Concerto for String Orchestra
The Concerto for String Orchestra was written in 1948, during the second stage of Grażyna Bacewicz’s compositional career, a period in which stylization occupied a prominent place in her music. Her works dating from that period were characterised by distinct form and a preference for sonata structures. This has a bearing on both the first movements of her pieces and on the three- and four-movement cycles, with their traditional pattern of tension and relaxation. The Concerto is a good example of this approach. A masterpiece of neo-classicism, it fascinates with its inventiveness and virtuosic shine and its perfect blend of tradition and innovative timbral, textural and harmonic solutions. In terms of form, the tripartite Concerto oscillates between the Baroque concerto grosso and sonata allegro. References to Baroque music are evident in the use of the concertante technique and linear texture, whereas the classical features are the rigours of periodicity and symmetry and the development of thematic motifs stemming therefrom.
The first movement (Allegro), cast in the form of the early-Classical sonata allegro, develops on the basis of three, diversified themes. The distinctive first theme is based on repeated figuration in oscillating semiquavers. The quasi-lyrical second theme is a polyphonically-oriented dialogue between the cellos and solo violin, whereas the energetic third theme is characterized by syncopation.
The ensuing Andante has a central theme elaborated by successive concertante instruments. It constitutes the starting point and the conclusion of a lyrical sequence of subdued emotion. The musical material in this movement is bound together by both an evolutionary development and instrumental timbre.
The third movement (Vivo) sees Bacewicz exploring music in her favourite mode – as an expression of pure motion, manifested by motivic figures with virtually unlimited possibilities of transformation. The spontaneity of the developing musical material, the constant changeability of events, the refined harmonic ideas (dominated by fourths) and an original timbre of consonances create a colourful mosaic in a musical continuum based on the sonata rondo.
The ever-popular Concerto for String Orchestra testifies to the composer’s stylization skills and her perfect handling of the technical and expressive possibilities of string instruments.
Concerto for Cello / Viola and Chamber Orchestra
This work is unique in the entire history of instrumental music as it has been scored in six different versions. Written in 1983 as a commission from the government of Venezuela to mark the bicentenary of the birth of Simon Bolivar, it was premiered in 1983 in Caracas, with Joen Vasquez as a soloist. In its initial version, the work was scored for viola and symphony orchestra. A year later, Penderecki re-wrote it for chamber orchestra consisting of strings, a wide range of percussion and celesta. The result was a happy one as the reduction of the performance forces did not impoverish the composition. The chamber version has its own, unconventional flavour. It is characterised by balanced sound proportions and has earned its place in the repertoire on a par with the original version. A subsequent stage in the history of the Viola Concerto came with the change of solo instrument. On 15 December 1989, in Wuppertal, Boris Pergamenschikov gave the premiere of the cello version (with the solo part transposed an octave lower). He later performed the work many times, contributing to its popularity. It was Pergamenschikov who gave the Polish premiere of the work, at the Warsaw Autumn Festival in 1992, with Sinfonia Varsovia under the composer’s baton. Six years after the premiere of the cello version, the original Viola Concerto underwent yet another metamorphosis, perhaps the last one, in the shape of the Clarinet Concerto. It was premiered at Colorado Music Festival w Boulder in July 1995.
The present recording is the first Polish performance of the cello version of the concerto with chamber orchestra, an expanded percussion and celesta. Andrzej Bauer is accompanied by the AUKSO Chamber Orchestra under Marek Moś. The Concerto is formally in a single movement. Its structural framework is based on a theme with a nostalgic character, which evolves gradually from an embryonic cell of falling minor second, to appear subsequently in several variants as the work progresses, including a return in the conclusion. A number of sequences can be distinguished in the narrative. They are contrasted in terms of tempo and character (Lento, Vivace, Lento, Vivo, Lento) and constitute successive links in the work’s inner drama. A virtuoso cadenza, appearing each time in a different shape, plays a special role here. The sound-world of the Concerto is highly diverse. The ways of shaping the musical matter are also diverse – expressive cantilenas are interwoven with virtuoso cadenzas, rubato and smooth narrative flow give way to sharply-outlined, dynamic rhythmic motifs, while colouristic episodes rather unexpectedly follow the polyphonic segments. Thanks to his ingenuity the composer blends all these heterogeneous elements into an evocative and coherent whole.
The highly original work for piano and string orchestra Valse Boston was written in 1997, at the time when Kancheli simplified his compositional idiom, whose hallmarks were the use of tonal and modal sequences as well as references to various periods, popular genres and archaic folklore. In one of his interviews, Kancheli quoted Valentin Silvestrov: Music should be so transparent that one should be able to see the bottom and so that poetry could be seen through this space, adding to these words: I do not hide the fact that achieving such transparency in music is of great importance for me.
This message can refer to Valse Boston, a piece which blends highly diverse episodes into an evocative sound landscape. Its distinct character is achieved through strong contrasts: dynamic (from pppp to ffff), harmonic (from simple chords to clusters), textural (from monody, through homophony to refined linearism) and expressive (lyricism side by side with dynamism). The development of the musical material proceeds on two planes: one of meditation and contemplation and the other marked by dynamic expression with a tendency to extreme aural saturation. The former plane is assigned greater importance. It is based on a recurring ‘musical toy‘ theme, which evokes classical or baroque reminiscences, or, to be more precise, which is a brief sequence (recurring motif?) spanning several thirds. This determines the expressive character of the work. Every time this sequence appears ‘the space becomes transparent enough‘ to feel the taste of a certain poetics and perhaps of even something more – the metaphysical aspect of human existence.