Concerto in Modo Antico (Gothic Concerto) for trumpet and chamber orchestra, 1951 (rev. 1955), 15'

Concerto in Modo Antico /excerpt/

Performers: Stanisław Dziewor - trumpet, Polish Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra - Katowice, Tomasz Bugaj - conductor; 1996 Polish Radio SA

Gothic ConcertoGothic ConcertoGothic Concerto

Gothic Concerto was written in 1951 as musical illustration to the film Wit Stwosz telling the story of the altar at the Church of the Virgin Mary in Kraków. A year later Panufnik won the State Prize for the work (the music was considered to be better than the film, which did not win anything). From the very beginning the work (renamed by Panufnik Concerto in Modo Antico after he moved to England) functioned as an independent composition – concerto for trumpet and chamber orchestra in an archaising style.

Like the earlier Old Polish Suite, Concerto in Modo Antico uses quotations from early Polish music. This time the composer quoted e.g. fragments from the anthem Cracovia civitas, Wacław of Szamotuły’s Song of the Nativity as well as Adam Jarzębski’s Tamburetta in its entirety. The concerto is in one continuous movement but internally divided into seven short sections: allegro moderato ma con brio (changed to allegro giocoso in the revised version), andante molto espressivo, allegretto pastorale, andantino, allegro pesante, andante molto cantabile, allegro moderato ma con brio (similarly later changed to allegro giocoso). In the final version of the work – revised in 1955 – the composer added an ad libitum harpsichord part, noting that it was used purely for colouristic purposes, ‘under no circumstances to be replaced by the piano’.

Like in the Old Polish Suite, here, too, the composer combines fragments of early music from various periods in his own unique way, creating a new musical whole, though in the spirit of early music. The composer himself writes, in the introduction to the London edition of all his works based on early music (with the exception of Quintetto Accademico, which was not published in England until 1999), that he endeavoured: 

(...) to recreate as near as possible the true period style – rather developing the themes than 'modernising' them by distortion. (...) My main intention was to bring alive the spirit of Poland at that time, and to make use of these precious fragments which otherwise would have remained lifeless on the bookshelves of libraries. 

Concerto in Modo Antico was premiered on 16 May 1952 by the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Witold Rowicki. Similarly to the earlier Old Polish Suite, Concerto in Modo Antico was well received by the critics (and accepted by the authorities) and in the early 1950s both works (together with Five Polish Peasant Songs) were among Panufnik’s most often performed pieces in Poland.