New Bacewicz Bio by Sendłak

Review by Marek Zebrowski

Joanna Sendłak, granddaughter of composer Grażyna Bacewicz, is the author of the latest biography in the PWM “Małe monografie” series. A visual artist with a considerable resume of exhibitions as well as journalist and writer with a number of publications, Joanna Sendłak also studied philosophy at Warsaw University. Ms. Sendłak has already authored two books about her grandmother—Miłość Grażyny Bacewicz w przededniu wojny (2018) [Grażyna Bacewicz’s love on the eve of the war] and Ostinato – wojenne dni Grażyny Bacewicz (2020) [Ostinato – Grażyna Bacewicz’s war days]—and is currently preparing for publication Viva – powojenne dni Grażyny Bacewicz [Viva – Grażyna Bacewicz’s postwar days].

In the meantime, published in 2021 by PWM, Sendłak’s Bacewicz is a quick and useful chronological account of this artist’s rich and fascinating life. Short and pithy chapters quickly introduce the reader to the stories about Bacewicz’s parents—Maria Modlińska and Vincas Bacevičius—who met after Vincas arrived in Łódź in 1898. Both were professionally interested in music. After they were married in 1903 and had children, their household resonated with music day and night.

With access to the family archives, correspondence and other unique source material, Sendłak ably traces Grażyna Bacewicz’s rapid development as a violinist and pianist as well as a composer, who studied in Poland and France. Glimpses of Grażyna’s life and artistic accomplishments are interspersed with her difficult wartime experience, when she cared for a newborn daughter and husband who fell ill with tuberculosis.

The postwar years for Bacewicz were filled with composing, her own performing and numerous concerts of her works. From this book’s pages we get a palpable impression of a very hectic, intense artistic life, complicated on the personal level by her husband’s continuing illness and premature death in 1963. Bacewicz’s last two years, when she bravely carried on in spite of her own failing health, leave the reader with a touching portrait of this exceptionally gifted artist.

Modelled on the structural and stylistic approach used by her grandmother’s quasi-memoir, Znak szczególny [Birthmark], Joanna Sendłak’s concise and vividly-drawn biography serves as the most appropriate homage to Grażyna Bacewicz to-date.

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