On record: The Panufnik Legacies II (LSO Live)


Colin Matthews, Max de Wardner, Evis Sammoutis, Christopher Mayo, Toby Young, Elizabeth Winters, Larry Goves, Raymond Yiu, Anjula Semmens and Edmund Finnis Panufnik Variations
Duncan Ward P-p-paranoia
Alastair Putt Spiral
Aaron Parker Captured
Kim B. Ashton Spindrift
James Moriarty Granular Fragments
Elizabeth Ogonek as though birds
Leo Chadburn Brown Leather Sofa
Bushra El-Turk Tmesis
Matthew Kaner The Calligrapher’s Manuscript

London Symphony Orchestra / François-Xavier Roth


Three years on and the Panufnik Legacies series continues with a disc no less substantial if perhaps less diverse than its predecessor. Beginning with a set of variations on the opening theme from what is arguably the Polish-born composer’s greatest work, this continues with nine pieces again by participants of the Panufnik Composers Scheme – all testament to the scope and ambition of the LSO Discovery project which has played a crucial, even decisive role in introducing many new composers to audiences at the Barbican and LSO St Luke’s.

What’s the music like?

Panufnik Variations comprises the ‘theme’ from that composer’s Universal Prayer (1969), followed by 11 variations that open-out its essence without always probing it in any depth. From this perspective, variations by Evis Sammoutis, Christopher Mayo, Larry Goves and Anjula Semmens (3, 4, 7 and 9) are the most perceptive, with that by Raymond Yiu (8) the most entertaining in its allusion to a more famous Panufnik work often revived by the LSO. Colin Matthews orchestrated theme, first and final variations in highly professional fashion.

Of the stand-alone pieces, Duncan Ward’s P-p-paranoia packs a fair degree of incident into compact proportions, while Alastair Putt’s Spiral takes a segment of the Fibonacci Sequence as basis for its accumulating impetus. Aaron Parker’s Captured evidently utilizes ‘‘looping techniques and ambient forms’’ for its four brief fragments without a context, then Kim B. Ashton’s Spindrift evokes abstract seascapes in its ebb and flow. James Moriarty’s Granular Fragments evolves his notions of timbre and texture over three subtly contrasted miniatures.

Elizabeth Ognek’s as though birds elides its three miniatures into a cohesive if unfocussed whole, whereas Leo Chadburn’s Brown Leather Sofa brings a de Chirico-like ethos to bear on his austere musical sculpture. Bushra El-Turk’s Tmesis draws on Arabic prosody for a piece abundant in gestures that ultimately lack distinction. Finally, Matthew Kerner’s The Calligrapher’s Manuscript looks to the model-books from Johan Hering in a lengthy (12-minute) work whose two parts respectively predicate textural density then melodic clarity.

Does it all work?

Yes, inasmuch that all of these pieces – each written between 2011 and 2013 – give notice of compositional techniques thoroughly absorbed and confidently handled. If there is a proviso, it is that most (but not all) of them seem almost too well suited to the premise of small-scale works designed to slot into an ostensibly mainstream programme without causing any undue provocation. That several composers operate in part outside of the classical domain feels of little consequence when the music in question follows so overtly a post-modernist template.

Is it recommended?

Certainly, though the greater stylistic range of the first Panufnik Legacies release (LSO Live LSO5061) is a better starting-point for those wishing to get a real sense of what this scheme is about. What is never in doubt here is the excellence of the London Symphony Orchestra’s playing as it tackles these pieces, or of François-Xavier Roth’s commitment to a cause made possible in part via the involvement of the Panufnik estate. Two years after that composer’s centenary, one can only hope his own music will retain more than a foothold in the repertoire.

Richard Whitehouse

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