The life of the Polish-Lithuanian composer Grażyna Bacewicz, though short, spans a period of the 20th century marked by the most unimaginable turmoil – in musical as well, of course, as in political terms. She was described by her contemporary Witold Lutosławski "as a distinguished Polish composer of the 20th century and one of the foremost women composers of all time" and recent years have seen her music – a powerful and individual forging together of several styles – gain further in international standing.Read more…
Born in the industrial Polish town of Łódź in 1909, Bacewicz grew up in a richly creative family. Her siblings became, respectively, a pianist, a writer and a composer (Vytautas Bacevičius, 1905–1970), and Bacewicz herself was an outstanding practising musician – a violinist and pianist – as well as composer. In both capacities she played a central role in defining and disseminating Polish music. She was leader of the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra for a short stint and premiered many of her violin works, as well as her Piano Sonata no. 2. She stopped performing only after a car crash in 1954.
As a composer she studied in Warsaw and then, in the early 1930s, with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, with her early works reflecting some of the neo-classicism that was all the rage in the French capital at the time. These influences – and later the influence of the post-war avant-garde – she fused with a more folk-like idiom inherited from such polish composers as Karol Szymanowski. Bacewicz's own compositional voice remains strong, uncompromising and distinctive throughout such developments, however, with her seven string quartets, spanning her creative life and reflecting her insider's understanding of string instruments, perhaps her greatest achievement.