January 1999

Polish Music Reference Center Newsletter Vol. 5, no. 1

News Flash

Winners Of The 2nd International Tansman Competition


  • Grand Prix (1st place): Gergely Ittzes /Hungary/ – flute, 12.000 USD
  • 2nd Prize (2nd place): Pierre Martens /Belgium/ – bassoon, 7.000 USD
  • 3rd Prize: Dmitri Prokofiev /Russia/ – cello, 4.000 USD
  • 4th Prize: Piotr Tomaszewski /Poland/ – guitar, 2.000 USD

Special Prize for the best performance of a piece by Alexander Tansman:

  • Pierre Martens /Belgium/ – bassoon
  • Błażej Dowlasz /Poland/ – piano

Special Prize from the President of Polish Radio, for the youngest participant of the competition (a recital and recording for the Polish Radio):

  • Piotr Żukowski /Poland/ – pianoSpecial Prize of Silesian Philharmonic in Katowice (concerts and recitals in 1999 season):
  • Gergely Ittzes, Pierre Martens

Special Prize of the Łódź Philharmonic, (a concert in 1999 season):

  • Gergely Ittzes, Pierre Martens

National Concert Agency special prize (a concert in Warsaw’s Royal Castle):

  • Piotr Tomaszewski

There were many other, smaller, special prizes. 74 participants from 29 countries took part in the 2nd edition of the competition. The countries represented included: Poland, USA, Japan, South Korea, Cuba, Mexico, Brazil, Israel, Czech, Spain, Italy, Greece, France, Great Britain, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Croatia, Yugoslavia, Macedonia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Estonia, Turkmenistan. After initial eliminations, performed from the 1st to the 16th of September 1998, the international jury qualified 25 participants from 10 countries to the final stage (Poland, USA, Japan, South Korea, Cuba, Hungary, Italy, Belgium, Romania, Russia). The list of finalists included 3 flutists, 3 bassoonists, 6 cellists, 9 pianists, and 4 guitarists.

Prof. Eleonore Schoenfeld (cello, USC School of Music) was invited to serve on the jury of this competition. After her return from Poland, she offered the following comment:

It gave me the greatest pleasure to participate as the American juror in the Alexander Tansman 2nd International Competition of Musical Personalities, and I wish to congratulate the Society of the Culture Promotion and especially Mr. Andrzej Wendland, Director of the Competition for the tremendous success.The competitors presented exceptional programs, through which they confirmed their great talents, as well as the unique nature of the competition.

The fact that the Ministry of Culture and other local authorities were well represented at the Competition, proved that this cultural event is of great importance to the national culture and promotion of Lodz and its region, both in the country and abroad. Krzysztof Penderecki, who conducted the inauguration concert with the Sinfonia Varsovia, promised to record an album of Alexander Tansman’s music, which may be a turning point in the promotion of Tansman’s music in the whole world.

Internet News

Wiem: Wielka Internetowa Encyklopedia Multimedialna, Wersja 2.02


WIEM [“I know” – In Polish] is a popular, free-access reference work with entries on a variety of subjects. It is based on the Universal Popular Encyclopedia [Popularna Encyklopedia Powszechna] and published by the publishing house Fogra of Kraków. The site contains about 66.000 entries, over 3.000 photos, ca. 600 illustrations, over 40 min. of films, over 3 hours of sound samples, and over 200 maps. This is the only Polish encyclopaedia available on the Internet without fees or membership dues. The encyclopedia contains a number of entries about composers and over 20 classical music sound samples from works by Polish composers. Chopin is represented by two mazurkas, an etude (Revolutionary), a polonaise, a waltz and a prelude. Szymanowski has The Spring of Arethuse for violin and piano, and two piano works – a Mazurka and one of the Masks. Paderewski’s music is exemplified by two fragments of his piano concerto; one such fragment serves to portray the work of Melcer. There are two more samples from Polish music: one for Oginski (Polonaise “Farewell to Homeland”) and one for Henryk Wieniawski (Violin Concerto).

Jerzy F. Gierula informs us about a site devoted to Polish early music, containing a rich collection of music in the MIDI format. This private site (i.e. maintained by an individual, not an institution) may be found at the following address:http://zeus.polsl.gliwice.pl/~jarczyk/early/index.htm

The Lied and Song Texts Page, maintained by Emily Ezust is an online archive of about ten thousand art song texts in many different languages, including Polish. Right now the only texts from Polish composers or poets are listed in the entries of Chopin, Loewe and Moniuszko. The owner of the site would like to get more texts online, for this, however, she needs the scores, or entries from other people. We hope that, for instance, Polish singers (or singers of Polish songs) might find it useful to forward their song texts and translations to Ms. Ezust. Contact information:

mindel@recmusic.org – Site Owner, Emily Ezust

http://www.recmusic.org/lieder – Lied and Song Texts

http://www.recmusic.org/midi – Classical Midi with Words Page


New Journal: Studies In Penderecki

The first volume of Studies in Penderecki, edited by Ray Robinson and Regina Chłopicka was published by Prestige Publications (Princeton, NJ) in 1998. The Journal is distributed by Hinshaw Music, Chapel Hill, NC. The volume focuses on the various compositional styles that have been apparent in his music during his career. Articles on this topic were contributed by Mieczysław Tomaszewski, Ray Robinson, Regina Chłopicka, and Wolfram Schwinger. Interestingly enough, these authors present quite divergent views on when specific stylistic changes occurred, although all agree that noticeable shifts occurred in 1962, 1974/75, and 1986.

The remainder of the volume contains analyses of the Second Violin Concerto (by Allen Winold), String Trio, and Sinfonietta (both by Ray Robinson), reviews of recent premieres and major performances, book and dissertation reviews, and an annotated list of American and Canadian dissertations on Penderecki’s life and music. The next volume of Studies in Penderecki, to appear in early 1999, will be devoted to Penderecki’s avant-garde music; future issues currently being planned will focus on his theater works and oratorios. [contributed by Cindy Bylander]

More On Polish Music Festival At Northwestern University, Evanston

by Maria Anna Harley

An important part of my duties as Director of the Polish Music Reference Center is to give popular lectures about Polish music to different groups of people. A day after the International Conference “Polish/Jewish/Music!” ended at USC I arrived at Northwestern University near Chicago to give three lectures about various aspects of Polish music for the audiences of the Polish Music Festival. I was one of the three guests invited to this wonderful event, planned and directed by conductor Mariusz Smolij, faculty member at Northwestern.

The other two guests were far more eminent than I: Canadian pianist Janina Fialkowska – the protege of Artur Rubinstein, renowned for her performances of Chopin and Szymanowski, and Polish-American violinist, Andrzej Grabiec – a devotee of the music by Grażyna Bacewicz and of the Polish violins (and Polish violin music in general). Before summarizing the events of the celebration of Polish music at Evanston, let me introduce these guest performers. Ms. Fialkowska is one of the leading pianists of her generation and top prize winner of the 1974 Arthur Rubinstein Master Piano Competition. Ms. Fialkowska regularly appears with all leading American and European orchestras including the Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, London Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic and many others. During the festival she appeared with the Northwestern University Chamber Orchestra (in Chopin’s Piano Concerto no. 2), gave an all-Chopin recital (sold out!) and participated in the chamber music concert – as pianist for Juliusz Zarębski’s Piano Quintet. In addition, she also gave piano and chamber music master classes.

Andrzej Grabiec, violin, is prize winner of several prestigious international competitions including the Thibaut Violin Competition in Paris, Wieniawski Violin Competition in Poland and Colmar Chamber Music Competition in France. Mr. Grabiec has been concertmaster of Polish National Radio and Television Orchestra, Rochester Philharmonic in Rochester, NY, American Symphonietta and many other prestigious ensembles. He appeared in concerts and in recitals in all European countries, United States, Canada, Mexico and Australia. He is currently residing in Houston, Texas and is Prof. of violin and at the University of Houston where he directs an American Sinfonietta string ensemble. At the Festival he gave a violin and piano recital, performed the solo part in the Violin Concerto by Mieczysław Karłowicz, helped to program and participated in the chamber music concert – in the Quartet for Four Violins by Grażyna Bacewicz and in Zarębski’s Quintet. Also, like Ms. Fialkowska, he gave masterclasses for NU students.

Finally, Mariusz Smolij, the brain behind and the moving force of the festival, is an enthusiastic and very talented conductor with the following credentials: Master of Music degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, former violinist with the Polish National Radio and TV Orchestra, Jeuesse Musicale, Rome Festival Orchestra, and American Sinfonietta, co-founder and violinist in the Penderecki String Quartet, Assistant Conductor, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra; Music Director, Greater Newark Youth Orchestra; and Conductor, Essex County Chamber Orchestra. He has also conducted the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and Polish Radio Orchestra.

Notice that in this list performing in an orchestra (one among the many musicians) leads to performing in a quartet (one of four), and, then, to conducing (one directing all the others). Smolij deserves lots of credit for organizing the Festival, for bringing together the wonderful musicians, for the energy and enthusiasm that he puts in his work, but primarily for his musicality. During the last concert that I had a chance to attend, I saw what a talented conductor may do with even mediocre performers. The University Community Orchestra, consisting of non-music majors, played a difficult overture to the opera Paria by Stanisław Moniuszko with such flair that they sounded perfectly professional (or better, for their performance was augmented by their youthful zeal). The next piece on the program, conducted by the regular leader of this ensemble, sounded muddy, with uneven rhythms, without a clear sense of form or dynamics. In short: perfectly amateurish. It was an amazing lesson. At times, especially with orchestras consisting of very good musicians one may think that the ensemble may play well without the conductor, and some of them do, especially early music. Smolij’s performance with the community orchestra proved otherwise.

The Polish Music Festival was perhaps, the largest and most artistically advanced of the celebrations commemorating the 80th anniversary of Polish independence. According to its description in the program it was the largest single presentation of Polish music that ever took place in the United States. During the eight days of the festival the Northwestern School of Music presented nine full-length concerts featuring works of Polish composers. The event consisted of three orchestral performances presented by three different university orchestras and university chorus (of these I attended two) one concert of the Lira Ensemble (a matinee of folksong and dance, sold out to crowds of Polish Americans – the Lira Ensemble has a very dedicated audience), one concert given by the university’s Contemporary Music Ensemble (with a very impressive performance of Marta Ptaszyńska’s “Sonnets of Orpheus” sung by Julia Bentley with Mariusz Smolij conducting the ensemble), two evenings of chamber music and two solo recitals (of which I only heard the one given by Grabiec). Over three hundred performers played and sang works by Chopin, Wieniawski, Paderewski, Szymanowski, Lutosławski, Penderecki, Górecki, Karłowicz, Ptaszyńska, Młynarski, Zarębski and other distinguished Polish composers.

As I mentioned, my visit to the Festival was limited because of our Conference on November 15-16, and also because I had to give another lecture at Cornell University on November 23, 1998. What I heard impressed me profoundly. The violin-piano recital of Andrzej Grabiec presented pieces by Emil Młynarski (a vivacious Mazur), Henryk Wieniawski (Legende), Paderewski (little-known but delightful Sonata op. 9), Lutosławski (Recitativo e arioso), Bacewicz (Sonata no. 2 for solo violin, performed with such grace and virtuosity that local violin students kept asking Mr. Grabiec about his technique and about the details of this work long after the recital), and Szymanowski’s Nocturne e Tarantelle. A perfectly balanced program of gems of Polish violin repertoire (only the name of Lipiński was missing from the greatest) was played with such musicality that I consider this the best chamber music concert that I attended in a couple of years. Feeling proudly Polish must have added to this experience, but the music and the performance were the most important.

The next concert that I heard brought to the audiences several pieces connected to the theme of the Tatra Mountains. The Northwestern University orchestra and choir performed Szymanowski’s Harnasie – an excellent rendition, especially considering that the chorus had to drop all their favourite Mozarts and Bachs for the sake of learning the difficult choruses in Polish (actually, in the dialect of the Podhale region). The program also included Wojciech Kilar’s Krzesany , a work that had shocked audiences at the Warsaw Autumn Festival in 1974 by concluding with a clear quotation from the actual “muzyka góralska” of the Tatra Mountains.

During the concert at Northwestern, this finale had another suprise for the listeners: for the final segment a folk ensemble from the Union of Podhaleans (Związek Podhalan) appeared on stage in costume and joined the orchestra in the lively, strongly accented Krzesany. It was truly a magical moment, bringing together the folklore and its artistic rendition. Many thanks to Mariusz Smolij for coming up with the idea and to all the musicians for performing it so well. I noticed that the musicians in the folk group included mostly children. One could find out that the older players of that ensemble knew their folk traditions well when these musicians began the second part of the concert with the beautiful sounds of bass flutes and horns played from the balcony. I should add here that the first part of this concert was filled with Karłowicz’s too-rarely played Violin Concerto, preceded with the brisk Mazur from Halka by Moniuszko. It was a true delight to watch the virtuosity and sensitivity of both musicians, the soloist and the conductor, in action. I hope that Mr. Grabiec may record this work in the future.

I am singing praises of Mr. Grabiec here, leaving Ms. Fialkowska out of my report because, to my great regret, I was not able to attend her recitals. However, I talked to her, and about her to the conductor, and excerpts from these brief interviews will appear here later. I also tried to persuade Ms. Fialkowska to include additional Polish works – by Maria Szymanowska, Grażyna Bacewicz, and Paweł Szymanski, in her current recording project of all Polish etudes. I have also, since returning to the PMRC, received a gift of her other Polish-themed recordings (Szymanowski and Chopin releases by Opening Day). It is great to have such wonderful musicians, with so much talent. It is great to have full concert halls at all events. The conductor informed me that the attendance exceeded all expectations and that the University is extremely happy with the event and its results. While I do not think we will see a similar festival in Los Angeles any time soon (perhaps because of the limited Polish population here, perhaps because we do not have such an energetic and dedicated Polish conductor) it is great that this festival took place and even better that the artistic quality of all events was so high. Congratulations to all the performers at Northwestern and congratulations to Polish composers who have enriched the world’s music with such treasures.


Polish composers, performers, and musicologists received a series of awards in 1998:

  • Henryk Górecki was the recipient of a doctorate honoris causa from the Concordia University in Montreal (November 1998). The event also marked his 65th birthday with a special concert and other celebratons.
  • Conductor Tadeusz Strugała received a doctorate honoris causa from the Karol Lipiński Academy of Music in Wrocław (May 1998).
  • Krzysztof Penderecki became a member of the American Academy of Arts.
  • Bogusław Schaeffer was awarded the Jurzykowski Award, from the New York – based foundation. Past recipients of this prestigious prize included Andrzej Wajda, Krzysztof Zanussi, Marta Ptaszyńska, and Teresa Chylińska among others.
  • The Union of Polish Composers gave its annual prizes to Juliusz Łuciuk, composer, and Andrzej Chodkowski, musicologist.
  • The Mu Phi Epsilon International Professional Fraternity gave the first prize in the dissertation category to Dr. Maria Anna Harley, for her 1994 dissertation Space and Spatialization in Contemporary Music: History and Analysis, Ideas and Implementations.
  • The Culture Foundation based in Poland gave its Special Prize in the domain of music to four broadcasters whose work contributed to the quality of the 2nd Program of the Polish Radio: Maria Baliszewska (folklore specialist), Ewa Obniska (musicologist – early music), Andrzej Chłopecki (musicologist – contemporary music), and Lech Dudzik (recording engineer).
  • Adam Kaczyński received the annual composition prize from The International New Music Consortium, New York, for his achievements as composer and promoter of new music.
  • International Compositional Competition Florilege Vocal de Tours 1998 gave second prize to Paweł Łukaszewski for his “Motety Wielkopostne.”
  • Polish guitarist, Marcin Dylla, was the first prize winner at the Karl Scheidt International Competition which took place in Vienna in September 1998.
  • Polish singer, Agnieszka Wolska (soprano) received the Second Grand Prix at the International Vocal Competition in Tulouse, in September 1998.

Top 100

  • Krystian Zimerman’s recordings of Chopin’s Piano Concertos and of the Preludes by Debussy were both listed in the “Top 100 CDs from 100 Years of Deutsche Grammophon.”
  • Tad Szulc’s biography of Chopin, Chopin in Paris was listed in the Top 100 Books for 1998 by the Los Angeles Times.


New Releases

ASV CD DCA 1046. Lutosławski. The Complete Piano Music. Ann Martin Davis, piano.

HYPERION CDA 67056. Paderewski. Symphony in B minor (Polonia). BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Jerzy Maksymiuk, cond. A massive work in 3 movements, over 70 min..

DEUTSCHE GRAMOPHON CD 453 456-2. Chopin. Piano Sonata, Fantaise, 3 Waltzes, 3 Etudes, Impromptu. Mikhail Pletnev, piano.

NAXOS 8.553202. Lutosławski. Concerto for orchestra, 3 Poems, Mi-Parti. Camerata Silesia, Anna Szostak, Polish National Radio SO, Antoni Wit, cond. Penguin Guide to Bargain Compact Discs wrote “these Polish performances match and even outshine earlier recordings conducted by the composer.”

MARCO POLO 8.223795. Leopold Godowsky. Piano Music, Vol. 3. Konstantin Scherbakov, piano.

Reviewed in the December ’98 issue of Gramophone (Critics’ Choice):

Stephen Plaistow nominated Richard Goode (for rogue choice of the year) for his recording of Chopin on Nonesuch 7559-79452- 2. He said that whenever he “plays it “blind” to people they love it, and everyone agrees on the exceptional sound.”

Arnold Whittall selected Lutosławski’s Cello Concerto on the Naxos label as one of his choices, describing it as one of “the impressive Lutosławski releases in some time, which includes a brilliant reading of the Cello Concerto.” Bauer is the cellist.

Reviewed in the Los Angeles Times by Daniel Cariaga:

“Brilliant, poetic, heroic and spontaneous, Nakamatsu’s Chopin album establishes the emotional opposite of the clean, accurate and faceless Romantic playing of recent decades. The 1997 Van Cliburn International Competition winner creates real heat that illuminates…and the little-known, seldom- heard Opus 13 glitters, touches and inspires….One has to go back to the heydays of Artur Rubinstein and Jorge Bolet to recall such thrills as are in these authoritative readings.” Jon Nakamatsu performs Fantasy on Polish Airs, four impromptus, three mazurkas, three polonaises and the Berceuse on the Harmonia Mundi label.

Recent Performances

In California

Pianist Kathy Sawada performed Chopin in a recent recital in Pasadena, Calif., while pianist Brian Gould presented Chopin’s Piano Concerto in E minor with the Orange Coast College Philharmonic under the baton of Alon Remington in Costa Mesa, CA.

USC alumnus John Novacek performed Chopin’s Piano Concerto no. 2 with the Brentwood-Westwood Symphony conducted by Alvin Mills on Dec. 6th.

The Valley Youth Symphony conducted by Marisa McCleod also included Chopin in their program at the Performing Arts Center in Northridge on Dec. 6th.

The Cambridge Singers conducted by Alexander Ruggieri “performed traditional and ‘unusual’ Christmas music from around the world by Poulenc, Henryk Głrecki and others.” The concert took place in Pasadena, Dec. 6th.

In New York

The New York premiere of music by Wojciech Kilar (Angelus, Krzesany and Victoria-Venimus, Videmus, DeusVicit) was presented in New York on December 5th at Hunter College. The occasion was the triple celebration honoring the 200th birthday of Poland’s poet Adam Mickiewicz, the 20th anniversary of John Paul II’s Pontificate and the 80th anniversary of Poland’s independence. Andrzej Rozbicki conducted the Festival Symphony Orchestra, the choral group “Angelus” and opera singer Kinga Mitrowska, assisted by Bogusław Kaczyński, music journalist and director of the Warsaw Operetta, and actor Andrzej Zakrzewski.

The Chopin Foundation of New York headed by Jan Gorbaty presented pianist Abby Simon in a Chopin Recital (12 Etudes, Sonata, Nocturne, op. 15) in the first of the Chopin Festival Series.

Composer Of The Month

Grażyna Bacewicz (1909-1969)

by Maria Anna Harley

Bacewicz is an interesting case in the history of Polish music, since, like Fryderyk Chopin, she came from a bi-national family – with a Lithuanian father and a Polish mother, she had a choice about her national identity. She chose to be Polish, but her brother Witold moved back to Vilnius with her father, and ended up in the U.S. as a leading, though little understood, Lithuanian emigré composer. Polish musicologists, Krzysztof Droba, Małgorzata Gąsiorowska, and Marta Szoka, are now at the forefront of a dialogue with their Lithuanian colleagues – organizing joint sessions and publishing books to celebrate the multifarious talents of the Bacewicz family.

Born on February 5, 1909 in Poland, Bacewicz had received hear earliest musical training from her father; she started learning violin, piano and theory when she was five years old. Her other older brother, Kiejstut, became a pianist and frequently accompanied her in performances. The youngest sister, Wanda, is a poet who serves as family historian and the guardian of Grażyna’s memory. A child prodigy, Grażyna gave her first concert at age of seven (with her brothers); she composed her first piece, Preludes for Piano, at the age of thirteen. The next phase in her education consisted of attending the Warsaw Conservatory of Music (initially studying violin and piano). In 1928, she began studies of philosophy at the University of Warsaw (she completed a year and a half). She continued her music training at the Conservatory, studying composition with Kazimierz Sikorski, violin with Józef Jarzębski and piano with Jan Turczyński; she graduated summa cum laude  in 1932.

Karol Szymanowski, who was a professor of the Warsaw Conservatoire, advised all young composition students to go to Paris to study with Nadia Boulanger and Bacewicz joined this group of Poles in the 1930s. She studied composition with Boulanger, and violin with André Touret and Carl Flesch. At that time she adopted the neoclassical style for her compositional language; she became the first Polish woman composer to achieve national and international stature. After the completion of her studies she proceeded to participate in countless concerts and festivals as performer, composer and jury member. In the 1930s she was the principal violinist for the Polish Radio Orchestra, organized by the famous conductor, Grzegorz Fitelberg; her repertoire included solo parts in the Szymanowski Violin Concerti. This orchestra gave her a chance of hearing her own music, including Violin Concerto no.1 and Three Songs for tenor and orchestra. During the war, she lived in Warsaw, continuing to compose and giving underground concerts (e.g. premiering her Suite for Two Violins). She also dedicated some time to family life: married in 1936, she gave birth to her only daughter, Alina Biernacka (now a famous painter), in 1942.

After the war, she returned to work as a professor in the State Conservatory of Music in Lodz. During the Stalinist period from 1945 to 1955, Bacewicz – like all other composers – was subject to an increasing ideological control of the new, socialist government. Initially, she still continued to travel and perform abroad: she visited Paris for the fifth time, giving a concert at the Ecole Normale de Musique. It is around that time that she decided to end her involvement with music as a performer and switch to composing as a sole occupation. Before she was able to do so, she made a number of recordings, often with her brother, Kiejstut, who was a pianist. They recorded, for instance, Bacewicz’s Fourth Sonata for Violin and Piano: this recording, issued by Polskie Nagrania – Muza, XW-72, bears no date, but is located by Wanda Bacewicz, the musician’s poet-sister, in mid 1950s. The finale is a display of virtuosity, and the composer finds a true counterpart in her performing “alter ego,” but it is the slow movement that I admire the most (Andante ma non troppo). With is dark arpeggios set in the low register of the piano and the poignant melodic line of the violin, the movement is sombre, mysterious and fascinating, especially in the masterly rendition by the composer-virtuosa.

It is important to note that Grazyna Bacewicz was also an excellent pianist. She premiered and often performed her Sonata No. 2 for piano (1953). This sonata is available in a recording by Nancy Fierro, a dedicated promoter of music by women composers (on her Riches and Rags CD, available from the International Alliance for Women in Music. Another, wonderful recording by Krystian Zimerman has been issued by Olympia (OCD 392). The fact that this Sonata was composed at the height of Stalinist repressions in Poland, is yet another proof that political circumstances do not necessarily bear a negative influence on the quality of the music. The final movement of the sonata juxtaposes a neo-Baroque toccata, with its lively “moto perpetuo” rhythms, with a Polish folk-dance, a vivacious oberek.

Bacewicz’s compositional career became her primary preoccupation after 1954 – when she suffered serious injuries in a car accident. She was led in this direction by a string of compositional awards and commissions, recognizing the value of her music (about which she was highly critical herself). When she was 39 years old, Bacewicz received an honorable mention at the International Olympic Games Art Contest in London for her Olympic Games Cantata. She was also awarded the second prize at the prestigious Chopin Contest for Composers, two more prizes at the Second Contest, the music award of the City of Warsaw for her work as a composer, virtuoso, organizer and teacher. In 1950, her Concerto for String Orchestra received the National Prize and was performed by the National Symphony Orchestra in the United States. This work, written in the tradition of Baroque serenades and suites contains borrowings from the Baroque concerto grosso, elements of concertante style, and Baroque-style repeated figurations. The melody of the opening Allegro displays an interesting, oscillating contour – it is “tied” to a fixed point to which it constantly returns. The themes are derived from one another; the second theme of this “sonata-allegro form” is not gentle and singing in quality (as expected in this form), but rhythmic, with a strong dynamic momentum. The slow Andante sets an expressive melody against a sublime, shimmering background. The Concerto ends with an exuberant finale featuring cross-rhythms, interplay of brief motives, sudden harmonic turns, and incisive rhythmic profiles. This work remains a favourite with Polish chamber orchestras and it would be great to hear it performed more often outside of Poland.

Her series of awards continued: she won the first prize for her String Quartet no.4 at the International Contest for Composers, Ličge, 1951. In 1955, she received awards at the Polish Composer’s Union Contest, and prizes from the Minister of Culture and Art for her Symphony no.4, Violin Concerto no.3 and String Quartet no.3. At the end of 1958, she completed her final, and, perhaps, the greatest neoclassical composition, Music for Strings, Trumpets and Percussion, which was performed at the Warsaw Autumn of 1959. This piece received the first prize in the orchestral division and third prize overall at UNESCO’s International Rostrum of Composers in the same year (1960). Since 1956, when the political “thaw” allowed changes in musical life and a greater interaction with the West, the compositional scene in Poland was transformed by the arrival of the newest “avant-garde” techniques and fashions. The first International Festival of Contemporary Music Warsaw Autumn, took place in 1956. Three works by Bacewicz were performed at this festival: String Quartet no.4, Concerto for String Orchestra and the Overture.

These works may be still dubbed neoclassical, but, similarly to Witold Lutosławski, Bacewicz soon reacted to the general mood of stylistic changes by revising her aesthetics and technique. She worked out her own brand of “sonorism” (composing with tone color) in a series of works from the 1960s, including Pensieri Notturni (1961), Violin Concerto no. 7 (1965), and her final piece, the ballet Desire (1967-69) based on a play by Picasso. Bacewicz’s new, aphoristic, fragmentary style includes the use of a kaleidoscopic variety of sound images and timbres. Yet the music is never overbearing, never too aggressive, too dissonant. She retained the “neoclassical” values of clarity and esprit. Bacewicz’s concern for perceptual clarity had a bearing on her orchestration: she was convinced that in music “one needs a lot of air” and she preferred to contrast orchestral tutti with soli or small groups of instruments instead of suffocating the listeners with “a big mass of sounds for a long span of time.” It is sufficient to compare her seventh Violin Concerto with such typical sonoristic works as Górecki’s Scontri or Penderecki’s Threnody. There is a huge expressive gap separating these composers from each other. However, the distance from the elegant sonorities of Witold Lutosławski (e.g. Paroles tissées of 1965 or Les espaces du sommeil of 1975) is not as pronounced. Unfortunately, this period of Bacewicz’s creative work is not yet well appreciated by musicologists. Performers seem to know better. The Violin Concerto no. 7, for instance, was awarded a prize of the Belgian Government and Gold Medal at the Queen Elizabeth of Belgium International Competition for Composers in Brussels. According to violinist Andrzej Grabiec, this work now belongs among the masterpieces of the violin repertoire. Its recording is available from Olympia, OCD 392 (by Piotr Jankowski, violin, with the National Philharmonic Orchestra, Andrzej Markowski, cond.). It would be interesting to re-examine this composition from the standpoint of its role in 20th-century Polish music.

In conclusion, Bacewicz is generally known as composer of instrumental music, usually labelled “neoclassical” but with a discernible stylistic evolution from (1) early influence of Szymanowski and assimilation of French neoclassicism (Boulanger), (2) to her own mature “neoclassical style” created in her second period, 1944-1958 and to (3) a period of stylistic experimentation with sonorism, 12-tone techniques, aleatoricism, and collage. She was one of the founders of the Warsaw Autumn Festival; became the first woman vice-president of the Union of Polish Composers (since 1960) and a professor of composition at the Warsaw PWSM (since 1966).

She served as Jury member at the Marguerite Long-Jacques Thibaud International Competition in 1953, Tchaikovsky International Competition in 1958, and International Competition in Naples in 1967, International Quartet Competition in Budapest in 1968, as well as the Chair of the jury at Wieniawski International Violin Competitions in 1957 and in 1967. In Poland, there are schools and streets bearing her name, while sculptures portraying her adorn urban parks. You might find more information about her in the excellent brief biography by Judith Rosen.

According to another woman composer, Bernadetta Matuszczak (b. 1937), Bacewicz was the first woman accepted as an equal by her male peers:

In Poland, Grażyna opened the way for women composers. . . It was difficult for her, but with her great talent she won, she became famous. . . . Afterwards, we had an open path, and nobody was surprised: ‘My God, a woman composer again!’ Bacewicz had already been there, so the next one also had a right to exist.

Female students of composition found hope for themselves when seeing Bacewicz’s name on the programs of the Warsaw Autumn Festivals and reading monographs about her. Of course, these works were published and available: in 1969, the year of her death, the catalogue of PWM, included 36 of Bacewicz’s compositions, the most by any composer! Incidentally, the respect for Bacewicz’s music has not diminished after her death in 1969. In recent interviews, Paweł Szymański (composer), Krzysztof Baculewski (composer and musicologist) and Olgierd Pisarenko (music critic, associate editor of Ruch Muzyczny) have all highly praised Bacewicz’s music and emphasized her importance in the history of Polish music. Unlike some of the most “avant-garde” oriented composers and musicologists, all the musicians, especially string players, that have performed her works become, like Mr. Grabiec, great enthusiasts of her music.


Penderecki Year

1998 was definitely Penderecki’s year. Celebrating his 65th birthday, the composer was the focus of the Krzysztof Penderecki Festival organized by the Krakow 2000 Committee, led by his wife, artistic director of the festival, Elżbieta Penderecka. The festival included performances of works from the classic 19th-20th century repertoire, favoured by Penderecki and providing a context for his work. The list of names includes Beethoven, Grieg, Elgar, Mahler, Mozart, Sibelius, Stravinsky, Mendelssohn, Dvorak, Bartók, and Shostakovich. During the festival an International Symposium “Krzysztof Penderecki’s Music in the Context of 20th Century Theatre” was held at the Academy of Music, Cracow. The proceedings will be published. Moreover, the world premiere of Penderecki’s monumental choral work Credotook place at the Bach Oregon Festival on July 11th with Helmuth Rilling conducting (a live recording is available on Hanssler Classic CD 98311; reviewed in Gramophone Dec 1998 issue). It was subsequently performed in Cracow, St. Petersburg and Stuttgart.

In recognition of Penderecki’s many contributions to the world of classical music, many of the leading scholars of his music have come together to establish a new journal, Studies in Penderecki, co-edited by Ray Robinson and Regina Chłopicka. For more information about the journal, contributed by Cindy Bylander, see the announcement above.

Anniversary celebrations of lesser scope, though not of lesser quality, have also been devoted to the 60th anniversary of Zygmunt KRAUZE (special events scheduled during the International Festival of Contemporary Music, Warsaw Autumn) and to the 65th birthday of Henryk GÓRECKI (publication and promotion of the Polish translation of Adrian Thomas’s book about Górecki, in Warsaw; doctorate honoris causa and festivities in Montreal, Canada).

1998 Birth Anniversaries

Joanna BRUZDOWICZ – 55
Henryk Mikołaj GÓRECKI – 65
Zygmunt KRAUZE – 60
Krzysztof MEYER – 55
Krzysztof PENDERECKI – 65
Ludomir RÓŻYCKI – 110
Stanisław SKROWACZEWSKI – 75

1998 Death Anniversaries

Tadeusz SZELIGOWSKI – 35
Ludomir RÓŻYCKI – 40


11 January 1998 – Mieczysław MIERZEJEWSKI, conductor, student of Emil Młynarski

17 January 1998 – Ludwik KURKIEWICZ, clarinetist and professor of Warsaw Academy of Music

31 January 1998 – Karol STRYJA, conductor, organizer of musical life (in Silesia)

8 March 1998 – Leonie RYSANEK, singer (dramatic soprano), based in Germany and Austria

14 March 1998 – Władysław KABALEWSKI, composer, conductor, professor of the Academy of Music in Warsaw

25 March 1998 – Bolesław BARTKOWSKI, priest, professor of musicology

27 March 1998 – Kornel MICHAŁOWSKI, musicologist, bibliographer, music librarian

31 May 1998 – Stanisław WISŁOCKI, conductor and composer

8 June 1998 – Hanna LACHERT, pianist, teacher

6 July 1998 – Danuta KOŁODZIEJSKA, Poland’s first woman conductor, also teacher

27 July 1998 – Witold STRASZEWICZ, professor of acoustics and electroacoustics, president of the League Against Noise

21 November 1998 – Tadeusz PACIORKIEWICZ, composer, organist

1999 Celebrations

1999 has been declared the UNESCO CHOPIN YEAR (150th anniversary of death) with celebrations around the globe: concerts, festivals, international congresses, special sessions, recitals, masterclasses.

Other celebrations of the year are dedicated to:

  • Grażyna BACEWICZ (1909-1969) – 90th anniversary of birth, 30th of death
  • Mieczysław KARŁOWICZ (1876- 1909)- 90th anniversary of death

1999 also marks:

  • the 5th anniversary of Witold LUTOSŁAWSKI’s death (Feb 7, 1994);
  • the 180th birthday of Stanisław MONIUSZKO (1819-1872), father of the Polish national opera and Poland’s “Schubert;”
  • the 145th birthday of Juliusz ZAREBSKI (1854-1885);
  • the 45th birthday of Paweł SZYMAŃSKI (1954-)

Born This Month

  • 1 January 1927 – Juliusz ŁUCIUK, composer, musicologist
  • 1 January 1872 – Tadeusz JARECKI, conductor (d. 1955)
  • 2 January 1894 – Artur RODZIŃSKI, conductor, music director (d. 1958)
  • 2 January 1907 – Henryk GADOMSKI, composer and conductor (d. 1941, Auschwitz)
  • 3 January 1885 – Raoul KOCZALSKI (d. 1948), pianist and composer
  • 17 January 1898 – Jerzy LEFELD, pianist and piano professor
  • 23 January 1888 – Jerzy GABLENZ, composer (d. 1937)
  • 24 January 1776 – Ernst Theodor Amadeus HOFFMANN, German poet, writer, composer (worked in Poland, d. 1822)
  • 28 January 1717 – Just Franciszek KASPER, priest, composer, conductor (d. 1760)
  • 28 January 1928 – Artur RUBINSTEIN, pianist (d. 1981)
  • 31 January 1926 – Stanisław PRÓSZYŃSKI, composer

Died This Month

  • 1 January 1953 – Ludomir RÓŻYCKI (b. 1884), composer, pianist, member of the group Young Poland
  • 9 January 1842 – Józef KROGULSKI (b. 1815), pianist, conductor, voice teacher
  • 9 January 1981 – Kazimierz SEROCKI (b. 1922), composer, co-founder of the Warsaw Autumn Festival
  • 11 January 1935 – Marcellina SEMBRICH – KOCHAŃSKA (b. 1858), singer – coloratura soprano
  • 12 January 1934 – Paweł KOCHAŃSKI (b. 1878), virtuoso violinist, Szymanowski’s collaborator
  • 17 January 1969 – Grażyna BACEWICZ (b. 1909), composer, violinist, pianist
  • 19 January 1951 – Stanisław GOLACHOWSKI (b. 1907), musicologist
  • 21 January 1618 – Krzystof KRAIŃSKI [Crainscius], preacher, author of a song collection (b. 1556)
  • 23 January 1946 – Feliks NOWOWIEJSKI (b. 1877), composer, conductor, organist
  • 23 January 1921- Władysław ŻELENSKI, composer (b. 1837)
  • 25 January 1913 – Witold LUTOSŁAWSKI, composer and conductor (d. 1994)
  • 26 January 1946 – Ignacy FRIEDMAN, composer and virtuoso pianist (b. 1882)