Hommage à Chopin for flute and small string orchestra
The original version of Hommage à Chopin, for soprano and piano, was composed in 1949, following a commission from UNESCO’s International Music Council commemorating the centenary of Fryderyk Chopin’s death. It is worth noting that Panufnik was the only Pole to receive this commission; the other composers were Milhaud, Poulenc, Auric and Sauget.
While working on the UNESCO commission, Panufnik made use not of Chopin’s music but of folk music from Mazovia, a region of significance to both artists. He wrote five vocalises for soprano and piano. The initial title of the piece was Polish Suite, which the composer changed to French: Hommage à Chopin. Quotes from folk melodies appear in the soprano part without utilizing texts – the composer suggested only vowels to be sung by the soloist – with rhythmically simplified but harmonically innovative piano accompaniment. The cycle comprises five vocalises, differing agogically and expressively – full of lyricism (in the odd-numbered movements), syncopated sing-song (the second vocalise) and dancing jauntiness (the fourth vocalise).
The premiere of Hommage à Chopin (Polish Suite) took place during a special concert commemorating Fryderyk Chopin on 3 October 1949 in Paris; the performers were Iréne Joachim, soprano, and André Collard, piano.In 1966, having Established himself in London, Panufnik returned to this charming composition and arranged a version for flute and string orchestra. He did it specially for a concert organized to celebrate the millennium of Poland’s Christianity and statehood. The concert was held on the composer’s birthday, 24 September 1966, in London. The new version of Hommage à Chopin was performed by Douglas Whittaker (flute) and the English Chamber Orchestra conducted by the composer.