Neglected Symphony: Symphony No. 3, ‘Sinfonia Sacra,’ by Andrzej Panufnik (1963)

I ran across this piece the other day and feel that I have to share it. Listeners, or many of them at least, are unnecessarily afraid of contemporary classical music (and in classical music, 1963 counts as contemporary). “Unnecessarily” afraid not because contemporary music is easy. Much, though by no means all, of it is quite difficult. At least at first.

No, listeners are unnecessarily afraid because they don’t trust their ears and mind to make sense of a particular piece of music if they just give them a chance to. Listen to a new piece closely, listen to a new piece more than once, and more often than not it will come into focus and you’ll get what’s going on. And when you get it, you’ll find enjoyment in it.

At any rate, here’s the Third Symphony of Polish composer and conductor Andrzej Panufnik (1914-1991). The piece was composed, the composer said, “as a tribute to Poland’s Millennium of Christianity and Statehood, and as an expression of my religious and patriotic feelings.” (The rest of his fascinating program note is here.) It’s a gorgeous piece with some craggy bits to be sure, but the Grand Canyon is craggy too and everyone likes that. Georg Solti conducts the Chicago Symphony in this live performance.

Neglected Symphony: Symphony No. 3, ‘Sinfonia Sacra,’ by Andrzej Panufnik (1963)
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