Concerto Festivo for orchestra
Panufnik’s collaboration with the London Symphony Orchestra began in 1970 and led some 10 years later to his first commission from the LSO. The commissioned work was to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the orchestra and its premiere was planned for 17 June 1979.
The composer, honoured by the commission, the idea of which came from orchestra members themselves, decided to show his gratitude by writing a work to be performed without a conductor. He composed Concerto Festivo, a kind of three-movement virtuoso concerto for orchestra. The work shows off the different instrumental sections or even individual instruments in various types of expression. The first movement is the majestic Pomposo, given to the brass instruments; the second, the atmospheric Lirico played by strings and woodwinds; the piece ends with the joyful Giocoso, in which the entire orchestra can be heard at last. Concerto Festivo is a work full of light; it sparkles with a wealth of orchestral colours and interesting sonic ideas. Its virtuoso nature makes considerable demands on the performers, which means that performing it without a conductor is by no means easy.By opting for a conductor-less performance, Panufnik wanted to express his compliments to the quality of the LSO musicians and his complete confidence in their ability to perform the piece without a conductor. He did recall later that rehearsals before the gala concert were rather nervous, although the orchestra played superbly during the premiere. The composer’s idea was even described at the time by Prince Charles, who was present at the concert, as a "pleasing symbol of democracy in Britain". However, subsequent performances of Concerto Festivo have usually taken place under the watchful eye of a conductor.