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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Grazyna Bacewicz, Symphony for String Orchestra, Capella Bydgostiensis Chamber Orchestra, Smolij

I was fortunate to come across the music of Grazyna Bacewicz (1909-1969) in the course of a concert I attended of the NY Philharmonic under Kurt Masur back in the '90s as part of my regular NY beat. Since then the Polish composer has gotten my attention and rewarded me with some excellent music.

That continues today as we have a new release by Mariusz Smolij and the Capella Bydgostiensis performing the Symphony for String Orchestra (Naxos 8.573229) along with her "Concerto for String Orchestra" (1948) and a new chamber orchestra version of her "Piano Quintet No. 1" (1952/2013) put together by the conductor.

This is vintage Bacewicz at her very best, played with zeal and distinction. The "Concerto" leads off the program with a stirring first movement and delivers throughout. Bacewicz has a basic modern, harmonically advanced sensibility and a pleasing, rhythmically forward momentum during this period that puts her very loosely in a neo-classical realm, somewhere between Stravinsky and Bartok but also fully Bacewiczian.

The 1946 "Symphony" has no less charm and invigoration and the "Piano Quintet" arrangement gives us yet a third work, this beginning with great mystery and following through with a singing modern quality, both jaunty and expressive. Ewa Kupiec takes on the piano part convincingly, which as arranged now seems more concerted than it might otherwise sound in the original quintet version.

Smolij and the Capella come through with interpretations of great dash and panache, plus a sensitivity toward the brittle lyric qualities that also set Bacewicz off as something special.

This is prime Bacewicz, done with the spirit the music demands. It is an excellent recording. Highly recommended!

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