Hommage à Chopin for soprano and piano, 1949, 15'
- version for flute and string orchestra, 1966, 15'
Performers: Kazimierz Moszyński - flute, Polish Radio Orchestra, Wojciech Michniewski - conductor; 2004 Polish Radio SA
The original version of Hommage à Chopin, for soprano and piano, was composed in 1949, following a commission from UNESCO’s International Music Council celebrating the centenary of Fryderyk Chopin’s death. It is worth noting that Panufnik was the only Pole to receive the commission (other composers were Milhaud, Poulenc, Auric and Sauget).
When working on the UNESCO commission, Panufnik made use not of Chopin’s music but of folk music from Mazovia, a region close to both artists. He wrote five vocalises for soprano and piano. Their initial title was Polish Suite, but the composer subsequently changed it to the French Hommage à Chopin. Quotes from folk melodies appear in the soprano part (without any texts; the composer suggested only vowels to be sung by the soloist), with a rhythmically simplified but harmonically innovative piano accompaniment. The whole cycle comprises five vocalises differing agogically and expressively – full of lyricism (odd-numbered movements), syncopated sing-song (second vocalise) or dancing jauntiness (fourth vocalise).
The premiere of Hommage à Chopin (Polish Suite) took place during a special concert commemorating Fryderyk Chopin, on 3 October 1949 in Paris; the performers were Iréne Joachim, soprano, and André Collard, piano.
In 1966, having emigrated from Poland, Panufnik returned to this charming composition and arranged another version, for flute and string orchestra. He did it specially for a concert organised to celebrate the millennium of Poland’s Christianity and statehood. The concert was held on the composer’s birthday, 24 September 1966, in London. The new version of Hommage à Chopin was performed by Douglas Whittaker (flute) and the English Chamber Orchestra conducted by the composer.