A Procession for Peace for orchestra
The theme of peace was particularly close to Panufnik – primarily because of his experiences associated with the German occupation of Poland and then the Stalinist era, full of psychological oppression as it was. In addition to the Symphony of Peace, written in the socialist-realism period and later withdrawn, the theme appears in the Invocation for Peace, the cantata Universal Prayer and in A Procession for Peace. The composer bemoaned the fact that communism distorted the idea of peace in the world so much, and in his works tried to express it in a manner that would be free of any ideological overtones.
This was the idea behind A Procession of Peace, a seven-minute symphonic prelude commissioned by Lord Birkett and the Greater London Council in connection with 1983 being proclaimed Year of Peace. This is what the composer wrote about the idea behind the work:
I composed this short orchestral work having no affiliation to any peace organisation nor to any political party. I furnished it with this dedication: 'To peace-loving people of every race and religion, of every political and philosophical creed.
This work is a kind of symphonic prelude, written on two planes: the wind instruments and strings play a hymn-like chorale in the metre of 3/4, while the beat of the drums and the timpani reflect the character of a very slow, solemn march in the metre of 2/4.
As this composition was designed for an open-air concert, I was imagining myself as a painter, using a large brush on a huge canvas. After the initial timpani roll, the muted brass with drums start extremely softly, like a very slowly approaching procession heard from a great distance. This invocation gradually becomes more and more intense, and louder, as the procession draws nearer – until the last bars, where the whole orchestra together express with their utmost power an impassioned call for Peace.
The structure and dramaturgy of the work do indeed reflect the mood of an approaching slow, stately orchestral procession, and yet the composition remains one of Panufnik’s least performed works, perhaps because of its occasional nature.A Procession for Peace was premiered in July 1983 at Kenwood Lakeside, London, by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by the composer. An audience of about 15,000, gathered on the other side of the small lake, listened to the concert.