Harmony. A Poem for Chamber Orchestra (dir. Andrzej Panufnik)
Although the work was commissioned by the New York Chamber Symphony to celebrate its 75th anniversary, Panufnik decided to use it primarily to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his marriage to Camilla Jessel in November 1988. In fact, the title refers to a composition written 15 years earlier to celebrate the Panufniks’ 10th wedding anniversary. About that piece, Sinfonia Concertante (1973), the composer wrote that the first movement “could have been entitled Harmony”. Now he used the title not only to express the harmony of his marriage, but to subordinate all elements of the work to the idea of harmony. He explained this in his composer’s notes:
The title Harmony refers to the vertical sound (harmony based on 8- and 9-note scales); horizontal sound (melodic lines constructed on two 3-note cells); 'harmonious' use of metres 4/4 and 3/4; and the balance of orchestral colour – the composition is designed stereophonically, with dialogues between strings and woodwinds, both groups have equal significance. The subtitle – Poem – refers to the poetic and emotional element. This composition is dedicated to my wife Camilla in celebration of the 25th anniversary of our marriage – hence the warm and lyrical climate.
Harmony is thus a subtle sonic poem to harmony and peace expressed by means of slowly flowing musical ideas, alternating between strings and woodwinds complementing each other in musical phrases gently taken over from each other.The composer achieves the eponymous harmony in all layers of the work through pairs of mutually complementary elements. They are: two 3-note cells marking the melodic development of the work; 8- and 9-note scales in the harmonic layer; two metre types (4/4 and 3/4); and finally colour defined by two instrument groups selected by the composer – strings (without double basses) and woodwinds. This duality of factors collaborating with and complementing each other creates a harmonious whole, which beautifully reflects the harmonious marriage of Andrzej and Camilla Panufnik.