Sir Andrzej Panufnik used to say that he communicated in music, not words. But his literary legacy is substantial, as this book demonstrates.
Its major element is Composing Myself, the autobiography he wrote in 1985, long since a collector’s item and here republished in a fully annotated new edition. It provides a graphic account of an often dramatic life. Panufnik’s early success in pre-World War II Poland was soon eclipsed by the horrors of the Nazi occupation. Composing Myself documents in striking detail the desperate circumstances in which Panufnik repeatedly found himself – and the personal courage with which he responded.
Post-War Poland then progressed from theovert terrors of Nazism to the deadening hand of Communism, and Panufnik charts the methodical attempts of Party orthodoxy to stifle independent thought. In spite of the success he enjoyed as a conductor, Panufnik was unable to compose under such restrictions, feeling he was being suffocated. Though a patriot to his bones, he boldly decided that escape to the west was the only option, and his account of his defection – in 1954, at the height of the Cold War – reads like a le Carré thriller. Safe in England, he was able to rebuild his career, overcoming official neglect of his music to become one of Britain’s best-respected composers – and to be greeted as a national hero when he finally managed to return to his beloved Poland, free at last.
Composing Myself is complemented by the complete programme notes he wrote to shed light on the impulse behind, and design of, his music, complete with theoften visually striking diagrams he drew to articulate their formal logic. A third section includes his few other articles, including a 1955 report to the unsuspecting west of the true nature of Polish intellectual life under Communism, an insightful radio broadcast on Szymanowski and a brief tribute to Bartók. Finally, Part IV collects the more important of the interviews Panufnik gave over the course of his career.