Grażyna Bacewicz: Concert Etude
Remembered for her progressive compositonal style, her work is often recorded and performed in modern concert halls. Her 1943 orchestral work Overture for Symphonic Orchestra is a prime example of her keen eye for orchestration and her fiery compositional style.
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.
A grand Romantic flourish of scalic runs opens Bacewicz’s enchanting Concert Etude. The constant drive between the hands as they claw up and slide down the runs allows for the soloist to showcase their virtuosity over the instrument, whilst still being bound by the composer’s intensity. The fluid passages run into each other, with sparkles of lyricism singing out at prime times of phrasing. Big shifts in dynamics and character pin this etude down and keep it interesting for the full duration.
The expansive melodic framework is pulled out across the entire etude, with the sweeping statements being challenged by more intricate secondary themes. Bacewicz’s homage to the Romantic style is mixed with her modernistic flair, with the harmonic language never quite settling throughout. A crisp unifying of the hands concludes this bold etude.
Ⓒ Alex Burns
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