Grazyna Bacewicz: A Portrait – Flattering and Accurate

Grażyna Bacewicz is celebrated as one of Poland’s greatest composers of the 20th Century. And rightly so. But before World War II, she was also known as a violinist. She had a successful career concertizing. And she was the principal violinist of the Polish Radio Orchestra. 

This release collects several of Bacewicz’s works for violin. Some are for solo violin, and the rest for violin and piano. All are exceptionally well-crafted. Bacewicz knew her instrument. Her music pushes the boundaries of violin technique at almost every turn. 

To my ears, the solo violin pieces seem the most challenging. Bacewicz uses double stops frequently to provide harmony. She also uses wide leaps to create melodic lines in different registers. Polish-born violinist Kinga Augustyn is in her element. 

Her harmonics sound clear and clean. Her double stops are played with confidence. And the way she shapes the phrases seems natural and logical. 

When she plays with pianist Alla Milchtein, performance standards are still high. But there is a difference in the recorded sound between solo pieces and duets. When the piano’s included, the violin has a softer, more mellow tone.

That’s a very minor complaint about what otherwise is an excellent album. The essence of Bacewicz’s style can be found in her works for solo violin. They’re worth a listen (and definitely repeated listening). 

Grażyna Bacewicz: A Portrait
Kinga Augustyn, violin; Alla Milchtein, piano
Centaur Records, CRC 3971

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