Bacewicz, Grazyna (1909–1969)

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Bacewicz, Grazyna (1909–1969)

Polish violinist and composer, widely considered the most gifted composer of her time. Born in Lodz, Poland, on February 5, 1909; died in Warsaw on January 17, 1969; one of four children; studied at the Lodz Conservatory, Warsaw Conservatory, and Warsaw University as well as with Nadia Boulanger, the famed French teacher; married Andrzej Biernacki (a physician, professor of medicine, and secretary of the Polish Academy of Science); children: one daughter, Alina.

Began performing at age seven; won first prize at the Young Composers' Competition for a wind quintet in Paris (1933); won second prize for her Trio at the Publishing Polish Music Society in Warsaw (1936); recorded Overture (1946); premiered her Concerto for String Orchestra in U.S. (1952); published Music for Strings, Trumpets, and Percussion (1958) which was played throughout the world; received the gold medal from the Belgian government at the International Composers' Competition (1965). Two streets have been named after her in Poland, one in Warsaw and one in Gdansk.

In an age when women's works were rarely performed and even more rarely recorded, almost 20 recordings of Grazyna Bacewicz's compositions were made. Her work marked a new trend in the field for women.

When her talent was recognized at a young age, Bacewicz studied music with the famous Nadia Boulanger , who accepted only the most gifted students. In 1933, Bacewicz won the first prize at the Young Composers' Competition in Paris. A gifted violinist as well as a composer, she toured Europe widely as a concert artist. Many of her compositions are for string ensembles, and her violinistic expertise enabled her to compose seven violin concertos. Surviving World War II, she was also forced to survive artistically under Communist rule in Poland; still, she maintained her integrity and creativity, winning numerous prizes throughout Europe. In Poland, composers depended upon government subsidies in order to survive. Although this imposed some burden, Bacewicz was able to perfect her form. Her Music for Strings, Trumpets, and Percussion, published in 1958, was enthusiastically received throughout the world. Performed by the BBC Orchestra in 1961, it was also recorded. Grazyna Bacewicz died unexpectedly in 1969, cutting short her remarkable career as the most celebrated female composer of contemporary Poland. Also a respected author, she published novels and short stories in her last years.

John Haag , Athens, Georgia