Concerto festivo for orchestra, 1979, 15'
3(III=picc).2.corA.2.bcl.2.dbn-18.104.22.168-timp.perc(2/3):glsp/xyl/t.bells/4unpitched membrane drums of different sizes-strings(22.214.171.124.6.min).
Performers: London Symphony Orchestra, Andrzej Panufnik - conductor; 1989 UNICORN-KANCHANA
Andrzej Panufnik’s collaboration with the London Symphony Orchestra began in 1970 and ten years later it led to the first commission from the LSO. The commissioned work was to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the orchestra and its premiere was planned for 17 June 1979.
The composer, honoured by the commission, the idea of which came from members of the orchestra themselves, decided to show his gratitude by writing a work to be performed without a conductor. He composed Concerto Festivo – a kind of three-movement virtuoso concerto for orchestra. The work shows off the different instrumental sections or even individual instruments in various types of expression. The first movement is the majestic Pomposo, given to the brass instruments; the second – the atmospheric Lirico played by the strings and the woodwinds; the whole ends with the joyful Giocoso, in which the entire orchestra can be heard at last. Concerto Festivo is a work full of light; it sparkles with a wealth of orchestral colours and interesting sonic ideas. Its virtuoso nature makes considerable demands on the performers, which means that performing it without a conductor is by no means easy.
By opting for a conductorless performance, Andrzej Panufnik wanted to express his compliments to the quality of the London Symphony Orchestra musicians and his complete confidence in their ability to perform the piece without a conductor. He did recall later that rehearsals before the gala concert were rather nervous, although the orchestra played superbly during the premiere. The composer’s idea was even described at the time by Prince Charles, who was present at the concert, as a ‘pleasing symbol of democracy in Britain’. However, subsequent performances of Concerto Festivo usually took place under the watchful eye of a conductor.