Bacewicz: Piano Quintets; Piano Sonata 2

Album review
Bacewicz: Piano Quintets; Piano Sonata 2

Vaughan Williams

Symphonies 4 and 5

Label: TSO Live
Media: CD
Genre: Classical

Though doubtless the greatest Polish composer between Szymanowski and Lutoslawski, Grazyna Bacewicz (1909- 69) is (unlike them) known more for her chamber music than her orchestral works. This new release collects three of her mid-century masterpieces: the two quintets for piano and strings, and the Second Piano Sonata. The First Quintet is neoclassic but earthy in manner, playing off robust, vivacious allegros against a sorrowful largo imbued with fervent love of—and mourning for—her much- bloodied, Soviet-dominated homeland that come through via melodies subtly but unmistakably inflected by Polish folksongs and dances. The Piano Sonata, with its Bartokian bite and something of the anguish of Prokofiev’s war-time sonatas, is harsher, both more defiant and more despairing, especially in Zimerman’s fierce rendering of it. But despite dark moments the later (1965) Second Piano Quintet, overflowing with flamboyant gestures, flourishes, tone- clusters, and other “contemporary” devices untethered from traditional harmony and form, is on balance more exuberant than sad. As Bacewicz said of herself: “A lot happens in my music; it’s aggressive but lyrical too.” And, I should add, ever bursting with vitality and large- souled expressiveness, especially in these marvelous performances and DG’s up- close, detailed, you-are-there sonics. 

More Info

  • primary artist, Toronto SO
  • composer, Vaughan Williams
  • CD

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