Known best in her native Poland, Grazyna Bacewicz’s
legacy includes works for solo instruments, orchestral pieces, concertos
and stage works. Those interested in learning more about Bacewicz will
find much information at online at PWM
Both of Bacewicz’s cello concertos are included on this recorded, and they represent two distinct styles in her music. Like the concert Overture from 1943, Cello Concerto no. 1 is redolent of the neo-classical approach Bacewicz used in the first part of her career. The clear-cut adherence to traditional forms does not hamper her creativity, though, which is melodically inventive. In pursuing a tonal harmonic idiom, Bacewicz deploys well-considered dissonances. The use of motor rhythms reminiscent of some aspects of eighteenth-century style, calls to mind some of the efforts of Stravinsky and Prokofiev.
Cello Concerto No. 1 is a three movement work with an impressive solo part. In exploring the expressiveness of the cello Bacewicz introduces dissonant intervals, wide leaps and other effects. Within the conventional structure of the first movement, Bacewicz supports the piece with colorful orchestration. Winds and brass grace the core string sonority. The second movement opens with an impressive interplay between soloist and orchestra. This is sometimes characterized by well-placed silences. The elegiac quality of the movement becomes the springboard for an extended solo passage in the latter half of the piece. With the Finale, the popular-sounding themes are the basis for a convincing exploration of dance rhythms. At times lush chordal passages are reminiscent of the film music of the period in which Bacewicz composed the piece.
With Cello Concerto no. 2, Bacewicz expresses herself in a different style, with modernist sonorities taking precedence over her earlier formalism. The sound-world Bacewicz establishes here is evident from the start, as she sets the tone for a different kind of concerto. The solo cello dominates the first movement, with the orchestra supporting it with a variety of innovative sounds and tone colors. Percussion instruments have a stronger role in the 1963 score, with the conventional motor rhythms Bacewicz used in her earlier pieces giving way to more expressive percussive effects. A similar modernity is evident in the second movement, which juxtaposes solo cello with percussion instruments and upper woodwinds. Even so the solo instrument stands out in ways Bacewicz did not pursue earlier. The resulting difference in texture is intriguing for its bold gestures. This sets the stage for the more extroverted final movement, with the interplay between soloist and full ensemble present at the start of this colorful piece. The result is a powerful piece that stands well with other music from the so-called Warsaw Autumn, which brought forth other new compositions.
The performances of all three pieces are solid, with the soloists particularly strong in the concertos. Adam Krzeszowiec faithfully captures t
he style of the first concerto. His rich, full-bodied sound serves the piece well. With the second concerto, Bartosz Koziak is likewise very effective. He offers a solid reading of a challenging score. The conductors are similarly convincing and present first-rate performances in music that benefits from this fine recording. Short playing time, though.
James L. Zychowicz