Sinfonia Elegiaca (Symphony No. 2) for orchestra
In 1951, Panufnik wrote a three-part choral Symphony of Peace to the poem Peace by Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz. The ideological message of that symphony was dictated by the requirements of socialist realism, the official artistic doctrine at the time in Poland, and by the communist authorities’ expectations with regard to Panufnik. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that after leaving for the U.K. the composer decided to withdraw it from the catalogue of his works.
Yet he must have been pleased with the artistic quality of the Symphony of Peace, as he decided to use its material to compose a new symphony. Rejecting the choral third movement, he recomposed the remaining two movements slightly, thus creating the purely orchestral Sinfonia Elegiaca. The original work's elegiac tone, which had referred to the Second World War, was highlighted in the title of the new symphony. In his programme note, the composer wrote:
The new version of the symphony was to be in one continuous movement, built in three parts, symmetrically arranged like a vast triptych. It did not have any literary programme, only allusions to contrasting aspects of war. The central section (molto andante) would be a dramatic protest against inhumanity, madness, blood lust and violence. The two outer sections (both molto andante) would be lamentations for the dead and for the bereaved, with added grief that their agonies and sacrifices had failed to bring peace to the world, or full freedom to countries such as my native Poland.
The dramaturgy of the work follows an arch, from a quiet lamentoso in the first movement to a tempestuous climax in the middle movement, gradually calming in the last movement. Instead of a final choral prayer for peace (like in the finale of the Symphony of Peace), the composer returns to the initial lament, providing an emotional framework for the symphony.Sinfonia Elegiaca was completed in 1957 and was dedicated to the victims of the Second World War. It was premiered on 11 November 1957 in Houston by the Houston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski. Less than 10 years later, in 1966, the composer made changes to the score. Sorrowful and melancholic, the symphony is rarely performed, however, unlike other compositions by Panufnik.