String Quartet No. 2 ‘Messages’, 1980, 20'
Performers: Silesian String Quartet: Szymon Krzeszowiec - 1st violin, Arkadiusz Kubica - 2nd violin, Łukasz Syrnicki - viola, Piotr Janosik - cello; 2003 Polish Radio Katowice
String Quartet No. 2 ‘Messages’ was commissioned by the Welsh Arts Council for the North Wales Music Festival. As he was composing the work, Andrzej Panufnik’s mind went back to his early childhood:
When I was 7 or 8 years old, on holiday in the country, my favourite pastime was to put my ear to the wooden telegraph poles and listen to sounds produced by the wires vibrating in the wind. After a while I became convinced that I was listening to real music – which retrospectively I think was my first experience of the creative process, as for the first time I made use of my musical imagination.
These childhood experiences were translated into the sound form of String Quartet No. 2, which the composer called Messages. The quartet is a single-movement composition, based in terms of its musical language on two cells: 4-note cell and 3-note cell. The composer uses them to present his musical ideas which convey in sound the mysterious messages from the telegraph poles he used to hear in his imagination.
Despite the composer’s declaration that String Quartet No. 2 ‘Messages’ has no literary programme and is an abstract work, its sound world and specific narrative make it a surreal poem, transmitting to the listener mysterious messages and signals.
The work was premiered on 25 September 1980 in St. Asaph in North Wales by the Gabrieli Quartet.