Sinfonia Concertante for flute, harp and string orchestra, 1973, 23'

Sinfonia concertante. Molto cantabile /excerpt/

Performers: Urszula Janik-Krzemionka - flute, Urszula Mazurek - harp, Polish Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra, Jerzy Katlewicz - conductor; 1993 Polish Radio SA

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Sinfonia Concertante is Andrzej Panufnik’s fourth symphony. It represents a type of a concertante symphony for a chamber ensemble, and is written for flute and harp accompanied by string orchestra.

Despite the fact that the symphony was commissioned by the Redcliffe Music Society, a direct impulse for writing it was the tenth anniversary of the composer’s marriage to Camilla Jessel (1973). Thus the work is a kind of wedding anniversary gift for Panufnik’s wife. This is important to the structure of the work, because Panufnik made the first letter of his wife’s name, C, a kind of sonic centre of the composition (without specifying whether it is major or minor) from which it begins its progression and towards which it is working its way. The note also links the first and the second movement of the symphony – it is played by the harp ending the first movement and is then taken over by the double bass beginning the second movement.

The symphony consists of two highly contrasting movements: a singing, lyrical, peaceful Molto cantabile (which, in Panufnik’s words, could have been entitled Harmony because of its symmetry and sense of concord), and a dancing, rhythmical and lively Molto ritmico. The composition ends with a brief Postscriptum, marked by a return of peace and harmony, characteristic of the first movement. The warm atmosphere of the piece is created by the sounds of the strings combined with the gentle colour of the flute and the harp. When it comes to its musical language Sinfonia Concertante is based on the intervals of two triads: C-D-A in the linear dimension and E-F-B in the vertical dimension, together with their reflections and transpositions.

Sinfonia Concertante was performed for the first time on 20 May 1974 at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, with Paul de Winter playing the flute, David Watkins – the harp, accompanied by Les Solistes de l’Orchestre de Chambre de Belgique conducted by the composer.