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celebrating three hundred years of music by women

Grazyna Bacewicz (1909-1969)

Bacewicz is Poland's most acclaimed woman composer of the 20th century, and her creativity found expression in a variety of modes. As well as writing music, she pursued a career as a violinist and orchestral leader in Poland and abroad, she wrote fiction, and later in life she also taught. Thanks to an independent spirit, she resisted the normative aesthetic of socialist revisionism.

She received many awards in her lifetime; her works were widely performed and well liked. Her musical style evolved from the neo-classical language of post WW1 Europe, to highly original works, such as the Quartet for Four Cellos. While she made an outstanding contribution to string music (7 String Quartets and many works for violin and piano), she also wrote prolifically for orchestra: four numbered Symphonies and numerous Concertos, including seven for the violin.

Affection for folk music runs like a thread through her work. Alongside this national pride, the mixture of energy, honesty and lyricism makes her music immediately captivating.

Bacewicz books:
Grażyna Bacewicz, Her Life and Works by Judith Rosen, Polish Music History Series, 1984
Grażyna Bacewicz, Chamber and Orchestral Music by Adrian Thomas, Polish Music History Series, 1985
Grażyna Bacewicz, the 'First Lady of Polish Music' by Diana Ambache, Cambridge University Press, 2021
A Distinguishing Mark short autobiographical stories by Grażyna Bacewicz, (English edition) Krzys Chmiel, 2004

There are an increasing number of recording of her music available; for example the Silesian Quartet's Gramophone Award winning recording (on Chandos Records) of her complete String Quartets. Several of the works below are available from the CD shop (Ambache Recordings) Bacewicz.

Click on these works for more details below:
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Concerto for String Orchestra, 1948
1. Allegro. 2. Andante. 3. Vivo. 14 mins
This is a widely appreciated work. Quick-changing colours, vigourous syncopations and offbeat accents are all part of this concise work's presence. In the opening movement she finds an ingenious way to recycle the introduction as it proceeds, and the lavish thirteen-part string textures of the Andante generate a delicate atmosphere. The concerto's D minorish tinge is finally swept away by a sustained bout of abraisive energy. After our 1996 performance The London Independent commented on the works' "resourceful textures. Bacewicz was a real expert in writing for strings."
As are most of Bacewicz's work, the music is available from Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne
Score & parts on hire from Alfred A Kalmus, 38 Eldon Way, Paddock Wood, Kent TN12 6BE, UK (01892 833 422)

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Quartet for four cellos, 1964, 14 mins
This was premiered in the seventh Warsaw Autumn, as were many of her works. It is an highly inventive, gritty piece, which employs a compendium of string techniques to produce a whole kaleidoscope of musical ideas. She herself wrote "I was drawn to the richness of sound that is available to the cello. During the process of creating this piece, I came to the conclusion that four cellos in one ensemble is truly a treasure for the contemporary composer. This concept has forced me to discard certain elements that are very characteristic to the cello, as, for example, a broad 'cantilena'"
Our CD recording of it is avaliable on www.womenofnote.co.uk/recording.htm
Published by Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne (PWM 0608)

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Piano Quintet No 1, 1952
1. Moderato molto espressivo. 2. Presto. 3. Con passione. 2 vns, va, vc, pno. 25 mins
The Quintet is composed in a classically clear and concise form. The first movement begins with a meditative introduction and is based on the sonata allegro pattern. It has a fresh harmonic texture, with relatively simple resources being combined to produce a highly suggestive musical language. The second movement has a scherzo atmosphere, and the composer uses the rhythm of her favourite folk dance, the oberek. The finale is restless and dramatic at the beginning, but returns at the end to the meditative mood of the introduction.
Published by Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne (PWM 0608), al. Krasinskiego 11a, 31-111 Krakow, Poland

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Trio for Oboe, Violin and Cello, 1934
1. Adagio - Molto Allegro - Un poco meno mosso - Tempo II. 2. Andante - Allegretto scherzando - Tempo I - Allegretto - Tempo I.
3. Vivo. 9 mins
Following her studies in Paris with Nadia Boulanger, Bacewicz was influenced by the then prevalent Neo-Classical style. Its vitality and clarity suited her musical temperament. Here, she uses it to entertaining effect, combined with her own charm and humour.
Our CD recording of it is avaliable on www.womenofnote.co.uk/recording.htm
Published by Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne (PWM 9414).

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Quintet for Wind Instruments, 1932 (fl, ob, cl, hn, bn)
1 Allegro, G. 2. Air: Andante, C. 3. Allegretto, G. 4. Vivo. 10 mins
This is a fresh, open piece, with attractive writing for each of the instruments. She was 23 when she wrote it, and the work already shows her music's salient characteristics of clarity, wit and brevity, and the incorporation of folk elements. It is typical of her neo-classical style at that time.
Published by Polski Wydawnictwo Muzyczne (PWM 9731), al. Krasinskiego 11a, 31-111 Krakow, Poland

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Quartet for Four Violins, 1949
1. Allegretto - Allegro giocoso - Poco meno - Tempo II. 2. Andante tranquillo. 3. Molto Allegro. 11 mins
Her professional understanding of the violin meant that even while writing a teaching piece, she created a richly imaginative and effective work. She had returned to her home town of Lodz and was professor at the State Conservatoire.
Our CD recording of it is avaliable on shop
Published by Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne (PWM 6526).

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Taniec Mazowiecki, Taniec Polski, Taniec Slowianski for Violin & Piano, 1952
1. Andante, G. 2. Zywo, C. 3. Andante - Vivace, E. 9 mins
From her personal engagement with both the violin and the local folk style, she produced several spirited central European dances; these three have exuberant energy and vitality and are immediately attractive.
Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne (PWM 10321)

Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne publish much of her music, including her seven String Quartets (recordings by both the Lutoslawski and Silesian Quartets, Naxos 8572807, and Chandos 10904 were much appreciated), various chamber works, from Sonatas, Concertos, Theme and Variations, 2 violin folk duets, and four Symphonies. The scores can be got from Universal Edition, London.

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