I have had the pleasure of hearing a work or two by Andrzej Panufnik (1914-1991) in the course of my listening, but nothing so ear-awakening as the three-work Votiva, Symphonic Works Vol. 5 (CPO 777684-2), featuring Lukasz Borowicz conducting the Konzerthausorchester Berlin.
The first two works complement each other well. His Symphony No. 7, Metasinfonia for Organ, Timpani and Strings and his Symphony No. 8, Sinfonia Votiva, both envelope the listener in long lined chromatic melodies that get situated by orchestral counter lines and harmonically advanced accompanying textures for a decidedly dramatic expression of a forward moving horizontal sort.
The Metasinfonia has a quite prominent organ part, often carrying the melody, played here quite fittingly by Jorg Strodthoff. There is a contrasting timpani part that seems to play the role of protagonist to the organ and gives the work a certain tension and dynamic that works well. Michael Oberaigner plays the part with a sort of heroic ardor that seems right. There is some impressive, advanced-dissonant organ cadenza work in the middle of the work that would no doubt work well in a gothic horror film. It gives the work additional thrust and contrast.
The Sinfonia Votiva, I read, is one of Panufnik's most performed works. It too has a long lined melodic quality, with the various orchestral soloists passing the line along in an environment of well orchestrated, vibrant symphonic expression. It has a hushed, mysterious quality throughout which is quite evocative. The work brings out each orchestral section with a poetic quality that is masterful in its realization.
Concerto Festivo rounds out the program in a decidedly more extroverted mood. There are four movements, fanfare-like in the first, alternately stately and gallopingly active in the second, lushly mysterious in the third, and briskly dynamic and colorful for the finale. It is a freshening, enlivening way to end the program, which is sum is quite an impressive testament to the performers and the composer.
These are works of originality and high expressivity. Panufnik comes through clearly here as a major symphonic voice of the modernist camp. It makes me want to hear the other four volumes in the series, but stands nobly and self-sufficiently as some essential Polish symphonic gems of the past century. Listen and enjoy.