Polish composer Grażyna Bacewicz captured in a high-energy album

Half a century after her death the music of Grażyna Bacewicz (1909-1969) can no longer be said to be neglected. Recordings have explored much of her output over the past decade, but this latest disc must rank as one of the most compelling.

Bacewicz’s music is high-energy. The composer described herself as being in possession of a “concealed engine” and, beyond composing a decent corpus of music, found time to write four novels, short stories and a play for television.

In style, she belongs firmly in eastern Europe in the mid-20th century. Anybody who likes Prokofiev, Shostakovich or Bartók will have an idea of what to expect — aggressive attack and driving rhythms, interspersed with softer passages that breathe an uneasy, lyrical calm.

The main work here is the Piano Concerto (1949), which gives a few others from the 20th century a run for their money. There is much technical brilliance, together with wit, a bittersweet lyricism, and always the sense that some unidentified threat could be lurking on the next page. Pianist Peter Jablonski and Nicholas Collon, conducting the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, light its fuse from the opening bars.

Other works on the disc include the Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra (1966) — edgier, its musical landscape bleaker — and the Music for Strings, Trumpets and Percussion (1958), a tribute to Bartók, which goes further down the modern track to the point of sounding quite frenetic when its blood is up. All receive urgent performances from Collon and his Finnish musicians.


Grażyna Bacewicz’ is released by Ondine

This post was originally published on Financial Times

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