GRAZYNA BACEWICZ: Music for String Orchestra – Concerto for string orchestra; Sinfonietta for string orchestra; Symphony for string orchestra; Music for strings, trumpets and percussion – New London Orchestra / Ronald Corp – Hyperion CDA67783; 67:17 ***** [Distr. by Harmonia mundi]:
2009 marks the centenary of the birth of Grazyna Bacewicz (1909-1969), a Polish composer who died far too young forty years ago. During the early part of the 1930s she studied both violin and composition in Paris, and her compositional style bears all the hallmarks of French neo-classical writing. In the late 1930s she became leader of the Polish Radio Orchestra, where she got to know Wladislaw Szpilman – his autobiography was the basis for the film The Pianist – who recorded her second piano sonata in 1953, available on Sony Classical.
The earliest work on this excellent CD is the Sinfonietta, first performed in 1936 under Grzegorz Fitelberg not long after her return from Paris, and which receives its première recording here. The first movement alternates the happily energetic with the lyrical; the central movement is more angular and darker in colour and the last pays homage to earlier forms with solo trio conversing with the other strings.
The Symphony for String Orchestra, also a première recording here, was completed just after the Second World War, is an altogether more gritty and serious work, originally not included by Bacewicz in her list of compositions. In four movements, the structure of each is subtle, the slow movement movingly spare, the quicker ones with energetic determined rhythms
The Concerto for String Orchestra is one the composer’s best-known works, and has had several excellent recordings in recent years, including a couple on SACD: (#5577, #4311.) This work has overt links to the past from the outset, from the Baroque opening to concertante writing. Its popularity may be due to the exuberance, elegance and ebullience of the writing, the net result an uplifting experience. Music for strings, trumpets and percussion dates from 1958, and is still neo-classical but more modernist, a late 20th century concerto grosso. Again, there’s a dark centre to the work, but the vivace finale lends optimism to the conclusion. As with all the pieces on this CD, the composer’s strength of character shines through.Works like these need a highly-disciplined group to do justice to the ensemble and tight complex rhythms, and the New London Orchestra under Ronald Corp are entirely successful in this; with their combination of lightness and power the results are quite superb.
In addition, Tony Faulkner gives us first-rate sonics, dry enough to discern all the detail, without sounding arid, just right for the repertoire. This outstanding release is an extremely fine tribute to Grazyna Bacewicz in her centenary year and is yet another fine issue from Hyperion.
Concerto for string orchestra 1948
Sinfonietta for string orchestra 1935
Symphony for string orchestra 1946
Music for strings, trumpets and percussion 1958
— Peter Joelson