Symphony of Peace
Panufnik did not care in the least about the artistic merits of his mass songs, but he treated his Symphony of Peace very seriously. Although he yielded to the authorities’ expectations in tackling the subject of peace – one of the major themes of socialism (Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz’s poem Peace is used for the symphony) – and simplified his musical language, he was pleased with the work in the end.
This is evident in the fact that he used material from the instrumental parts of the Symphony of Peace (which he withdrew from his catalogue after moving to England) in 1957 to compose his Sinfonia Elegiaca (a comparison of both scores reveals that the changes in that material were very small), while the choral movement that concludes the symphony found its way many years later into a short piece entitled Invocation for Peace, also referring to the idea of peace in the world but from a perspective completely different from the one adopted by the communists.
Symphony of Peace was written in 1950-51, and its premiere took place on 25 May 1951 at the Warsaw Philharmonic Hall conducted by the composer. The reviews were enthusiastic. In July 1951 the piece won the State Prize, second class, though the contemplative, even lament-like nature of the piece – its three movements are Lamentoso, Dramatico and Solenne – also prompted some reviewers to express their reservations. As one can learn from the surviving minutes of meetings of the State Prize Committee:
After Panufnik left Poland, the Symphony of Peace was presented once, in 1955 in Detroit, where it was conducted by Leopold Stokowski. However, in the end the composer decided to withdraw it from the catalogue of his compositions.
In justifying putting Panufnik down [for the prize] Mr. Hoffman [a member of the Committee delegated by the Party's Central Committee] stresses that Panufnik's artistic background has its roots in the formalist school, but it must be emphasized that this artist has broken with it. He is not suggested [by the Committee's Music Section] for the first-class prize given the fact that he uses medieval motifs, which have always been religious. This must have affected his Symphony of Peace, for which Panufnik is to receive the prize, and, consequently, the Symphony is not ideologically pure.