Grażyna Bacewicz: Polish Caprice

Context

Grażyna Bacewicz was Born in  Łódź, Poland in 1909, Bacewicz was introduced to music at a young age by her father.  She furthered her musical studies by enrolling at the Warsaw Conservatory, where she majored in piano, violin and composition. Afterwards she travelled to Paris, where she furthered her compositional studies with Nadia Boulanger. Bacewicz’s output was prolific for her time, with her composing four symphonies, seven violin concertos (plus concertos for cello, piano and viola), seven string quartets, chamber music, vocal music, piano music and two ballets. Her skills were utilised by a range of different ensembles and musicians. 

Bacewicz’s style of composing is often referred to as neoclassical, although she was often vocal about how she did not want to be put in a ‘genre box.’ Bacewicz was able explore serialism and other avant-garde techniques after the Polish political landscape began to change after 1956. Unlike her contemporaries, Bacewicz did not veer far from her pre-war style of composing after 1956. What is most surprising is that her works are only really being found and celebrated in the modern day in other countries. 

 

The Music

Polish Caprice was composed in 1949 and is one of Bacewicz’s most popular solo works for violin. Inspired by traditional Polish folk music, Bacewicz experiments with modes throughout the piece. Starting with a slow E minor recitative-like introduction, the melody leads into a bright E major dance section. Throughout this two-minute piece, Bacewicz moves through a total of five keys/ 

The slow introduction and the fast middle and end section reflects the Kujawiak folk dance, which originates from Poland. The Kujawiak dance starts very slowly, has a faster middle section and then accelerates at the end. Polish Caprice does exactly the same, and by the end the acceleration carries a lot of intensity. 

 

Final Thoughts

Polish Caprice is often used as an encore piece for virtuoso violinists, as well as also being a favourite in the recital circuit. The excitement built throughout the piece practically fizzes with excitement by the end!

 

Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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