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Grażyna BACEWICZ (1909-1969)
Piano Quintet No.1 (1952) [23:00]
Piano Quintet No.2 (1965) [17:35]
Quartet for four violins (1949) [9:53]
Quartet for four cellos (1963) [12:28]
Silesian Quartet
Wojciech Świtała (piano)
Szymon Krzeszowiec, Krzysztof Lasoń, Małgorzata Wasiucionek, Arkadiusz Kubica (violins: quartet)
Polish Cello Quartet
rec. 2010 (quintets), 2017 (quartets), Concert Hall, Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music, Katowice, Poland
CHANDOS CHAN10976 [63:30]

The dedication Chandos has shown to the music of Grażyna Bacewicz is something one might even have expected from a Polish label. Joanna Kurkowicz proved an admirable exponent of the Violin works, Concertos and smaller pieces whilst the Silesian Quartet has mapped out works for the quartet medium.

Her Piano Quintets offer the meatiest incentive to acquisition though the quixotic Quartets show the variety of circumstances in which her music flourished – that for four violins, for example, is expressly written as a teaching piece. The 1952 Quintet followed hard on her outstanding Fourth String Quartet and shows a similarly consummate control of material. After a terse opening paragraph, the music oscillates between extrovert and avuncular material and introspective power though when she unleashes a second movement Oberek things become even more high-spirited. The piano rings out in declamatory fashion and the strings respond with lithe good spirits. Invariably perhaps what follows is the music’s spiritual centre, a hymnal slow movement flecked by the piano’s quiet insistence. After which it’s time to unleash the folk-infused finale, graced by a lovely piano soliloquy and topped by a truly Grandioso flourish. Let’s hope that this performance by the excellent Wojciech Świtała and the Silesian Quartet will inspire ensembles to programme this immensely attractive work.

The companion Quintet followed in 1965, the year in which she completed her final violin concerto and her last string quartet. It’s couched in her late style – much more uneasy, jagged and provisional than the earlier work - though it still hints at earlier procedure. Indeed, in the central movement she encodes material from her Partita for Violin, something she was to do quite often in this period of her compositional life. Intense, dissonant, refractive and ambitious this is a powerful work, and there’s no let-up in a finale that can sound positively crotchety in places.

The Quartet for four violins is, in fact, more than just the student piece alluded to earlier, though it certainly was intended to serve that purpose. It does remain, though, light-spirited, with a gentle slow movement, and a play of unisons in the finale. Textual variety ensures differentiation between the voices. The companion work for four cellos dates from 1963 and, like the later Quintet, offers a similarly bracing counter-blast to the earlier work. Strikingly modernist, cast in two movements, it admits a bewitching mosaic of colours given the seemingly prescribed instrumental limitations. Her ear for texture and colour once again ensure constant sonic interest, as well as moments of reverie. Bacewicz’s radicalism was always accompanied by playfulness and ardour.

Which one can extend to these superfine performances from the Silesians and their friends, as it’s put in the booklet notes – the Polish Cello Quartet and two violinist guests for the Quartet for Violins. Adrian Thomas’ notes are wholly admirable and the recording highly sympathetic. Another Bacewicz winner.

Jonathan Woolf

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