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Dip Your Ears, No. 140 (Bacewicz and the Cello)

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G.Bacewicz, Cello Concertos
Sinfonia Iuventus Orchestra /

From Lutosławski, Górecki, Panufnik, Penderecki, and Tansman—the five better-known Polish 20th Century composers—one important name missing: Grażyna Bacewicz, who successfully escaped style-classification but also escaped lasting fame. Her String Quartets and Violin Concertos are the go-to works, but the Cello Concertos are “Bacewicz 201”. The second work (1961) is a stark, sparse affair, with pointillist touches of orchestral color to the cello part, driven by an unrelenting inner pulse… a kind of orchestral cello sonata, dischordant and with edges, but winning, given time and willingness.

The 1951 concerto, especially its finale, is a standout cello concerto: Arguably neo-romantic, it gives the two Shostakovich concertos a run for their money with its lyric themes and melodies, rhythmic propulsion and memorable phrases. The 1943 Overture is in style-finding tradition mode, just at the end of her stylistic period influenced by Szymanowski and Parisian neoclassicism, and it makes a most appropriate curtain raiser to the program.

The Polish under-30 Polish Sinfonia Iuventus Orchestra under George Tchitchindaze and Monika Wolińska play well but don’t rival the music for being the main attraction. Much the same can be said for the two soloists—Adam Krzeszowiec and Bartosz Koziak. The latter gets extra credit, since it sounds as though no one plays the Bacewicz Second Concerto and survives intact without possessing the kind of technique that could master absolutely anything at all in the repertoire.

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