The Strad issue
Joanna Kurkowicz (violin) Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Lukasz Borowicz
Graz?yna Bacewicz’s centenary this year has remained largely ignored outside Poland, a state of affairs that Joanna Kurkowicz has been determined to rectify by bringing her dedicated and persuasive championing of these concertos to an international audience. A pupil of Nadia Boulanger, Bacewicz was also highly regarded as violin virtuoso, and not surprisingly her writing for the instrument is extremely idiomatic. Yet it’s the quality of her ideas that is so impressive; no less a figure than Lutoslawski regarded her as one of the most formidable women composers ever.
These ambient and warm recordings certainly present a fascinating résumé of her stylistic development. The First Concerto, dating from the 1930s, reflects a neo-Classical stance characterised by rhythmically robust material. By contrast, the Third (1948) has more overt references to folk music. Here, though, Bacewicz unveils a supreme lyrical gift in the central slow movement, which is beautifully conveyed in this performance. The Seventh, composed in the mid-1960s, demonstrates a further shift towards a more freely tonal style with soaring and luxuriantly orchestrated melodies reminiscent of Berg and Szymanowski placed against passages with significant rhythmic energy. Kurkowicz’s powerfully projected and charismatic performances, coupled with a superb contribution from the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra, make this an essential and imaginative release which will hopefully revive further interest in this unjustly neglected composer.