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BACEWICZ, Grazyna. String Quartets nos. 4, 6, and 7.    The Fanny Mendelssohn Quartet Troubadisc TRO-CD04 [ADO] [55' 05"]  obtainable from WRPM, 62 Woodstock Road, Birmingham, B13 9BN +44 (0)121 449 7041
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This is a compelling disc.

Grazyna Bacewicz was born in Lodz, Poland on 5 February 1909 and died on 17 January 1969 in Warsaw. She was a prolific composer of three symphonies, seven violin concertos, concertos for viola, cello, piano and two pianos and seven string quartets of which no. 4, included on this disc, won coveted composition prizes in Belgium as well as Poland. Witold Lutoslawski and Andrzej Panufnik praised both her and her music very highly . . . and rightly so.

The Quartet no. 4 dates from 1950 and is in three movements the opening movement begins with a Andante in ¾ time. It is both rich and profound and has a telling retrospective nostalgia. It is beautiful music and exquisitely played. The allegro has a vibrancy and the reintroduction of a slower tempo does not hinder the cogent musical development in the moderato. Some of the musical phrases are of a beauty rare in music of any age. The clarity of the allegro is admirable proving this composer's enviable ability in composing for string instruments. The music glows and is of the highest quality; it unfolds both an intellectual and emotional style which can only evince a laudatory response.

The second movement, andante, has a beauty and yearning enhanced by some impeccable playing. The very specialness of this music is beyond words. It is music that humanity can identify with and proves that superlative music such as this is a universal language and can, in the hands of a great composer, express what words and actions never can..

The finale, allegro giocoso, is a real allegro and hints at the style Bacewicz was to develop later. It has a mystery about it and a piquant sense of humour and an exuberant joy that should not be missed. . . and watch out for the end.

The Quartet no. 6 of 1959-60 is a different story. In common parlance it has a 'modern sound' yet no more so than that of Bartók. By bar 2 we have glissandi con sordini and later strumming in the cello and extended glissandi. It is like waiting for a volcano to erupt. The central section of the first movement is an allegro and the music seems to couple angry protest with quiet resignation. The vivace continues the unrelenting atonal intensity and there is no relief. It is music of its time when much of Europe was in turmoil and music of 'complaint' was being written. The gravé is more relaxed and has a cold beauty but is none the worse for that. It communicates its profound message at once and, despite its severity, it conveys an untold tragedy and with amazing effect.

The final allegro both sparkles and, in turn, recaptures the austerity of the previous movements in a couple of interludes of uneasy music . . . but hope and confidence triumphs at the end . . . and so it should.

The Quartet no. 7 of 1965 begins with a leisurely allegro with the viola saltando and the cello come percussione. The first violin is in tremolo and the second has pizzicato chords. Again the music is uneasy, spooky and sinister but it gives way to 'more conventional writing' but the agitated undertone is never far away . . . and discerning listeners will detect genuine laughter.

The gravé is a serious movement employing string effects as in the opening movements. It has a tremendous climax and a nervous, edgy sound and a dramatic end.

The finale con vivezza has a sardonic humour and is gloriously off-beat. It actually made me laugh. Its concluding bars are a wonderful surprise.

Excellent performances of music of probably the greatest woman composer of our time.

If you have difficulty in obtaining this disc I should tell you that the HMV shop at Oxford Circus supplied mine.


David Wright




David Wright



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