work continues with this final volume of Bacewicz’s works for
string quartet as presented by the excellent Amar Corde quartet.
As with the previous volume, this also contains a world premiere
recording. In this case it’s the first quartet, which was quickly
discarded by the composer. She was too busy working on new things
to be much bothered with earlier compositions such as this quartet,
which nonetheless has its nose pointed decidedly forward. Composed
in the mid-1930s, the first quartet wasn’t even named by its
composer until 1938, after she’d written her third quartet,
available on AP0020. Regardless of the low esteem in which Bacewicz
held this work, it remains a quartet of discriminating craftsmanship,
displaying little insecurity regarding tone, structure, or effect.
It is more of a strong work to this reviewer than Tippett’s
first piano sonata, also composed toward the beginning of his
career. Much more accessible than the sixth or seventh quartets,
this piece by Bacewicz deserves wider recognition. The final
Vivo has an almost American feel — one can imagine a
piece composed by Copland in a light-hearted moment.
The fifth quartet which
follows is one of only two of Bacewicz’s quartets that appear
in more than three movements. A much more pensive work than
the opening quartet on this disc, the first theme is introduced
by the entire ensemble, which presents it piecemeal, giving
a hint of the masterful interweaving that will come later.
The second movement
is a thoroughly enjoyable fugue with Shostakovich-like elements
and a good deal of sarcasm. Again the Amar Corde quartet does
an admirable job at effortlessly throwing the melodic line between
the various instrumental parts.
The disc closes with
the second piano quintet, composed in 1965. The first quintet,
which appears on AP0019 and which I have reviewed earlier, is
a wonderfully realized work. The piece on this disc, composed
ten years later, begins more ominously, growing into a more
outwardly aggressive work than its predecessor. Less studied,
it is a far more self-assured piece, though somewhat less immediately
accessible. As with the rest of Bacewicz’s output further attention
reaps great rewards. The demands on the ensemble are greater
in that their roles are more interchangeable — the voice of
the piece must shine through over countless handoffs. The variety
of sound Bacewicz draws from the ensemble is far wider as well
— far less evocative of other composers, and far more indicative
of her own compositional voice.
quotes herself; not nearly as often as Prokofiev and not as
insistently as Shostakovich, but certainly with intent. Her
motives aren’t as heavily symbolic as Shostakovich — they remain
rather enigmatic — but here she quotes a segment from her Partita
for Violin and Piano of 1955. From what I’ve been able to see,
a recording of this partita is currently unavailable. I look
forward to hearing it from this label, which has done such a
consistently good job with this series.
Poland holds great riches, both in its musical history, but
also in its future with great performers. It is my hope to hear
far more of the Amar Corde quartet and also from Acte Préalable,
which continues to impress with the quality of its releases.
Acte Préalable Catalogue