Bacewicz and Tansman Piano Quintets –Three Takes on Neoclassicism

According to the album’s liner notes, this release presents three neoclassical piano quintets. It does if we understand the term at its broadest definition. Grazyna Bacewicz’s first piano quintet does fit the term, at least in form. But this 1952 work has more in common with Igor Stravinsky’s take on the term than Ottorino Resphigi’s.

But Bacewicz’s spikey melodies and chugging rhythms work differently than Stravinsky’s. The tonal underpinning seems stronger, and the sense of forward motion clearer.

The Piano Quintet No. 2, composed in 1965, has a different neoclassical aesthetic. Here it’s all about small motifs. What matters is how they fit together (or don’t) and build upon each other to create tension. Bacewicz uses several advanced string techniques, which expands her expressive palette.

Alexandre Tansman’s Musica a cinque was written in 1955. It’s the most conservative of the three quintets. The liner notes seem puzzled that the work is so seldom performed.

I think I know why. Tansman has the instruments toss ideas back and forth at a dizzying rate. It takes a high degree of precision to make all the pieces fit, and fit seamlessly.

These performers make it happen. They take the listener on a thrill-packed audio roller coaster ride.

The artists come to this material with some impressive credentials. Julia Kociuban previously released an album of Bacewicz and Tansman piano concertos. The Messages Quartet has recorded works by Andrdzej Panufnik and Kryzysztof Penderecki.

Together these musicians create some exciting performances. This is music they understand and are comfortable playing. And I could hear that ease of execution. Difficult runs and complex syncopations flow as naturally as eighth notes in 4/4 time.

As recorded, the strings have a little bit of an edge to them. That sound actually works quite well with these compositions. It makes the dissonances that much sharper. It also helps balance the quartet against the piano.

Bacewicz and Tansman are woefully underrepresented in performances. Especially given the quality of their compositions. Give this release a listen. I think you’ll agree.

Grażyna Bacewicz; Aleksander Tansman: Piano Quintets
Julia Kociuban, piano; Messages Quartet
Dux 1702

Tags: , , , , , , ,


Become a Sponsor

Underwriting WTJU is a way to broadly share information about your business. It’s also a way for your business or organization to gain community-wide recognition for your support of WTJU’s community mission.

Underwrite a Program


Your gift nourishes our community and helps bring people together through music.

Underwrite a Program