Bacewicz: Orchestral Works, Vol. 1 / Oramo, BBC Symphony

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The three works on this album were all composed between 1943 and 1953. Despite the extreme experiences and difficulties she faced during this undoubtedly most...

The three works on this album were all composed between 1943 and 1953. Despite the extreme experiences and difficulties she faced during this undoubtedly most tragic time in Poland’s history, Grazyna Bacewicz managed to compose outstanding works which constitute splendid testimony to the vibrant creative potency for which she was renowned. Until 1939 her career as a virtuoso violinist and an emerging composer evolved naturally. Trained by the best Polish pedagogues at the Warsaw Conservatory, she went on to acquire an international education thanks to an Ignacy Paderewski Scholarship, which allowed her to pursue her studies in Paris: composition with Nadia Boulanger, violin with André Touret (1932 – 33) and Carl Flesch (1934 – 35). In spite of her soloistic successes she decided to join the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra as its leader, in order that an improved knowledge and understanding of an orchestra should inform her composition. Poland then suffered terribly at the hands of Hitler and Stalin, before coming under the control of the Soviet Union. This album was recorded and released in collaboration with the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, a state cultural institution promoting Polish culture around the world and actively participating in international cultural exchange.

REVIEWS:

The Polish-born Bacewicz had trained as a violinist, but also studied composition in Paris with Nadia Boulanger...the elegant neoclassicism that Bacewicz imbibed in her lessons with Boulanger is evident in both these symphonies, though not so obviously in the extrovert Overture from 1943 also included on the disc. It’s possible to construe her style as a bridge in Polish music between Karol Szymanowski, or at least his later neoclassical works, and the Bartók-influenced modernism of Witold Lutosławski...those influences, as well as perhaps a debt to Shostakovich, too, are welded into a distinctive style that never seems derivative. Her handling of the large-scale four-movement forms is wonderfully assured, while the moments of high dissonance suggest that even in the early 1950s she was not prepared to conform to the precepts of Soviet populism as meekly as the authorities might have liked.

Certainly the drive and conviction behind these performances suggest that Oramo believes passionately in the music’s worth, and the BBCSO revels in its expert orchestration. It all promises well for subsequent instalments.

-- The Guardian

[The] third symphony’s anxiety-ridden introduction (marked Drammatico) surely reflects the mood of its times, as does the relentless drive and restlessness of the Molto allegro energico that follows, in clear sonata form. The stalking bass line that begins the following Andante brings in an incessant coloristic development where melodic figures struggle to have a fully lyrical moment, only to be interrupted by a thwacking bass drum. The basis of both scherzos is mercurial shifts of mood and color, ceaselessly restless, though sometimes playful. And how acutely the BBC players inhabit those many moods – one senses the orchestra’s conviction and enthusiasm for this music in playing that is energetic, fulsome, and highly refined.

-- The Classic Review

As recordings of Grażyna Bacewicz’s music have surfaced over the past 10 years or so, it has become obvious how unfairly neglected she was previously...Through first the suffering of the war years in Poland, then the cultural diktats of life under a Soviet Union-aligned government, Bacewicz managed to continue composing and retain her own voice. The two symphonies share a powerful, headlong drive. Given its premiere in 1952, the Symphony No 3 is the more tightly argued of the two, compressing its ideas with an internal logic that generates a fierce electric charge, with pounding energy rarely far away. The Symphony No 4, following a year later, takes up where its predecessor left off, though the scope of its musical ideas ranges somewhat more widely and the tension is less insistent. The breezy Overture, written in occupied Warsaw in 1943, is not obviously wartime music, unless its joyous energy hides some coded meaning, as in Shostakovich’s symphonies. This is music very much of its time, rolling together the intense concentration of Shostakovich with a dash of Bartók’s exploratory sound-worlds and William Walton’s show-off orchestration into a very cogent whole. The performances by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sakari Oramo, do not stint the vigorous spark of Bacewicz’s imagination.

-- The Financial Times

Oramo and the BBCSO offer an exhilarating account of this extrovert music[, the Overture].

The music [of the Symphony no. 3] is taut and full of interest; Oramo leads a powerful, athletic performance. The slow movement, an Andante, is most attractive and expressive; it features a good deal of very appealing writing for the woodwinds. The vivacious Scherzo requires – and receives – very precise articulation from the orchestra. The music is fast, lively, and often witty. In this movement, Bacewicz displays a jazzy brilliance in her writing; so much so that I was put a little in mind of Walton. The finale opens with a quiet, ominous introduction in which the low brass and tam-tam make important contributions. The main body of the movement (Allegro con passione) is often dramatic and, as I hear it, has an element of darkness. The movement is eventful and often powerful. Graźyna Bacewicz’s Third Symphony is a most interesting composition, which I’m keen to explore further. Oramo and the BBCSO do it very convincingly.

...Sakari Oramo and the BBC Symphony Orchestra have presented the works with such skill and commitment. I hope they’ll record more of this composer’s orchestral music for Chandos. When my colleagues and I sampled this SACD...we were impressed by the big, immediate sound. Further listening on my own equipment has reinforced that view. The sound has a good dynamic range and plenty of presence. Chandos has presented both the music and the performances in an ideally vivid fashion. The booklet includes an extended essay by Katarzyna Naliwajek.

-- MusicWeb International



Product Description:


  • Release Date: November 17, 2023


  • UPC: 0095115531624


  • Catalog Number: CHSA 5316


  • Label: Chandos


  • Number of Discs: 1


  • Period: 20th Century


  • Composer: Grazyna Bacewicz


  • Conductor: Sakari Oramo


  • Orchestra/Ensemble: BBC Symphony Orchestra



Works:


  1. Symphony no. 3

    Composer: Grażyna Bacewicz

    Ensemble: BBC Symphony Orchestra

    Conductor: Sakari Oramo


  2. Symphony no. 4

    Composer: Grażyna Bacewicz

    Ensemble: BBC Symphony Orchestra

    Conductor: Sakari Oramo


  3. Overture

    Composer: Grażyna Bacewicz

    Ensemble: BBC Symphony Orchestra

    Conductor: Sakari Oramo