By Mary Nemet | From the May-June 2022 issue of Strings magazine
A range of underrepresented music and musicians awaits curious players. Grażyna Bacewicz (1909–1969) is one who deserves to be more widely known. Born in Lodz, Poland in 1909, her family figured prominently in the cultivation of her talents, just as Mendelssohn’s and Mozart’s families had encouraged their development. Her father taught her violin and piano at age five, and by age 12 she performed concertos with the local orchestra. After graduating summa cum laude from the Warsaw Conservatory with degrees in both composition and violin, Bacewicz studied composition with Nadia Boulanger and violin with Carl Flesch. She became principal violinist with the Polish Radio Orchestra. During World War II she remained in Warsaw, sometimes giving secret underground concerts. After the war she was a professor of music in Lodz.
Grazyna Bacewicz: Easy Pieces for Violin & Piano
PWM Edition, €10
(Vol. 1); €7 (Vol. 2)
Penning over 200 works during her 60 years, violin pieces are an essential element of her musical output, wherein she used her profound knowledge of violin technique as well as her performing experience. As a fine violinist as well as teacher and composer, Bacewicz understood the value and consequences of basic first steps. This cycle of easy pieces, penned in 1945—five in each of two books—is ideal for the beginning years of lessons.
First steps and solid groundwork are crucial, setting the basis for later development, as many celebrated violinists can attest. The first book contains plenty of opportunity to refine all aspects of beginner technique, with bariolage string-crossing (à la Prelude in E by Bach) in the very first piece, Prelude. This is followed by a lilting Melody, then a rousing March, a calming Lullaby, and a lively Scherzino.
Book 2 ventures into third position with a Study, Lullaby, Burlesque, Reminiscence, and Capriccio, all with overtones of Polish folk music. Connecting earlier Polish composers like Szymanowski to the younger generation, such as Lutoslawski and Panufnik, Bacewicz joins the ranks of many who wrote for children, such as Bartók, Kabalevsky, Prokofiev, Debussy, and Fauré.