The Strad Issue: July 2018
Description: Pithy programme by a Polish 20th-century composer
Musicians: Silesian Quartet, Polish Cello Quartet, Krzysztof Lasoń (violin), Małgorzata Wasiucionek (violin), Wojciech Świtałą (piano)
Works: BACEWICZ Piano Quintets nos.1 & 2; Quartet for four violins; Quartet for four cellos
Catalogue Number: CHANDOS CHAN 10976
After the Silesian Quartet’s impressive double-CD set of Grażyna Bacewicz’s seven string quartets (reviewed October 2016), the ensemble brings in more of its Polish colleagues to mop up the remaining chamber works in the composer’s output involving strings. (This just leaves the sizeable body of music for violin and piano, already explored in the Chandos catalogue.)
As with the quartets, the music here spans a wide musical range between the folksy Quartet for four violins of 1949 and dynamic Second Piano Quintet of 1965. Between those years the Polish cultural authorities’ openness to ‘foreign’ modernism changed markedly, and one senses that this growing freedom allowed Bacewicz to be more herself. She is at her most pithy in the Quartet for four cellos (1963), a medium she suggests she would have liked to have explored further, but the violin quartet, too, shows a resourcefulness that belies the absence of a low register.
It’s hard to fault the performances and recordings, which together offer all the pungency, bite and textural subtlety that the music demands, and the ensemble work is tight and engaging across all three instrumental configurations. As with the string quartets, this music deserves to be a much more regular feature of concert hall programming.