Pentasonata for piano, 1984, 11'

Pentasonata /excerpt/

Performers: Paweł Kowalski - piano; 1990 'Warsaw Autumn', Polish Composers' Union


PentasonataPentasonataPentasonataProgramme note for Pentasonata

In 1984 Andrzej Panufnik composed his third and last piece for solo piano, namely Pentasonata. Its composition was not linked to any specific commission, which may be why it was not premiered until 1989. 

The structure of Pentasonata combines the composer’s geometric fascinations with a reference to the tradition of the sonata genre. Hence the joining of the two elements in the title. The prefix penta refers to the division of the work into five sections (of a one-movement whole) and to the use of the pentatonic scale, which determines the melodic progression of the work (the harmonic layer is determined by a 3-note cell of E-F-B). In addition, the composer uses a quintuple metre in all parts of the work, with the exception of the central part, which is an improvisation and in which no metre is indicated. 

The reference to the sonata form, on the other hand, comes down to the fact that the first section of Pentasonata serves a role analogous to that of the first theme in the sonata allegro (allegretto scherzoso, molto ritmico), the second section functions as a different, second theme (andantino amoroso, molto cantabile), the central section is a kind of transformation (contemplativo, molto rubato), and the whole ends with a reprise, bringing back the first and then the second theme. 

Pentasonata is designed strictly symmetrically, as a palindrome, with the axis of symmetry in the central section. Like in other works by Andrzej Panufnik, a very precise structure of the composition is combined with a rich variety of expressive hues: the outer sections are playful in their mood, parts two and four – lyrical, while the central section is dominated by an atmosphere of concentration and contemplation.

Pentasonata was performed for the first time on 23 June 1989 in Aldeburgh by the British pianist Craig Sheppard.