Born: February 5, 1909; Lódz, Poland
Died: January 17, 1969; Warsaw, Poland
Initially regarded as an outstanding violinist who prolifically composed on the side, Grazyna Bacewicz gave up performing in middle age and came to be considered as one of the most gifted of women composers, and most prominent of Polish composers, in the mid-twentieth century. Bacewicz was an exceptionally talented musician by any standard; as a child, she studied violin, piano, and theory at a small conservatory in her native Lódz. LaterRead more she transferred to the Warsaw Conservatory, where in 1932 Bacewicz received diplomas in violin and composition. She moved to Paris for a year of private study of violin with André Touret and in composition with Nadia Boulanger. Not surprisingly for a Boulanger student, Bacewicz developed a keen appreciation for classical forms and techniques, adopting a neo-Classical style that served her until the end of the Second World War. As a violinist, Bacewicz recieved an Honorary Diploma in the 1935 Wieniawski Competition in Warsaw, (First Prize went to violinist, Ginette Neveu,*) and during this period, Bacewicz's compositions were winning prizes in Paris and Warsaw, as well.
Unlike violinist/composers who preferred hiding their own works under false names to prevent loading up the program with their own productions, Bacewicz took advantage of her status as a touring artist to perform her own music, even presenting the premiere of her Piano Sonata No. 2.
Bacewicz's earliest works were for violin or for piano, but starting with a 1933 wind quintet, her catalog quickly grew more diverse. At first, she was primarily interested in classical forms: sonatas, quartets, partitas, and so on. By the end of World War II, though, she had become more fascinated by counterpoint, as can be heard in her four surviving symphonies and in her seven violin concertos, in addition to her two piano sonatas. Bacewicz's music from the early '50s was receiving considerable attention and praise, most notably her fourth and fifth string quartets, her third symphony, and her fourth violin concerto. She essentially put away her violin around 1955 to devote more time to composing. By 1961, with the chamber orchestra work Pensieri notturni, she was attempting to come to terms with serial organization, a struggle Bacewicz eventually abandoned. With her viola concerto, Bacewicz's last major work, she began to return to the earlier idiom that had made her name in the 1950s.
In 1964, Bacewicz said in an interview "Contemporary composers, and at least a considerable number of them, explain what system they used, in what way they arrived at something. I do not do that. I think that the matter of the way by which one arrived at something is, for the listeners, unimportant. What matters is the final result, which is the work itself."