Polish Music Journal
Vol. 5, No. 1, Summer 2002. ISSN 1521 - 6039

Grażyna Bacewicz: Her Life and Works

by Judith Rosen

Foreword by Witold Lutosławski

While reflecting upon the creative life of an artist, I often ask myself the following questions: What did he or she come in to this world with, i.e., what has nature endowed them with, and also, did they, by their effort, succeed in developing these inborn talents, taking advantage of them to the fullest, for the benefit of mankind? This last thought deserves special emphasis, because many creative artists treat their inherited talents as if they were their own to dispense for their own personal aims, and not always in the noblest way. As I see it, the talent of an artist is a unique privilege, a distinction. As such, it carries with it commensurate obligations. Thus an artist with any moral sense whatsoever should know that, in developing their talents for the enrichment of mankind, they are only fulfilling their obligations, while that which they create is only in small measure their own merit.

My preceding reflections are the key to my remarks on Grażyna Bacewicz, a distinguished Polish composer of this century, whose premature departure has been an irreconcilable loss. There is no doubt in my mind that the answers to the above questions, as far as Grażyna Bacewicz is concerned, are positive ones. She was born with an incredible wealth of musical talent, which she succeeded to bring to full flourish through an almost fanatical zeal and unwavering faith in her mission. The intensity of her activities was so great that she managed, in a cruelly-shortened life, to give birth to such treasures that any composer of her stature with a considerably longer life span could only envy.

I do not propose to discuss or dwell on the merits of her compositional legacy. To anyone who was close to her creativity, to become acquainted with and to experience her creations, their artistic value is quite evident. To be sure, I have always been of the opinion that a true judgement of the creative ability of a composer does not belong to contemporary reviewers or artists, but to thousands of audiences over many decades, which may be referred to as the "jury of time." Based on the fact that many of her earliest works are still being performed throughout the world today, one can already predict that her music will stand this test of time. As examples, we can cite the Concerto for String Orchestra, a favorite with this type of ensemble, and her String Quartet No. 3, which is marked by an exceptional polyphonic skill in addition to its masterly idiomatic writing for string quartet.

It does not appear proper to me to judge her works only in the light of the compositional styles and rapidly changing artistic currents of her lifetime. Like so many other composers of larger compositional forms, she was to a great degree independent of the atmosphere surrounding her. Rather, it was her music that helped to create that atmosphere and could be held up as an example to the younger generation of composers.

When I think of Grażyna Bacewicz, I cannot limit myself to her music alone. I was fortunate to belong to that group of people who were bound with her by virtue of professional friendship. Thus I was privileged to know her closely for many years. It allowed me to observe and admire her character first hand - her integrity, honesty, compassion, and her willingness to share and sacrifice for others. This image of her as an artist and human being ought to be an inspiration to the succeeding generations of composers in Poland and throughout the world.

I wish to congratulate the Friends of Polish Music at the University of Southern California and Judith Rosen for their dedication and effort in acquainting the English-speaking world with Grażyna Bacewicz, one of the foremost women composers of all time.

Witold Lutosławski


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Copyright 2002 by the Polish Music Journal.
Editor: Maja Trochimczyk. Polish Music Center, Summer 2002.
Design: Maja Trochimczyk & Marcin Depinski.
Comments and inquiries by e-mail: polmusic@email.usc.edu