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Grazyna Bacewicz

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Title: Grazyna Bacewicz  
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Grazyna Bacewicz

Grażyna Bacewicz (Polish pronunciation: [ɡraˈʐɨna baˈt͡sɛvit͡ʂ]; 5 February 1909 – 17 January 1969) was a Polish composer and violinist. She is only the second Polish female composer to have achieved national and international recognition, the first being Maria Szymanowska in the early 19th century.


Bacewicz was born in Łódź. Her father and her brother Vytautas, also a composer, identified as Lithuanian and used the last name Bacevičius; her other brother Kiejstut identified as Polish. Her father, Wincenty Bacewicz, gave Grażyna her first piano and violin lessons.[1] In 1928 she began studying at the Warsaw Conservatory, where she studied violin with Józef Jarzębski and piano with Józef Turczyński, and composition with Kazimierz Sikorski, graduating in 1932 as a violinist and composer (Thomas 2001). She continued her education in Paris, having been granted a stipend by Ignacy Jan Paderewski to attend the École Normale de Musique,[2] and studied there in 1932-33 with Nadia Boulanger (composition) and André Touret (violin). She returned briefly to Poland to teach in Łódź, but returned to Paris in 1934 in order to study with the Hungarian violinist Carl Flesch (Thomas 2001).

After completing her studies, Bacewicz took part in numerous events as a soloist, composer, and jury member. From 1936 to 1938 she was the principal violinist of the Polish Radio Orchestra, which was directed then by Grzegorz Fitelberg (Thomas 2001). This position gave her the chance of hearing a lot of her own music. During World War II, Grażyna Bacewicz lived in Warsaw, continued to compose, and gave underground secret concerts (premiering her Suite for Two Violins).[3]

Bacewicz also dedicated time to family life. She was married in 1936, and gave birth to a daughter, Alina Biernacka, a recognized painter. After the war, she took up the position of professor at the State Conservatory of Music in Łódź. At this time she was shifting her musical activity towards composition, drawn by her many awards and commissions. Composition finally became her only occupation in 1954 after serious injuries in a car accident.[4] She died in Warsaw, Poland.


Many of her compositions feature the violin. Among them are seven violin concertos, five sonatas for violin with piano, three for violin solo (including an early, unnumbered one from 1929), a Quartet for four violins, seven string quartets, and two piano quintets. Her orchestral works include four numbered symphonies (1945, 1951, 1952, and 1953), a Symphony for Strings (1946), and two early symphonies, now lost.

Works for solo instruments

  • Sonata (for solo violin) (1929) - early work, no number
  • Four preludes for piano (1924)
  • Children's Suite for piano (1933)
  • Sonata for Violin (1941) - premiered at an underground concert in Warsaw
  • Sonata No. 2 (for solo violin) (1958)
  • Esquisse for organ (1966)
  • Second Piano Sonata (premiered 1953)

Chamber music

  • Quintet for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon and Horn (1932) - 1st Prize in the Concours de la Société "Aide aux femmes de professions libres", Paris, 1933
  • Trio for oboe, violin and cello (1935)
  • Sonata for oboe and piano (1937)
  • Trio for oboe, clarinet and bassoon (1948)
  • Suite for Two Violins (1943) - premier at an underground concert in Warsaw
  • String Quartet No. 3 (1947) - Polish Ministry of Culture Award, 1955
  • String Quartet No. 4 (1951) - 1st Prize, Concours International pour Quatuor a Cordes, Liege, 1951
  • String Quartet No. 5 (1955)
  • Sonatina for oboe and piano (1955)
  • String Quartet No. 6 (1960)
  • Quartet for 4 violoncelli (1964)
  • Trio for oboe, harp and percussion (1965)
  • String Quartet No. 7 (1967)

Orchestral works

  • Overture (1943)
  • Symphony No. 1 (1945)
  • Concerto for String Orchestra (1948) - Polish State Prize, 1950
  • Symphony No. 2 (1951)
  • Symphony No. 3 (1952)
  • Symphony No. 4 (1953) - Polish Ministry of Culture Prize, 1955
  • Muzyka na smyczki, trąbki i perkusję (Music for Strings, Trumpets, and Percussion) (1958) - 3rd Prize, Tribune Internationale (UNESCO), Paris 1960
  • Concerto for Symphony Orchestra (1962)
  • Contradizione for chamber orchestra (1966) - commissioned by Hopkins Center for the Arts, Hanover, New Hampshire


  • Violin
    • Concerto No. 1 for Violin and Orchestra (1937)
    • Concerto No. 2 for Violin and Orchestra (1945)
    • Concerto No. 3 for Violin and Orchestra (1948) - Polish Ministry of Culture Award, 1955
    • Concerto No. 4 for Violin and Orchestra (1951)
    • Concerto No. 5 for Violin and Orchestra (1954)
    • Concerto No. 6 for Violin and Orchestra (1957) – unpublished and never performed (Anon. n.d.)
    • Concerto No. 7 for Violin and Orchestra (1965) - Belgian Government Prize, Gold Medal - Concours Musical International Reine Elisabeth de Belgique, Brussels, 1965
  • Viola
    • Concerto for Viola and Orchestra (1968)
  • Cello
    • Concerto No. 1 for Cello and Orchestra (1951)
    • Concerto No. 2 for Cello and Orchestra (1963)
  • Piano
    • Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (1949) - 2nd prize, Chopin Composition Competition, Warsaw, 1949
    • Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra (1966)

Music for voice with orchestra

  • Olympic Cantata (1948) for choir and orchestra - Mention, International Olympic Arts Competition, London, 1948; Polish State Prize, 1948. After the 17th-century comedy by Piotr Baryka.
  • Acropolis, a cantata for choir and orchestra (1964) - commissioned for the 600th anniversary of Jagiellonian University.

Stage works

  • Z chłopa król (Peasant King), a ballet (1953) to the libretto of Artur Maria Swinarski
  • Przygoda Króla Artura (The Adventure of King Arthur), a radio opera (1959) - Polish Radio and Television Committee Award, Warsaw, 1960
  • Esik in Ostend, a ballet (1964)

Honours and awards

  • 1933: First prize at the Society of Composers, "Aide aux femmes libres de Professions" in Paris for the Quintet for Wind Instruments
  • 1936: Second Prize at the composition competition of the Society for Polish Music Publishing Trio For Oboe, Violin and Cello, an honorable mention for his Sinfonietta for String Orchestra
  • 1949: Second prize (no first awarded) in the Composition Competition. Frederick Chopin, organized by the Polish Composers' Union in Warsaw for the Piano Concerto
  • 1951: First Prize at the International Composition Competition in Liege for String Quartet No. 4
  • 1956 Second Prize at the International Composition Competition in Liege for String Quartet No. 5
  • 1960: III deposit at the UNESCO International Rostrum of Composers in Paris for Music for strings, trumpet and percussion
  • 1965: Prize of the Belgian Government and the gold medal at the International Competition for Composers in Brussels for Violin Concerto No. 7

In addition, Bacewicz received awards for lifetime achievement. These included the Order of the Banner of Work Class II (1949) and class I (1959), Order of Polonia Restituta Cavalier (1953) and Commander's Cross (1955), and the 10th Anniversary Medal of the Polish People's Republic (1955).

On the centenary of her birth, Polish Post issued a stamp, with a portrait of the artist.


  • Anon. n.d. Inlay note to Chandos recording of Violin Concertos 2, 4, & 5, CHAN 10673.[full citation needed]
  • Thomas, Adrian. 2001. "Bacewicz, Grażyna". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.

External links

  • Bacewicz Page at the Polish Music Center - extended biography and list of works.
  • Bacewicz at PWM Edition - biography, discography, bibliography, list of works, concerts
  • Grażyna Bacewicz at Bach Cantatas Site
  • Grazyna Bacewicz on Allmusic Guide

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