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Grażyna BACEWICZ (1909-1969)
Complete Works for String Quartet Vol. 2
String Quartet No. 6 (1960) [15:54]
Piano Quintet No. 3 (1947) [17:04]
String Quartet No. 2 (1943) [23:45]
Amar Corde String Quartet (Barbara Stuhr (Violin 1); Boguslawa Ziegelheim (Violin 2); Beata Ploska (Viola); Agata Zając (Cello))
rec. 2-4 July 1999, Sendzimir Ironworks concert hall, Nowa Huta, Poland

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Acte Préalable and the confidently capable Amar Corde quartet continue their foray into the world of Bacewicz’s works for string quartet in this, the second of the series. Volume One began with one of her most-performed works and continued with her intriguing and wonderfully-written Piano Quintet No. 1.

This volume begins with one of her least-compromising works, the 6th quartet, written in 1960, and first performed posthumously ten years later. This piece fits in with her seventh quartet, composed five years later, in its focus on colour and texture over theme and development. The result is a work of high tension as it begins — loud exclamations, intense conversations between parts, and quickly-whispered sections fill the first movement.

The second movement starts immediately with a great deflation, then expands into a virtuosic piece full of great technical demands on the ensemble. The string parts slide as if chasing each other across an oiled floor, skittering in their individual progress, but also sliding past each other as well. The slow movement centres around one note which is obsessively returned to. A restless piece, which, with this note, implies a period of held breath before the outburst of the final movement. This busies itself with its various parts before suddenly joining forces in an emphatic statement that is just as rapidly deflated with downward glissandi.

String Quartet No. 3 follows. Composed in Paris in 1943, it begins as emphatically as many of the statements in the final movement of the 6th, but not long after we find ourselves in a more familiar tonal world. Immediate parallels here are Prokofiev and especially Shostakovich. Bacewicz’s voice here is confident and this first movement sparkles. The Amar Corde quartet throws off such sparks casually and truly shines.

The second string quartet, here a world premiere recording, begins with more of the extrovert tendencies of the third quartet. This piece begins more shyly though, with the main theme brought out by the cello as the others pick out notes pizzicato. The melodic line transfers effortlessly to the first violin, where it soars. This is a war-time piece — and, for that, not at all a nostalgic work, though one in which one hears the stresses of that era. The quartet was premiered in Warsaw in the Boleslaw Woytowicz café, a haven for Warsawian musical culture. With other works already available, this quartet fell by the wayside in post-war Poland. It is ably presented here.

As in Volume 1, the Amar Corde quartet performs these works with great confidence and assurance. These are world-class performances of works that deserve a wider audience.

David Blomenberg

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