- String Quartet No. 3
- String Quartet No. 1
- String Quartet No. 6
The seven string quartets of Grazyna Bacewicz in a way represent a continuation of the six of Bartók, beginning with the student "String Quartet No. 1" of 1939 that uses folk rhythms in a Bartókian way. Bacewicz's style encompassed the major compositional movements of the middle 20th century, but she had a distinctively conservative way of applying them: most of the individual movements reflect traditional forms, and the quartets as a whole are all in three or four movements in something like the usual pattern, with formally variegated opening, some kind of slow movement, and upbeat, jocular finales. This is true even in the partially serialist "String Quartet No. 6" of 1960, a work that Bacewicz herself testified to having trouble with, and the dissonant "String Quartet No. 7" of 1965, where the structural burden is borne by unusual instrumental techniques. Perhaps the most satisfying piece of the bunch in the "String Quartet No. 3" of 1947, an enthusiastic work in which highly polyphonic structure seems to destabilize the folk-music underpinning. Bacewicz has emerged as one of the mid-century composers who most easily reconciled traditional forms with modernist trends, but she remains only inconsistently known in the West. This release from the highly qualified Lutoslawski Quartet, along with its planned successor covering the rest of Bacewicz's music, should help address the lack of knowedge. A chronological approach might also have been appropriate, but as things stand, the buyer who chooses either volume will get an idea of the ways in which Bacewicz's style changed.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In their survey of string quartets by Grazyna Bacewicz, the Lutoslawski Quartet has done something interesting: they don't present them in order. Volume 1 of the series features four of Bacewicz's seven quartets. It opens with the 1960 String Quartet No. 6, one of her more avant-garde quartets. Bacewicz uses a version of 12-tone music to organize her material, but develops it in her own fashion. Following that is her first string quartet from 1939, a mostly tonal work with its central movement built around a Lithuanian folk song. The String Quartet No. 3, written seven years later, shows her development as a composer. Bacewicz was still writing in a mostly tonal style, but it was a much expanded tonality. Stylistically, this quartet reminds me of late Shostakovich. The album ends with Bacewicz' final string quartet, No. 7 completed in 1965. In sound, its aggressively modernist (compared to the other quartets). The motifs are somewhat disjointed, the harmonies more dissonant. And yet there's a clear sense of structure and organization that runs throughout the work that keeps it from sounding dated. The Lutoslawski Quartet's recorded sound isn't as clean as I would have liked it to be, but that's a minor complaint. The important thing is that these four players understand Bacewicz. So their performance of the conservative String Quartet No. 1 is just as convincing as their performance of the challenging String Quartet No. 7. I look forward to Volume 2.