focuses on the early stage in the careers of two Polish composers, Andrzej Panufnik and Witold Lutoslawski, with the emphasis on their performances as a piano duo in the cafes of Nazi-occupied Warsaw and the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, during which most of their manuscripts were destroyed, and the period of socialist realism.
The title of the feature refers to Lutosławski’s ‘Paganini Variations’ for two pianos, written in 1941 and performed regularly by the two musicians during the war.
Among those contributing to the programme, which was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at the end of last year, were Panufnik's widow, Lady Camilla Panufnik, musicologist and Polish music expert Adrian Thomas, the Polish musicologist and author of Panufnik’s biography Beata Boleslawska and the ninety one year-old retired actor Witold Sadowy, who worked as a waiter in Warsaw cafes during the war.
Born in Warsaw in 1914 into a musical family, Panufnik studied composition and conducting at the city’s conservatory. After the war, he held prominent conducing posts and developed a fine compositional career.
Despite numerous triumphs he decided to leave Poland illegally and in 1954 he emigrated to Britain. After settling there, he served as music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (1957–59), but from 1959 onwards he devoted himself solely to composition, winning numerous awards and distinctions.
From the time of his defection until 1977, performances of his works in Poland were banned. He made his first, and only, visit to Poland after the collapse of communism in 1990. In 1991 Queen Elizabeth II bestowed Panufnik with a knighthood for his services to British culture. He died in October of that year.
Witold Lutosławski was one of the most prominent 20th-century composers. His honours included the Koussevitzky, Herder, Ravel, Sibelius, Grawemeyer and UNESCO Awards, as well as the Gold Medal of the Royal Philharmonic Society in London, the Polar Music Prize and the Kyoto Prize.
He died in 1994. 2013 will mark the centenary of his birth and a wide range of concerts and special events are planned in Poland and around the world to mark the occasion. (mk/pg)