Meet the composer Roxanna Panufnik, who will be writing music for King Charles's coronation
Composer Roxanna Panufnik is one of the composers selected to write music for the Coronation of King Charles. Here's all you need to know about Roxanna.
- Browse all of our Coronation articles: composers, performers, music and more
Who is Roxanna Panufnik?
Roxanna Panufnik is a British composer of Polish heritage. She's the daughter of the composer and conductor Sir Andrzej Panufnik, whose meticulously planned and colourfully orchestrated works often drew on Polish folk music themes.
Read more of our Coronation composers series:
How old is Roxanna Panufnik?
Roxanna Panufnik was born on 24 April 1968 in London. After attending Bedales School, she studied at the Royal Academy of Music, considered one of the best music colleges and conservatoires in the world.
What music has Roxanna Panufnik written?
A prolific composer, Roxanna Panufnik has written music across a wide range of genres and forms including opera, ballet, music theatre, choral works, chamber compositions and music for film and television.
Some of her most popular works include an oratorio, Dance of Life (in Latin and Estonian), incorporating her fourth mass setting, for multiple Tallinn choirs and the Tallinn Philharmonic Orchestra (commissioned to mark their tenure of European Capital of Culture 2011).
Three Paths to Peace is an 11-minute orchestral prelude that mixes Christian, Jewish and Islamic music, and progresses towards a joyous and harmonious conclusion. Commissioned by the World Orchestra for Peace, it was first performed in Jerusalem in 2008.
The Westminster Mass was commissioned for Westminster Cathedral Choir as they marked Cardinal Hume's 75th birthday in May 1998. The Music Programme is an opera for Polish National Opera's millennium season: and Panufnik has also written settings for solo voices and orchestra of Vikram Seth's Beastly Tales.
Then there's her violin concerto, Four World Seasons, written as part of the celebrations for the 2012 Olympics. A 21st-century reflection on Vivaldi's famous Four Seasons, Panufnik's violin concerto sounds both contemporary and uniquely atmospheric, drawing on sound worlds from around the globe. Like Vivaldi's work, each movement represents a season – but Panufnik adds a geographical location too.
So, we get 'Autumn in Albania', with its strong Slavic inflections, followed by 'Tibetan Winter', which features a Tibetan singing bowl. The seasonal cycle is completed by 'Indian Summer', which draws on Indian violin performance practice; and 'Spring in Japan', in which the instrument takes on some of the qualities of Japan's national instrument, the koto.
- We named Roxanna Panufnik's Four World Seasons one of the greatest violin concertos of all time
In 2017, Panufnik's opera Silver Birch was commissioned by Garsington Opera, getting its premiere on 28 July that year. With a libretto by BBC Music writer Jessica Duchen, Silver Birch is a celebration of music, drama, poetry and dance, and the premiere featured180 performers on the stage and in the pit, from local schools and the community, working alongside professional soloists, Pinewood Group and the Garsington Opera Orchestra. The opera draws upon Siegfried Sassoon's poems and the testimony of a British soldier, who served recently in Iraq, to illustrate the human tragedies of conflicts past and present.
What is Roxanna Panufnik writing for King Charles's Coronation?
We don't know the specifics yet: but Roxanna did tell us about her reaction to the news that she'd been invited to compose some Coronation music. 'When Andrew Nethsinga, incoming Director of Music at Westminster Abbey, asked if we could speak on the phone confidentially, I thought he might be after some insider info on the Abbey (my son was a chorister there)!
'But when he called later and started, “I was with the King the other day…” my heart nearly stopped. I was excited, deeply honoured and wildly nervous, all at the same time.
'Andrew gave me a very detailed brief as to what he wanted me to write - words, who it would be performed by, length and desirable musical atmosphere. I was given four weeks to write it and we have a great time collaborating on it. Last week I went through the organ part with Peter Holder and the next day I sent it to my publishers.
'All I can tell you is that it’s for choir and organ! And I can’t WAIT to hear it in that space. I think, along with the Proms, it’s the best gig a composer can get in this country. Possibly even the world!'
Steve has been an avid listener of classical music since childhood, and now contributes a variety of features to BBC Music’s magazine and website. He started writing about music as Arts Editor of an Oxford University student newspaper and has continued ever since, serving as Arts Editor on various magazines.