Underground Piano Duo

via Falling Tree Productions

via Falling Tree Productions

Hope. I have always been fascinated by hope. It is a peculiar thing. A defiant thing. Defying reality, it is the only thing that survives when “truth” sinks in to whisper that everything is lost. Defying reason, it is naturally common among children who haven’t yet forgotten how to fly. And defying logic, I am surprised by how often it is portrayed in the honest savants and pragmatic. Hope is the common theme I find in the Polish classical music of the 20th century. The music I hold so dear.

2014 marks the centenary of the Polish composer Andrzej Panufnik. One of my favorite stories of recent music history is how he and his friend and fellow composer, Witold Lutoslawski (whose centenary was last year,) helped to “lift spirits in the misery of Nazi-controlled, half-starved Warsaw in World War II” by performing regular illegal concerts at coffee shops. Together, they collaborated on over 200 arrangements for piano duo. Sadly, Lutoslawski’s Paganini Variations is all that survived the devastating Warsaw Uprising. Those of us who still have the attention span to listen sans images will definitely want to “tune in” for this remarkable radio documentary. In Warsaw Variations, Falling Tree Productions beautifully illustrates through interviews with the composer’s loved ones and coffee concert attendees who risked their life to hear the underground piano duo, the story of hope that these two young composers shared in music. First aired for the BBC Radio 4, it won the Prix Europa award for the Best Radio Music Documentary in 2012. You can listen to the half-hour programme here.

Be sure to also check out the list of festivals and concerts planned this year in honor of Sir Andrzej Panufnik’s centenary.

Tragic Overture (1945) – Panufnik / Originally lost when Warsaw fell to the German’s Panufnik had to recreate it a second time.

Nocturne for Orchestra – Panufnik 

Paganini Variations – Lutoslawski 

Andrzek Panufnik’s daughter Roxanna is also quite an outstanding composer. We’ll wait to feature her music for another post. But until then, here’s an interesting  interview with ClassicFM.




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