A Procession for Peace for orchestra, 1982-83, 11'


A procession for Peace /excerpt/

Performers: Polish Radio Orchestra, Tadeusz Strugała - conductor; 1992 Polish Radio SA

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The theme of peace was particularly close to Andrzej Panufnik – primarily because of his experiences associated with the Nazi occupation and the Stalinist era, full of psychological oppression as it was. In addition to the Symphony of Peace, written in the socialist realism period and later withdrawn, the theme appears in the Invocation for Peace, the cantata Universal Prayer and in A Procession for Peace. The composer bemoaned the fact that communism distorted the idea of peace in the world so much and in his works tried to express it in a manner that would be free of any ideological overtones.

This was also the idea behind A Procession of Peace, a seven-minute symphonic prelude commissioned by Lord Birkett and the Greater London Council in connection with the fact that 1983 was proclaimed Year of Peace. This is how the composer wrote about the idea behind the work:

I composed this short orchestral work having no affiliation to any peace organisation nor to any political party. I furnished it with this dedication: 'To peace-loving people of every race and religion, of every political and philosophical creed.'

This work is a kind of symphonic prelude, written on two planes: the wind instruments and strings play a hymn-like chorale in the metre of 3/4, while the beat of the drums and the timpani reflect the character of a very slow, solemn march in the metre of 2/4.

As this composition was designed for an open-air concert, I was imagining myself as a painter, using a large brush on a huge canvas. After the initial timpani roll, the muted brass with drums start extremely softly, like a very slowly approaching procession heard from a great distance. This invocation gradually becomes more and more intense, and louder, as the procession draws nearer – until the last bars, where the whole orchestra together express with their utmost power an impassioned call for Peace.

The structure and dramaturgy of the work do indeed perfectly reflect the mood of an approaching, slow and stately orchestral procession, and yet the composition remains one of Panufnik’s least performed works, perhaps because of its occasional nature. 

 A Procession for Peace was premiered in July 1983 at Kenwood Lakeside, London, by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under the composer’s baton. An audience of about 15,000 gathered on the other side of this small lake listened to the concert.