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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Grażyna Bacewicz - Violin Concertos Nos. 2, 4 & 5 (Joanna Kurkowicz)


Composer: Grażyna Bacewicz
  1. Violin Concerto No. 4: I. Allegro non troppo
  2. Violin Concerto No. 4: II. Andante tranquillo
  3. Violin Concerto No. 4: III. Vivace
  4. Violin Concerto No. 5: I. Deciso
  5. Violin Concerto No. 5: II. Andante
  6. Violin Concerto No. 5: III. Vivace
  7. Violin Concerto No. 2: I. Allegro ma non troppo
  8. Violin Concerto No. 2: II. Andante
  9. Violin Concerto No. 2: III. Vivo

Joanna Kurkowicz, violin
Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Łukasz Borowicz, conductor

Date: 2011
Label: Chandos



Composed between 1945 and 1954, these three concertos adopt the same formal scheme as the First Concerto on the previous volume in this series (A/09), and I’m not sure that consistency is such a virtue. All the first movements here have weighty matters at hand – the opening to the Fourth is especially portentous – yet Bacewicz’s well-attested quickness of mind skips between subjects and moods like a distracted professor.Within the first five minutes of the Fourth we’ve had a Brahmsian reflection/response from the soloist, an apparently bittersweet waltz and then the full Hollywood number before more Brahms with wrong notes. If the slow movements betray an obvious debt to Bartók’s night music, the model is at least appropriate to place, time and idiom.

I can’t fault the technical address of Joanna Kurkowicz in these first recordings but I wonder whether a less highly pressured approach would suit music that’s quite intense enough on the page, and leave me feeling less in need of fresh air. Comparing Kurkowicz (on Chandos again, 4/05) with Piotr Plawner (Hänssler) in works for violin and piano such as the Fifth Sonata (1951) and Partita (1955), I find Plawner more delicate, mercurial and songful where Kurkowicz’s insistently “expressive” tone fits with slower, not to say heavier, tempi. It doesn’t help that she seems to lean right into the microphone at times.

The slow burn of interest in Bacewicz’s music seems to be revealing that the later, more experimental music also speaks with a more personal voice; too bad, then, that the Sixth of her seven concertos apparently remains in manuscript.

-- Peter Quantrill, Gramophone

More reviews:
BBC Music Magazine  PERFORMANCE: ***** / SOUND: *****


Grażyna Bacewicz (5 February 1909 – 17 January 1969) was a Polish composer and violinist. She is only the second Polish female composer to have achieved national and international recognition, the first being Maria Szymanowska in the early 19th century. Bacewicz studied with teachers such as Nadia Boulanger and Carl Flesch, among others. After completing her studies, Bacewicz took part in numerous events as a soloist, composer, and jury member. Many of her compositions feature the violin. Among them are seven violin concertos, five sonatas for violin with piano, three for violin solo and four numbered symphonies.


Joanna Kurkowicz (born 1970 in Lublin, Lubelskie, Poland) is a Polish violinist. Praised in Gramophone Magazine for "disciplined virtuosity", Kurkowicz enjoys an active and versatile career as an award-winning soloist, recitalist, chamber musician and concertmistress. She currently serves as concertmistress of the Boston Philharmonic and the Berkshire Symphony. A strong advocate of contemporary music, Kurkowicz has premiered among others works by G. Schuller, R. Shapey, P. Ruders, D. Kechley and G. Bacewicz. She plays on a Petrus Guarnerius violin dated from 1699.


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