Łukasz Borowicz | Playlist

I think I'd arrange my playlist in a way that enables the listener to get through to the end, from the most accessible pieces to the most complex pieces, to works that require preparation, i.e., getting to know Andrzej Panufnik’s music, getting to know his style and finding one’s way in this music. There is something in Panufnik’s music which I would call its code. For those who'll crack this code, who will learn it, who in their sensibility will create tools to "manage" this music, to "manage" its emotions, sometimes hidden in its structure, or will create tools to find this structure, which is sometimes hidden in emotions, everything else will then be simple.

A piece that will leave no one indifferent is, in my opinion, Lullaby, and this is the piece I'd put at the top of my list. Music lovers will be charmed by the fact that this music flows, that it is seemingly never–ending, imperceptibly going through successive instruments, that there is this strange, ethereal accompaniment – this will probably be a music lover’s first reaction. A trained musician, who uses sheet music and when listening to the music immediately sees the notes in his or her imagination, will certainly start wondering immediately "Wait, how is it notated? What’s the graphic system used?" "What does the score look like?" will be a question asked by a composer. The work makes everyone equally interested on various levels of accessing its essence. If at the beginning of a playlist we have a piece that arouses everybody’s interest, obviously some will continue to follow the list.

I won’t make the playlist chronological, but it will contain elements of chronology, because Lullaby is a rather early piece and this early music already envisaged during the war his postwar music, for example the folkloristic Sinfonia Rustica or Sinfonia Elegiaca dedicated to the victims of the Second World War, which are among Panufnik’s easiest works to listen to. Sinfonia Rustica is among Panufnik’s most accessible pieces due to the fact that it is based on folklore and, as a result, it contains catchy melodies, though it's also a piece which impresses even listeners who aren't professional musicians – people for whom we write music in the first place. The very idea of having two competing orchestras, an idea everyone knows from home – though perhaps not anymore, because my generation’s fascination with stereo probably looks rather prehistoric nowadays, when every child is born in the age of cinemas with many loudspeakers, so right and left channels, the control signal on the radio, is like a museum piece today. But for those belonging to an older generation, including myself, this work is a concert sensation; it's impressive because we can play with this spatial relation, which in any case draws on a popular 20th-century trend which explored such spatial games and in which playing with space was the basis, the starting point.

Thus Sinfonia Rustica, Sinfonia Elegiaca, Lullaby – and then, after relishing the originality of this music for the first time, in Lullaby owing to its quarter tones, in Sinfonia Rustica thanks to its ludic and folkloristic nature and accessibility, I'd direct our listener towards pieces of which the main characteristic is their atmosphere, their sonic mood. The second category or segment of works I'd like to mention are works based primarily on emotions, on moods. We have emotions of action, relating to the narrative, but there are works focusing solely on the emotions of existing. I'd say that these are not so much musical stories, but musical landscapes. Like genre or landscape scenes in painting, this landscape category may be a higher level of initiation; for me, these landscape-painting works include Nocturne, pieces that have some stories in them, and some magnificent programme works like, for example, Autumn Music. It’s not the content that matters most in them, but the emotion that accompanies this content, like in the case of Autumn Music, a farewell to a loved one passing away.

It's a kind of music that I'd call slow music. There is a popular term these days, slow food, so perhaps it’s time to come up with the term slow music. At concerts people are usually dazzled by artists playing very fast, very precisely, very loudly, and by orchestras resembling racing motorbikes: fast, agile, reliable. We're attacked by sound coming from all sides. In this regard, a majority of Andrzej Panufnik’s works are in opposition to that trend; these are works which often begin and end quietly, they emerge from silence, they do not automatically receive frenetic applause along the lines of "the noise ends  and the audience roars and applauds". This is the kind of music that freezes and we freeze with it, and for a moment we reflect on what is really important in life.

Coming back to the order of works on the playlist, we couldn't begin with that, because people today are too busy, too attacked by various stimuli, various sounds every single day. What we need is a calming down of our body and our perception for us to be able to start relishing what comes to us in proportions that may be natural and right but that, as humans, we've long trampled on.

Deconstruction of landscapes in painting led to abstraction. Something similar has happened in music. I could even attempt to construct a painterly history of Panufnik’s music, beginning with those genre or even battle scenes in overtures or sport scenes expressing movement, through landscape painting to works I'd call poetic cubism due to the composer’s fascination with geometry, his fascination with possibilities offered by geometry. Something in cubist painting that's seemingly devoid of feelings and emotions, i.e., geometric shapes, which in some respects are unnatural because they don't exist in nature, carries with it emotions of the highest order. These emotions are abstract but still remain profoundly humanistic. The same phenomenon can be found in Panufnik’s music. In works like Sinfonia Mistica, Sinfonia di Sfere, in all those geometric works which could broadly be called works from his middle period, i.e., the 1960s and 1970s. This music speaks to us with emotions, but here we find a double code. On one hand they can be regarded as euphonic or non-euphonic sounds and emotions, and on the other they can be perceived analytically. Here Panufnik comes closer to a trend in music that comes from Webern, where music is both to be listened to and watched, for we can experience almost aesthetic thrills just looking at the score, even without listening to the music live or in the form of a recording. We simply look at spheres harmoniously intermingling and we fully experience a work even without performing or listening to the music, just contemplating its notation. Musical Cubism, as it were.

After this seemingly most difficult group of works on the playlist I'd suggest – to relax the atmosphere again – that the listener return, with all this knowledge of Panufnik’s music, to works with specific programmes and stories, like the Bassoon Concerto, dedicated to the memory of Father Jerzy Popiełuszko, and to his concert literature in general: Cello Concerto, Violin Concerto, Piano Concerto. At the very end, I'd put arrangements of old Polish music, arrangements of old masters, given the fact that this is, in a way, a marginal strand in Panufnik’s oeuvre – and I'd certainly not present these as pieces that would encourage people to get to know his work. I believe that it's infinitely easier to encourage people with something that's really quite difficult, like Lullaby. And I’m sure that people will get this Lullaby. This in short is my playlist. If I were to advertise it, I'd say "From genre scenes through Cubism to a summa of 20th-century painting and music."

Łukasz Borowicz – one of the leading Polish conductors of the younger generation, artistic director of the Polish Radio Orchestra since 2007. Together with his orchestra and the Berlin Konzerthausorchester he has recorded all of Andrzej Panufnik’s symphonic works for the label cpo (classic production osnabrück).