Bacewicz: Two Piano Quintets; Quartet for Four Violins; Quartet for Four Cellos

Wojciech Świtała; Silesian Quartet; Polish Cello Quartet (Chandos)

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Bacewicz Two Piano Quintets; Quartet for Four Violins; Quartet for Four Cellos
Wojciech Świtała (piano); Silesian Quartet; Polish Cello Quartet
Chandos CHAN10976 63:00 mins

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Despite the quality and breadth of Bacewicz’s oeuvre, her works have been confined to Poland for far too long. I sense a tipping point, aided, no doubt, by this excellent Chandos series (and that from the Lutosławski Quartet on Naxos). For those invigorated by the Silesian Quartet’s complete quartet set, here’s an exciting new addition: two piano quintets. They are works of real substance and originality. The First (1952) is an assured achievement with a powerful identity. Bacewicz displays the structural ingenuity of Bartók, and an elusive harmonic wizardry that veers between Paris and Szymanowski. The chromatic tension of the opening throws its shade across the whole work. A sly scherzo presto follows, in which elements of the ‘oberek’ folk dance are used to tease and enchant. A starkly expressive Grave has the funereal atmosphere of a Shostakovich passacaglia, while the Silesians rise to the challenge of unison playing in the sparky fugal finale. In this, and the Second Quintet, pianist Wojciech Świtała’s playing is spirited and incisive. By 1965, Bacewicz was emboldened to enter the avant garde, and her Second Quintet is confrontational and virtuosic. The Silesians tap in to its nervous energy.

The 1963 cello quartet is a radical exploration of extended sonorities, all dreamed up without the advantages of IRCAM. Just this spring this feisty Quartet for Four Violins was performed by the Southbank Sinfonia. Look out for more Bacewicz: her time has come.

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Helen Wallace