ALBUM TITLE: Bacewicz
WORKS: Complete String Quartets
PERFORMER: Silesian Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 10904(2)
The seven quartets of Grażyna Bacewicz form a significant, too-little known chapter in the history of post-war music. Following the Lutosławski Quartet’s excellent Naxos set, these lived-in readings by the older generation Silesian Quartet deepen and enrich our understanding.
The lithe First Quartet (1939) combines the fluid sensuality of Debussy with the cerebral rigour of Bartók. The Silesian lend vibrant warmth to its swinging Moderato, and expressive ardour to the mournful set of a variations on a Lithuanian theme. Only in the dancing Vivo, in which they maintain a breezy brio, does one find the Lutosławskis travelling farther: a nonchalant beginning growing into something more outrageously exuberant. The mobile Second Quartet (1943) benefits from gorgeously-recorded string timbres and a surging energy in comparison to the Lutosławksi’s more meditative reading. It’s easy to see why the sassy neo-classical Third was most popular in Bacewicz’s lifetime, with its propulsive accompaniment under soulful melodies, a world away from the angular Beethovenian discourse of the substantial Fifth (1955). Again, we have swifter tempos from the Silesian, which makes for exciting fast movements, less weighty slow ones, but perhaps more overall coherence. Ethereal harmonics and glissandos signal a new sonic world (No. 6) as do the strange, skittering articulations of No. 7. We’re edging towards serialism, or at least Bacewicz’s judicious use of it. The Silesian handle these works with precision and élan: a tremendous achievement.