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Grażyna Bacewicz (1909-1969)

Born 5 February 1909
Łódź, Poland
Died 17 January 1969
Warsaw, Poland
Nationality Polish
Era Modern

Grażyna Bacewicz 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.

Grażyna Bacewicz’ father and brother Vytautas 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. 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. She continued her education in Paris, having been granted a stipend by Ignacy Jan Paderewski to attend the École Normale de Musique, and studied there in 1932-1933 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.

After completing her studies, Grażyna 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. This position gave her the chance of hearing a lot of her own music. During World War II, she lived in Warsaw, continued to compose, and gave underground secret concerts (premiering her Suite for Two Violins).

Grażyna 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, tempted by her many awards and commissions, and it finally became her only occupation in 1954 after serious injuries in a car accident. 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.

He honors and awards include: First prize at the Society of Composers, “Aide aux femmes libres de Professions” in Paris for the Quintet for Wind Instruments (1933); 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 (1936); Second prize (no first awarded) in the Composition Competition. Frederick Chopin, organized by the Polish Composers’ Union in Warsaw for the Piano Concerto (1949); First Prize at the International Composition Competition in Liege for String Quartet No. 4 (1951); Second Prize at the International Composition Competition in Liege for String Quartet No. 5 (1956); III deposit at the UNESCO International Rostrum of Composers in Paris for Music for strings, trumpet and percussion (1960); Prize of the Belgian Government and the gold medal at the International Competition for Composers in Brussels for Violin Concerto No. 7 (1965); In addition, Grażyna 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.

Examples by Grażyna Bacewicz