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Bacewicz: Piano Sonata No 2, Quintets No 1 & 2 / Krystian Zimerman

Release Date: 04/05/2011 
Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 001538302  
Composer:  Grazyna Bacewicz
Performer:  Rafal KwiatkowskiKrystian ZimermanKaja DanczowskaAgata Szymczewska,   ... 
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This music does not play itself; it requires committed interpretation. Krystian Zimerman and his colleagues give it everything and the results are magnificent.

We owe Krystian Zimerman a debt of gratitude for putting the weight of his celebrity behind the work of the under-appreciated Grazyna Bacewicz, and getting this top quality album of her works into the DG catalogue. By all reports it has been a struggle. The recordings were made on the back of a tour of Poland to mark the composer's centenary in 2009. Zimerman also wanted to include a recording of Bacewicz herself performing one of her violin works - she was a virtuoso player. Negotiations with Polish Radio for the rights to the recording have been going on for
Read more the intervening two years, but have come to nothing.

Nevertheless, listeners are unlikely to come away from this recording feeling short-changed. Bacewicz was active in almost every genre, but considered her chamber works to contain her greatest music. Certainly, the piano quintets and sonata presented here are music of the highest quality. The two quintets are also indicative of the two stylistic periods of her career. She had studied in Paris in the 1930s, and the disciplined neo-classicism she encountered there put her in good stead with the Communist authorities in Poland. Then in the late 1950s, everything opened up in terms of the stylistic constraints on Polish composers. Bacewicz followed the lead of the younger generation in exploring tone colour and musical textures rather than traditional tonal argument in the construction of her music. The two quintets date from 1952 and 1965 respectively, so give a taste of both styles.

Calling Bacewicz's First Quintet neo-classical is to do it a disservice though. Certainly, the structuring is based on a classical sense of proportion and an underlying tonality can usually be perceived. In every other respect this music is very adventurous indeed. Much of it is quiet and slow, with the phase-structuring only implicitly defined. It also regularly builds up to dense climaxes. The composer's innate knowledge of the instruments' capabilities allows her to create dense-sounding textures without compromising the linear focus of each of the parts. It's well constructed music, but that craftsmanship never impedes its sheer expressive power.

The First Quintet suggests parallels with Prokofiev, parallels that become even clearer in the Second Piano Sonata. Again, there is plenty of discipline and fine crafting here, but the overriding impression is of music with a broad emotional sweep. Long phrases range across the keyboard. Seemingly simple melodies begin, but are then forced into sophistication by the complexity of the accompanying figures that accrue beneath. Bacewicz comes across here as a sort of Expressionist Chopin.

The Second Piano Quintet is more of a puzzle. It is clearly influenced by the sonoristic innovations of Lutoslawski and Penderecki, but the music remains essentially linear. Its structure retains at least vestiges of the classical forms of her earlier work. The harmonies are inscrutable, but never ugly. The reduced role of tonality means that the larger chords are not as iridescent as before, imparting a sense of introspection, which may or may not be deliberate.

One certainty though is that this music does not play itself; it requires committed interpretation. Krystian Zimerman and his colleagues give it everything and the results are magnificent. Zimerman gives a reading of the sonata that is as passionate as it is precise. He is a player who knows all about making the most of the moment, so when Bacewicz calls for a phrase to appear out of nowhere and take the audience by surprise, Zimerman gives the effect all the immediacy and physical power it needs. He doesn't hog the limelight in the quintets, which benefit from excellent balance between the instruments.

There’s excellent sound quality all round actually, and well presented packaging. The liner essay tells us something about the player's relationship with the music rather than just the standard composer bio.

-- Gavin Dixon, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

Quintet for Piano and Strings no 1 by Grazyna Bacewicz
Performer:  Rafal Kwiatkowski (Cello), Krystian Zimerman (Piano), Kaja Danczowska (Violin),
Agata Szymczewska (Violin), Ryszard Groblewski (Viola)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1952; Poland 
Sonata for Piano no 2 by Grazyna Bacewicz
Performer:  Krystian Zimerman (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1953; Poland 
Quintet for Piano and Strings no 2 by Grazyna Bacewicz
Performer:  Ryszard Groblewski (Viola), Agata Szymczewska (Violin), Kaja Danczowska (Violin),
Krystian Zimerman (Piano), Rafal Kwiatkowski (Cello)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1965; Poland 

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