Grażyna Bacewicz: Complete String Quartets – Silesian Quartet
In the spring of 2016, the British recording company Chandos, with the help of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute's Polska Music programme, released an album containing every string quartet by Grażyna Bacewicz performed by the Silesian Quartet.
Grażyna Bacewicz was born to a Polish-Lithuanian family in 1909 in Łódź. First she studied music (piano, violin, and composition) in her hometown, later in Warsaw (composition in the class of Kazimierz Sikorski, violin under the supervision of Józef Jarzębski, and piano under the supervision of Józef Turczyński). Subsequently, she continued her studies in Paris.
The record by the Silesian Quartet was highly appreciated by the critics. Richard Bratby reviewed it for Gramophone:
Chandos presents the quartets in chronological order, and there’s no better path into Bacewicz’s sound world. Take that path, and it’s difficult not to be convinced that these works constitute an achievement worthy to stand alongside the quartet cycles of Tippett, Britten, Shostakovich and Bartók. The first two quartets are buoyantly neo-classical (the First actually quotes a Lithuanian folksong), vibrant with Bacewicz’s playful rhythmic sense and a violinist’s instinct for string sonority. There are sudden sweeps, dancing finales and moments of glacial stillness. … Modernist colours – percussive pizzicato, metallic shivers – fill a taut classical form in the Fifth; and in the opening slides and sighs of the Sixth Quartet (1960 – Bacewicz’s first venture into the twelve-note system) her voice (like Stravinsky’s) is so distinctive that you don’t hear tone rows: you hear Bacewicz. The Seventh Quartet (1965) unites fantastic, mercurial contrasts of mood in a form so cogent that the closest parallel I can think of is Haydn – and you can’t give higher praise than that.
The Silesian Quartet present them [editor’s note: the quartets] all with an open sound, not overly dramatic, and very well timed and placed in terms of the changes of tempi; there really is nothing to criticise! It is a real pleasure to find a quartet performing works in such a way so as to bring them to new audiences, rather than yearning for ‘that’ standout interpretation of a classic.
The Silesian Quartet has continuously existed since 1978. The band have been improving their skills at masterclasses conducted by the artist playing in quartets such as LaSalle, Amadeus, Juiliard, Smetana, or Berg. The repertoire of Silesian Quartet comprises over 400 chamber pieces; approximately 300 of them are 20th and 21st century. The Silesian musicians were the first performers of over 100 string quartets by Polish and foreign composers; a big part of them was dedicated to the group.
Sources: press materials, translated by NS, August 2016.