Koncert na orkiestrę smyczkową
PWM, Cracow 1984, 62 pages (a score)
Concerto for string orchestra has come to be commonly regarded as Grażyna Bacewicz’s opus magnum; it is even sometimes referred to as her "Symphony No. 9". It definitely ranks among the most outstanding works of the 20th century; it also remains one of the few contemporary works which regularly figure in the programmes of subscription concerts. Written in 1948, it was first performed by Polish Radio Grand Symphony conducted by Grzegorz Fitelberg, on 18th June 1950 at the General Assembly of Polish Composers’ Union. Stefan Kisielewski, also a PCU member, wrote: “It can honestly be claimed that it was a ‘wench’ who saved the honour of Polish composers - Grażyna Bacewicz. Her Concerto for string orchestra has an impetus and energy, abounds in effortless inventiveness and brilliant ideas for instrumentation: it stirred us out of lethargy at last. It brings to mind some Bach or Handel piece - a sort of contemporary Brandenburg Concerto. We have finally tasted a hearty piece of sound and tasteful music, composed with a truly masculine creative potential.” In the same year, Grażyna Bacewicz received the State Award, 3rd Class, for her composition.
In 1952, the Concerto made a significant impact in the US, where it was played by Americans - The National Symphony Orchestra. The work was also performed during the 1st "Warsaw Autumn" International Festival of Contemporary Music in 1956 by Orchestre National de la Radiodiffusion et Télévision Française conducted by Jean Martinon; the concert latter thrice reappeared at the same festival, a very rare achievement in the entire 46 years of the festival’s history!
Concerto for string orchestra is now regarded as one of “the most outstanding examples of neo-Classicism” in Polish music.” The piece exquisitely represents the composer’s artistic credo - to combine tradition with modernity as harmoniously as possible. The term “neo-Classicism” ought to be conceived here in its broader sense, as the work contains references not only to Classical, but also to Baroque music. The form of Movement One - Allegro - is Classical or early-Classical, but the main theme itself clearly refers to Baroque melo-rhythmic patterns. In the lyrical 2nd Movement - Andante - there are numerous solo sections for different instruments, which increases the diversity and changeability of sound colour in a distinctly Baroque fashion. The final Movement Three - Vivo - makes use of the rondo and sonata form, applied here to music of distinctly dance-like, folk-like character. It is probably accurate to describe the Concerto as an interplay of neo-Classical form and neo-Baroque musical content.