PANUFNIK Symphony No 5. Bassoon Concerto
The Sinfonia di Sfere, Panufnik’s Fifth, is of course the main attraction here. It’s a complex work architecturally, the ‘spheres’ being those of celestial harmony, but interpreted by the composer as a structural cue, so that there are ‘spheres’ of harmony, of rhythm, dynamics and orchestral sound, which he wished to be understood as ‘an ascent into spheres of contemplative thoughts and feelings’. If that sounds like a contradiction between the technical and the mystical, then in some ways it is, in a manner entirely characteristic of the composer. The symphony is certainly ‘abstract’ in a way sufficient to please the audience at its premiere in 1976 by the LSO under David Atherton, but this alternates with a floating, dream-like quality that makes it highly original.
The first performers of the work subsequently recorded it for Decca in 1978, and this has been reissued on Explore; it is very fine and precise, but the clarity of the new recording allows all the detail of all Panufnik’s remarkable scoring, relished at every moment by Borowicz, to come through even more. (There is a further recording under John Storgårds – Ondine, 11/07 – which I have not heard.) Something that should also be taken into consideration is the fabulous performance here of the Bassoon Concerto, no lightweight at 20 minutes, and certainly one of the greatest conceived for the instrument. It’s a darkly dramatic work, written in memory of the murdered Polish Catholic priest Fr Jerzy Popieuszko in 1985, and is given a powerful, deeply felt rendition here by Michael von Schönermark. The disc is rounded off by the lovely Sydney setting Love Song, and Landscape, whose anodyne title hides a meditative but tremendously powerful work. Highly recommended.