The Philip Greenwood Archive consists of research material from former University of Huddersfield student, Philip Greenwood’s PHD project on the life and works of the late Polish classical composer, Sir Andrzej Panufnik. Items in this collection include: Greenwood’s research notes, books and journal articles, letters, interview transcripts, written work by Panufnik, newspaper and magazine extracts about the composer- and a great number of music scores! I was unfamiliar with Panufnik before I began helping to catalogue this collection, but quickly became intrigued by his story, which emerged from the pages of Greenwood’s notes.
Andrzej Panufnik was born in Warsaw, Poland on the 24th September 1914. Panufnik’s father was an engineer by trade with a passion for designing and making violins, while his mother was an accomplished violinist and composer. Despite being immersed and interested in music from an early age, Panufnik’s father discouraged him from perusing a career in music as it was ‘not a profession for a gentleman’. Nevertheless, with his mother’s support, he started receiving weekly music lessons at the Warsaw Conservatoire. He became a full-time student there at age seventeen and gained his Diploma with Distinction in 1936, graduating in half the usual time. He then completed his studies in Vienna, Paris and London. With the prospect of an imminent war in Europe, however, Panufnik returned home to Warsaw to be with his parents. Shortly afterwards, the Nazi and Soviet armies came marching into Poland, an event which triggered the Second World War. All Polish music was subsequently banned by the occupying forces. Panufnik fiercely opposed the Nazi occupation, and spent the war years playing piano for underground and charity concerts, as well as writing patriotic songs under a pseudonym. The failed Warsaw Uprising of 1944 had tragic personal consequences for Panufnik, as not only were all of his early compositional works entirely destroyed, but his brother also lost his life as a member of the Polish Underground Resistance Army. Panufnik later recreated three of his lost works and dedicated his rewritten Tragic Overture to his brother. After the war, Panufnik was appointed conductor of the Cracow and Warsaw Philharmonic orchestras and enjoyed success as a composer and conductor. However, Panufnik was frustrated with the political control over the lives and work of creative artists. In 1954, he left Poland and settled in England. He said that he would only return to his home country once it was free from Soviet occupation.
Three years later he was appointed conductor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, where he experienced great success as a conductor, although he left the post in 1959 to concentrate on composing. In 1963 he married his second wife, photographer Camilla Jessel, settling in Twickenham near London. Shortly afterwards he won first prize at the International Composers’ Competition for his Sinfonia Sacra which proved to be his breakthrough. More compositions followed and he achieved international recognition for his work. During his lifetime he wrote ten symphonies, three string quartets, and concerti for piano, violin, bassoon and cello. In 1990, he finally returned to his native Poland for a performance of a number of his works at the Warsaw Autumn Festival. He died the following year. Shortly before his death, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to music.
Unfortunately, there is no record of Greenwood’s completed thesis being held by the University library, although we did come across a possible draft version of the thesis in the collection. Nevertheless, Greenwood’s passion for Panufnik’s story and music is evident through the dedication he put into his research. For example, in his research notes, Greenwood describes an emotional meeting with the composer’s widow, Lady Camilla Panufnik, where she showed him her husband’s studio. This meeting proved instrumental in convincing Greenwood to pursue his PHD project idea.
If you’re curious to hear what Panufnik’s music sounds like, have a listen to these recordings of his Tragic Overture and Sinfonia Sacra, the scores for which are held here at Heritage Quay.