MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around

and more.. and still writing ...


Search MusicWeb Here


Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer

International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider


paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas
All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Salon Treasures from the Max Jaffa Library



Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Discs for review may be sent to:
Jonathan Woolf
76 Lushes Road
Essex IG10 3QB
United Kingdom


REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers

Support us financially by purchasing this from

Grażyna BACEWICZ (1909-1969)
Complete String Quartets
String Quartet No.1 (1938) [15:17]
String Quartet No.2 (1943) [21:51]
String Quartet No.3 (1947) [16:34]
String Quartet No.4 (1951) [20:24]
String Quartet No.5 (1955) [25:26]
String Quartet No.6 (1960) [16:13]
String Quartet No.7 (1965) [16:06]
Silesian Quartet
rec. February 2010-January 2011, Concert Hall, Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music, Katowice, Poland
CHANDOS CHAN10904 [74:40 + 58:08]

Things are looking up when there are three competing versions of Grażyna Bacewicz’s cycle of seven string quartets. As well as the Lutosławski Quartet’s Naxos inscriptions on two separately available discs (8.572806 and 8.572807) there is a box on the Acte Préalable label by the Amar Corde Quartet (AP0019/21) which also contains the Piano Quintets. This was the pioneering set that gave premičre recordings to the first two of the quartets.

Composed between 1938 and 1965 they chart the course of Bacewicz’s musical values and beliefs in a near three-decade span of time. Unlike the competing recordings, the Silesian Quartet and Chandos present everything strictly chronologically. Thus we start with the bright and brilliant No.1 with a Lithuanian song embedded in the theme and variations second movement. More personal is No.2 where her characteristic use of glissandos and folk-inflected material is especially vitalising. Given that it was composed in 1943 it’s remarkable that it shows no signs of wrenching angst but there is a taut nocturnal element to some passages. Its neo-classical allegiance emerges best at a firmly moving tempo and that’s the solution adopted by the Silesian who here outclass the over-cautious Lutosławski - whose performance falls apart somewhat at their tempo – and are also sharper than the Amar Corde. The quite brash recording acoustic serves well for the finale where Szymanowski’s influence can be felt – appropriately, perhaps, the recording venue is the Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music.

Urgency and a congruent sound world mark out this performance of No.3 and the diatonic, songfully beautiful Andante is especially finely realised by an ensemble scrupulously attentive to Bacewicz’s sound world. If the actual sound of the recording accorded the Amar Corde is somewhat warmer, the performance remains just that bit less agile and responsive. The Fourth is her most famous and perfect quartet, its material always at the service of her musical argument. It’s telling that even in the folklike moments of this work, the Silesian players adroitly vary their vibratos to shape its expressive rise and fall – textures and dynamics are excellent, and if there is agreement on tempo between all three groups – almost uniquely contrasting these three sets – this one is the best played.

Bacewicz sometimes references Beethoven’s structures in her own quartets, as she does in the Fifth Quartet, but the gradual absorption into her music of the influence of mid-period Bartók serves only the heighten its individualism and characterful quality. The whistling folk tunes over pizzicati – very much a signature musical dish for her – are here but so too is a fascinatingly droll double fugue. Her dissonances are invariably bracing and dynamic – much like her music in total effect – and is richly populated with colour and variety. This quartet gets a really outstanding reading in this performance. The Sixth Quartet of 1960 benefits from acidic glissandi, Bacewicz’s own wailing sirens of alarm, but also from a wealth of technical know-how and devices; she was herself a splendid violinist and I’ve argued before that her recordings as a solo violinist should be reissued. The intense but brief athematic elements in this quartet show her responding to prevailing winds of change, but she remains her own woman, unwilling to sacrifice the seed bed of her inspiration, which can evidenced by the last of the cycle. Those nocturnal and Bartókian elements are back, but also very slowed-down folk motives. The serious-minded slow movement has short motifs but intense colour combinations, always fascinating when juxtaposed as here. Her musical palette is invariably exciting.

The inaugural recording of the quartets by the Amar Corde will have a strong hold on my allegiance. They premiered the first two quartets and many of their tempo-related decisions are not dissimilar to those taken by the Silesian. We’ll have to leave aside the Lutosławski, as they are too sluggish and insufficiently varied in colour. But for total command, instrumental precision, and interpretative assurance, the Silesians should now be the favoured exponents.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: Stuart Sillitoe (Recording of the Month)



Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

Eloquence recordings
All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Recordings of the Month

July 2022

John Luther Adams Houses of the Wind
John Luther Adams
Houses of the Wind

Horneman Alladin
Horneman Alladin

Stojowski piano concertos
Piano Concertos 1 & 2

Vaughan Williams on Brass

Yi Lin Jiang - Dualis I

June 2022

Beethoven Sonatas 29, 32

Orchestral Works

String Quartets Vol 1