Composers Datebook®

The Panufniks

Composer's Datebook - May 21, 2023


At Westminster Abbey on today’s date in 1998 a haunting new setting of the Latin mass written by the British composer Roxanna Panufnik received its premiere performance.

Roxanna Panufnik was born in London in 1968, and if her family name sounds familiar, it’s because her father was Andrzej Panufnik, one of the greatest Polish composers of the 20th century.

Roxanna’s interest in music began early: “I was three years old ... when I said ‘Mummy, I want a violin with a stick to make it sing!’ I started violin, piano and flute. But I only wanted to make up my own music. When I was 12, [the composer] Oliver Knussen, visiting my parents, told me I should write down my improvisations. It all went from there.”

And in response to questions about having a famous composer as her father, she says: “My father had enormous integrity, always teaching me to be myself... Early in my career I was very sensitive to being compared to him and a few stray remarks about nepotism dented my confidence. However, I plodded on and now I’m thrilled to be regularly programmed alongside him and I’m so proud of where and who I came from.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Roxanna Panufnik (b. 1968) Westminster Mass Westminster Cathedral Choir; James O’Donnell, conductor. Teldec 28069

On This Day


  • 1904 - American composer and jazz pianist Thomas "Fats" Waller, in New York City;


  • 1895 - Austrian composer Franz von Suppé, age 76, in Vienna;


  • 1739 - Rameau: opera-ballet "Les Fêtes d'Hébé," in Paris;

  • 1892 - Leoncavallo: opera "Pagliacci," in Milan at Teatro dal Verme, with Arturo Toscanini conducting;

  • 1925 - Busoni: "Doctor Faust," posthumously, in Dresden (completed by Philip Jarnach);

  • 1956 - Perischetti: Piano Sonata No. 7, at the Philadelphia Conservatory, by pianist Robert Smith;

  • 1962 - Stockhausen: "Momente" for soprano, choruses, and instruments, in Cologne;

  • 1980 - Jacob Druckman: "Prism" for orchestra, by the Baltimore Symphony, Sergiu Commissiona conducting;

  • 1983 - Dave Brubeck: "Pange Lingua" Variations for chorus, jazz quartet, and orchestra, at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Sacramento, Calif., with Russell Gloyd conducting;

  • 1987 - Harrison Birtwistle: opera "The Mask of Orpheus," at the London Coliseum by the English National Opera, Elgar Howarth and Paul Daniel conducting;

  • 2000 - Bruce Adolphe: "Tyrannosaurus Sue (A Cretaceous Concerto)", at the Field Museum in Chicago, by the Chicago Chamber Players.

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

About Composers Datebook®