Notes and Editorial Reviews
Partita. Violin Sonatas: Nos. 3–5;
Humoreske. Kolysanka. Witraz.
Sonata da camera. Melodia
Oberki. Concertino. Caprice. Theme with Variations. 3 Dances
Piotr Plawner (vn); Ewa Kupiec (pn)
HÄNSSLER 93.117 (2 CDs: 125:24)
Readers who know well this contributor’s predilections would not be surprised were I to describe this as two hours’ worth of
fingernails-on-the-chalkboard music. They will therefore be quite surprised to hear me describe the contents of these two discs as never less than interesting and more often than not, engrossing, captivating, and strikingly beautiful. If
, of all people, can say that of a modern composer considered by not a few to be difficult and uncompromising, you can be assured that this is music easily grasped and of genuine expressive appeal.
Gra?yna Bacewicz (1909–1969) was born in ?ód?, Poland. In 1928, she enrolled at the Warsaw Conservatory, where she studied violin, piano, and composition. Following her graduation in 1932, she was granted a stipend by Ignacy Paderewski to continue her studies in Paris at the École Normale de Musique under Nadia Boulanger. She also continued violin studies under Henri Touret and, subsequently, under the famous Hungarian violin pedagogue, Carl Flesch. During the 1930s, Bacewicz served as principal violin of the Polish Radio Orchestra. Following a serious car accident in 1954, she turned her attention exclusively to composition. Not unexpectedly, much of her output consists of chamber works for various combinations of string instruments or, as in the case here, for violin and piano. However, she also wrote a number of concertos, symphonies, orchestral works, choral and vocal pieces, and even an opera. Her catalog of published works is quite respectable, though only a small portion of it has been recorded.
This new offering does not purport to be Bacewicz’s complete
for violin and piano; in fact, the program carries the title, “Sonatas for Violin and Piano,” though as is obvious from the headnote, the pieces do not all fit that description. What really appeals to me about this music is that the instruments are not mistreated or abused; they are not forced to engage in perverted, unnatural acts. The violin is an instrument of melody and song, and that is how Bacewicz writes for it. Begin your listening with track 15 on CD 1, the
Sonata da camera
. It starts off with a wistful reverie ever so distantly reminiscent of a melodic line by Bach, but one that has been twice filtered, once through Dvo?ák and again through Shostakovich. It’s such a lovely thing that I put my CD player in repeat mode and listened to it over and over again.
By no means is this passage an exception among over two hours’ worth of music. But there is so much more to Bacewicz than an extraordinary ear for the voluptuousness of the violin. These pieces are filled with exhilarating rhythms (take the third movement of the Sonata No. 4), breathless
movements (take the last movement of the Partita), and something of a rarity in much modern music that takes itself so seriously, a real sense of well-being, good-natured playfulness, and humor (take the third movement of the Sonata No. 3, the
or the concluding movement of the Concertino, which has about it a puckish character akin to a Mendelssohn scherzo). Then there are the Three Dances that sound like a cross between Grieg, Ole Bull, and Gershwin—delightful.
Bacewicz eschews all that is abrasive, coarse, and ugly. Not for her the scraping and scratching on a collection of modern Polish violin music reviewed in 27:5. Truth be told, none of these pieces—spanning a period from 1932 to 1952—is all that modernistic, considering some of the concurrent goings-on in Western Europe and the US. One could say that Bacewicz’s music is derivative of any number of late Romantic and early 20th-century composers. Nonetheless, that does not detract from its appeal; and for me, it is a plus.
No one could have been more surprised than I was at my extremely positive reaction to this release. If I’ve slighted Bacewicz’s writing for the piano, it wasn’t intentional. It is every bit as natural and idiosyncratic to the instrument as is her writing for the violin. And did I mention just how wonderful these performances are? Pianist Ewa Kupiec was familiar to me from a recording of Shostakovich’s piano quintet with the Petersen Quartet, but I’d not previously encountered violinist Piotr Plawner. He has apparently recorded some Szymanowski and Wieniawski pieces. He plays with a pure, sweet tone of spun silk, but with ample technique and requisite power when the music calls for them.
Hänssler Classic is to be commended for this splendid enterprise. Needlessly said, but I’ll say it anyway—urgently recommended.
FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
Works on This Recording
Partita for Violin and Piano by Grazyna Bacewicz
Piotr Plawner (Violin),
Ewa Kupiec (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1955; Poland
Partita x: I. Preludium: Grave
Partita x: II. Toccata: Vivace
Partita x: III. Intermezzo
Partita x: IV. Rondo: Presto
Violin Sonata No. 5: I. Moderato
Violin Sonata No. 5: II. Nokturn: Andante dolcissimo
Violin Sonata No. 5: III. Finale: Allegro inquietamente
Violin Sonata No. 4: I. Moderato
Violin Sonata No. 4: II. Andante ma non troppo
Violin Sonata No. 4: III. Scherzo: Molto vivace
Violin Sonata No. 4: IV. Finale: Con passione
Violin Sonata No. 1, "da camera": I. Largo
Violin Sonata No. 1, "da camera": II. Allegro
Violin Sonata No. 1, "da camera": III. Tempo di minuetto
Violin Sonata No. 1, "da camera": IV. Andante sostenuto
Violin Sonata No. 1, "da camera": V. Gigue: Molto allegro
Violin Sonata No. 3: I. Allegro moderato
Violin Sonata No. 3: II. Adagio
Violin Sonata No. 3: III. Scherzo: Vivo
Violin Sonata No. 3: IV. Finale: Andante
Violin Sonata No. 2: I. Allegro
Violin Sonata No. 2: II. Andante
Violin Sonata No. 2: III. Scherzo: Vivace
Violin Sonata No. 2: IV. Finale: Allegro molto
Oberek No. 1: Oberki No. 1: Presto
Oberek No. 1: Oberki No. 2: -
Concertino: I. Allegro moderato
Concertino: II. Romance: Andante
Concertino: III. Finale: Vivace
3 Dances: I. Mazovian Dance: Andante
3 Dances: II. Polish Dance: Sywo
3 Dances: III. Slavonic Dance: Andante
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