Mass songs:

Pieśń Zjednoczonych Partii (Pieśń Zjednoczonej Partii) [Song of United Parties (Song of a United Party)], words by Leopold Lewin, 1948

Pieśń Zjednoczonych Partii (Song of United Parties)

Warszawski wiatr [Warsaw wind], words by Konstanty Ildefons Gałczyński, 1949 

Pieśń zwycięstwa [Song of Victory], words by Stanisław Wygodzki, 1950

Pokój nad światem [Peace over the world], words by Stanisław Ryszard Dobrowolski, 1951

Pokój nad światem (Peace over the world)

Ślubowanie młodych [Youth pledge], words by Władysław Broniewski, 1952 (used in the film Ślubujemy, dir. Jerzy Bossak)

Nowy czas [New time], words by Jerzy Ficowski, 1954

Nowy czas (New time)Nowy czas (New time)

Symphony of Peace, words by Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, 1951

In the late 1940s the spectre of socialist realism gathered over Polish music, which was to serve the largest possible audience, represented by a new, socialist society of workers and peasants. The most important genres of socialist realism included the so-called mass songs. They had a simple, stanzaic structure and uncomplicated melodic-harmonic arrangement in the traditional major-minor system as well as subject matter concerning either daily matters associated with the building of a new reality, or praising the new, communist order. In those days writing mass songs became, in fact, obligatory for every composer, which is why such pieces can be found among the works of nearly all artists working at the time. Some, like Alfred Gradstein, Edward Olearczyk or Władysław Szpilman, even specialised in the genre, while others – like Grażyna Bacewicz, Witold Lutosławski or Panufnik – wrote just a few of such songs, regarding them as absolutely incidental in their work. 

Andrzej Panufnik’s first mass song is the Song of United Parties, referring to the establishment in December 1948 of the Polish United Workers’ Party. Panufnik’s song became the anthem of the new party, as it were, which was a result of Panufnik’s winning the 1st prize in a competition for which the song had been submitted. Significantly, composers taking part in that competition – for a song celebrating the emergence of the Polish United Workers’ Party – did not enter the competition themselves, but were designated by the Ministry of Culture and Art. There were 15 composers in total: Panufnik, M. Drobner, P. Perkowski, T. Szeligowski, S. Wiechowicz, G. Bacewicz, F. Rybicki, A. Klon, A. Gradstein, T. Kiessewetter, J. Sokorski, S. Wisłocki, J. Maklakiewicz, E. Olearczyk and W. Raczkowski; and three songs won prizes: Panufnik’s Pieśń Zjednoczonych Partii to words by Leopold Lewin, Alfred Grdstein’s Pieśń jedności to words by Stanisław Wygodzki and Stanisław Wiechowicz’s Pieśń jedności also to words by Stanisław Wygodzki. 

Panufnik’s Pieśń Zjednoczonych Partii is a simple, even banal melody with an accompaniment, which can be described as a lively march. Years later the composer explained that when participating in the competition, he tried to write as bad a song as he could, and so was surprised by his victory. It is hard to say whether he indeed devoted as little attention as possible to the song (the surviving documents suggest that he submitted two more songs for the competition, but they have not survived). Undoubtedly, the style of the piece is markedly different from the composer’s formally and sonically sophisticated works from that period, and even from the fresh and charming Songs of the Underground Struggle written during the war. 

The same can be said of Panufnik’s other mass songs. Evidently, apart from Warsaw wind to words by K.I. Gałczyński – associated with Warsaw and free from propagandist content, though still remaining in manuscript only – the other pieces were a kind of concession on Panufnik’s part to the official ideology. He did not treat them seriously and did not care in the least about their artistic merits. In this respect he differed from e.g. Witold Lutosławski, who even in his few mass songs made sure that the works were original harmonically or texturally, treating them as a kind of composition exercises. 

The story of Symphony of Peace was completely different. Even taking into account the fact that by tackling the subject of peace – one of the major themes of socialism – Panufnik clearly yielded to the authorities’ expectations with regard to himself, he nevertheless treated the work very seriously. Although he considerably simplified his musical language and used Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz’s poem Peace in the finale, he was pleased with the work. This is evidenced by the fact that he used the material from the instrumental parts of the Symphony of Peace (which he withdrew from his catalogue after moving to England) to compose his Sinfonia Elegiaca in 1957 (a comparison of both scores reveals that the changes were very small), while the choral final movement of the symphony found its way many years later into a short piece entitled Invocation for Peace, also referring to the idea of peace in the world but from a perspective completely different from the one adopted by the communists. 

Symphony of Peace was written in 1950-51, and its premiere took place on 25 May 1951 at the Warsaw Philharmonic Hall under the composer’s baton. The reviews were enthusiastic. In July 1951 the piece won the State Prize, 2nd class, though the contemplative, even lament-like nature of the piece – the three movements of which are: Lamentoso, Dramatico and Solenne – also prompted some reviewers to express their reservations. As one can learn from the surviving minutes of meetings of the State Prize Committee,

[i]n justifying putting Panufnik down [for the prize] Mr Hoffman [member of the Committee delegated by the Central Committee of the ruling party] stresses that Panufnik artistic background has its roots in the formalist school, but it must be emphasised that this artist has broken with it. He is not suggested [by the Music Section of the State Prize Committee] for the 1st class prize given the fact that he uses medieval motifs, which have always been religious.This must have affected his Symphony of Peace, for which Panufnik is to receive the prize, and, consequently, the Symphony is not ideologically pure.

After Panufnik left Poland, the Symphony of Peace was presented once in 1955, in Detroit, where it was conducted by Leopold Stokowski. However, in the end the composer decided to withdraw it from the catalogue of his compositions.