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Bacewicz: Symphonies Nos 3 & 4 (Complete Symphonic Works, Vol. 1)

WDR Sinfonieorchester/Łukasz Borowicz (CPO)

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Complete Symphonic Works, Vol. 1 – Symphonies Nos 3 & 4
WDR Sinfonieorchester/Łukasz Borowicz
CPO 555 556-2   54:13 mins


While recordings have driven the ongoing rediscovery of Grażyna Bacewicz (1909-69) as one of the foremost Polish composers, for several reasons chamber music discs have led the way, perhaps due to economics as much as to her dazzling output in these genres. More than half a century since Bacewicz’s death, it’s only now that a series devoted to her complete orchestral works is in prospect, and this first volume from the ever-pioneering label CPO shows how important it will be.

Here we have the final two of Bacewicz’s four symphonies, both dating from the early 1950s. If that implies a certain monumentalism, there is nothing politically conformist about the music. The moody opening movement (Drammatico) of Symphony No. 3 lives up to its title here in a performance of energy and drive under Łukasz Borowicz. The work’s strongly contrasted movements are all rewarding. Symphony No. 4’s shifting textures in its first movement are expertly handled by Cologne’s WDR Sinfonieorchester, and string harmonics in the Adagio add colour to a powerfully moving slow movement. Some folk accents in the Scherzo show Bacewicz inhabiting a similar world to that of her contemporaries Lutosławski and Andrzej Panufnik, and an exhilarating finale whets the appetite for the full CPO series.


John Allison