Scarlett, who had been listening for hours and recognised my step on the stairs, opened the door immediately. Her face was white as paper, her eyes swollen and red. We sat down on the sofa, hand in hand, for a long, long time in silence.

In China



At the beginning of the year Panufnik makes the decision to leave Communist Poland.

After a night without one blink of sleep, I reaffirmed my intention; a further twenty-four hours passed and my resolution had become even more firmly fixed, despite my awareness of gargantuan obstacles ahead. My escape from Poland would be extremely perilous; but this was not the only danger I was facing. I had no idea if I would be able to build a career elsewhere: I might neither be accepted into the musical life of any other country, nor, tearing my roots from my native soil, find myself able to develop further as a composer. However I could not compose at home either. I felt not one ounce of hesitation about throwing away my exalted but empty position in Poland in exchange for the unknown.

On 6 March Scarlett leaves for England in order to prepare her husband’s escape. Panufnik moves to a new flat at Warecka 4/6 apt.59.

In early July Panufnik leaves for Switzerland to conduct recordings of Polish music for Swiss Radio.

On 14 July the composer lands at Heathrow Airport in London, where he is welcomed by his wife, Scarlett, and representatives of the British authorities. He applies for political asylum, and later explains the reasons for his escape at a press conference.

Part of Panufnik's statement Delivering a statement on the BBC RadioDelivering a statement on the Radio Free Europe

{slide title="Wypowiedź Andrzeja Panufnika - Radio Wolna Europa" open="false"}

Wykonawcy: Wypowiedź Andrzeja Panufnika udzielona w 1954 roku dla Radia Wolna Europa, podczas rozmowy z Romanem Palestrem

On 12-13 August 'The Times' publishes Panufnik’s article about life in Communist Poland.

Part of Panufnik's article

On 20 September, the Plenary Meeting of the Polish Composers’ Union resolves to exclude Panufnik from its ranks.

Decision of the Polish Composers' Union Press release

On 4 October Panufnik conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall. Alongside Beethoven and Rachmaninov the programme includes Panufnik’s Nocturne.

On 11 October Panufnik conducts a charity concert at the Royal Albert Hall (with the pianist Witold Małcużyński as soloist).

After about two months, I thought that Scarlett and I would probably soon be discovering that our main freedom was the freedom to starve. I had leapt from my Polish position of No. One to No One at All in England.

 Londyn 1954With Witold Małcużyński and Artur Rodziński



In February Panufnik visits the USA at the invitation of Leopold Stokowski; in New York he meets with Kazimierz Wierzyński and in Detroit he assists at a performance of Symphony of Peace conducted by Stokowski.

On 27 August Panufnik conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra playing his Sinfonia Rustica at a BBC Proms concert.

After the performance of Sinfonia Rustica

On 7 October the composer receives an award from the Polish Sentry Division (Roman Palester and Antoni Szałowski also receive awards).

On 21 December Panufnik arrives at a conference organised by the Paris literary magazine Kultura, during which he speaks about musical life in Communist Poland.

In December 1955, the French magazine 'Preuves', together with 'Kultura', a monthly literary and political magazine published by Polish emigrés in Paris, held an open discussion on 'The Artist and Creativity in Poland today', which was attended by about 200 leading French intellectuals from literature and the arts as well as politics and philosophy. Much as I disliked any recourse to words rather than music, I felt impelled to share my first-hand experiences with interested Westerners. (...) In my awful French I explained the dilemmas affecting Polish composers working under the rigid control of the Communist authorities. My friend Constantin Regamey then summed up with his enviably sharp intellect and perfect French. Judging by the discussion afterwards, the evening had been well spent and made a strong impression among French intellectuals, including some Marxist sympathisers who were overtly shaken by the evidence of what happened when their precious doctrine was actually applied.



Panufnik receives a grant through the ‘Gauntlet Operation’ organised by Radio Free Europe, aimed at bringing financial help to Polish emigré artists.

On 6 December Panufnik applies for the post of Music Director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and conducts a trial concert in Birmingham.

Scarlett Panufnik’s book, Out of the City of Fear, describing the Panufniks’ life in Poland under Communism and the composer’s escape to England, appears in print.

My eventual acceptance of the Birmingham offer resolved my pecuniary problems, but was the death knell for my marriage. Scarlett, after her glamorous life in London, was repelled by the idea of living in what she described as a 'dull provincial Midland city'. She refused to come to Birmingham with me, even for a single concert. Grateful as I was for Scarlett’s courageous participation in my escape, she had contributed to many of the problems which were keeping me away from composition and had never outgrown her hunger for admiring words and constant attention. Her desire for my success did not arise from any belief in what I was trying to do, but because it would provide the social position she felt she needed to shine at her brightest.



On 11 January Panufnik conducts the first performance of Rhapsody, his first work composed after escaping from Poland, commissioned by the BBC.

On 19 April the composer signs a contract with the management of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. His contract as the Orchestra’s Music Director and Conductor includes the obligation to conduct 50 concerts during the season.

On 11 November, in Houston in the USA, Leopold Stokowski conducts the first performance of Sinfonia Elegiaca, rewritten on the basis of the Symphony of Peace which the composer had withdrawn.

During his first season in Birmingham, Panufnik introduces innovative ideas into the programme repertoire; work with the orchestra is made difficult by the conflict between the composer and the orchestra’s leader, Norris Stanley.

In drawing up the programe for my first season (1957-1958), I felt obliged to base the orchestra’s repertoire on the music of the great classical and romantic composers, according to the expectations of the orchestra’s regular public. At the same time, I hoped to introduce some lesser known works, both ancient and modern. I particularly wanted to share with my new audience my discoveries from before the war of then almost unperformed early English composers such as Arne, Avison, Boyce, Byrd and Stanley.

Programmes From the concert programme Andrzej Panufnik



Panufnik begins his second season as Director of the CBSO in Birmingham. After the retirement of the orchestra’s leader, Norris Stanley, and the appointment of Wilfred Lehman in his place, the working relationship with the orchestra runs smoothly. At the request of the management, the composer includes a number of his own works in the orchestra’s repertoire.

My work with the orchestra now became easier, and much more rewarding artistically. I soon found myself really enjoying our performances of classical music – once we had overcome, by sheer hard work, some bad habits that seemed to have crept in during the post-war period.

I had to take on the role of a teacher, encouraging not merely a general sense of style, but fastidiousness over rhythmic precision and dynamic contrast, as well as discernment and taste in musical phrasing, particularly vital in Mozart and Beethoven.



In July, in spite of his success and the positive opinion of the management, Panufnik decides to terminate his appointment as Music Director of CBSO and to return to London, to devote himself to composing.

On 21 August, as part of the BBC Proms festival, Panufnik conducts the first performance of his Polonia Suite, commissioned by Richard Howgill, Music Controller of the BBC.

Panufnik meets Winsome Ward, who becomes close to him soon. At the same time he also begins work on his next composition, Autumn Music.

In the early autumn of 1959, I was introduced to Winsome Ward, a most attractive woman of my own age, with a pale, delicate complexion and light reddish-brown hair. She was a specially English type (...) She had a broad, attractive smile which could illuminate a whole room like a shaft of sunlight. Yet there was a sadness in her eyes, a melancholy that was part of her spell.(...) Both of us were lonely. She had lost her fiancé some years ago in a tragic accident, while I was solitary after my divorce. With time, our friendship intensified to love of a kind I had never experienced nor even imagined possible. Within our close relationship we respected one another’s independence, she fully understanding my firm determination never to marry again. We always met with the same joy, without any fear of the jealousy, reproaches or demands which, up to that moment, I had thought inevitable in any involvement with a woman.