Studying the sketches for works which a composer considers to be finished, perfected, is a fascinating activity. It enables one to penetrate the secrets of creative work, to compare the initial outline of a composition with its final version. A sketch is generally left untitled, but it does occur that a composer enhances the status of such a draft by giving it a title, before creating an improved version of that title on the basis of the finished work. The list of compositions by Grażyna Bacewicz, the full catalogue of which is held in the National Library in Warsaw, includes a work for string quartet entitled Quatuor. The manuscript was left undated, but analysis of the music allows us to date this work to the mid-1960s. In the composer’s output from that period, the instrumental tone colouring, often an element that helps to forge a work, takes on particular significance.
The first movement of the Quatuor [à cordes] opens with three fifth-tritone chords ‘cast forth’, in succession, in saltando-gettato technique by the cello, second violin and first violin. When we look at the beginning of the Seventh String Quartet, from 1965, such a chord appears in the second bar of the cello part. Further comparisons lead to interesting conclusions. The two opening movements are almost identical, built from the same elements, only spatially arranged in a different way. In the structure of the first movement of the Seventh Quartet, one distinguishes two thematic planes, which shape the narrative after the fashion of a sonata allegro. The first theme is a series of episodes of changing texture – from passagework to chords and short glissandos repeated with varying intensity. The second theme (Meno mosso) displays an imitative form. Both works feature an inverted reprise. For the first 25 bars of the second movement, a nostalgic Grave, the two works sound identical. The continuation of this movement in the Quatuor [à cordes] is more modest than in the analogous segments of the Seventh Quartet, in terms of both changing textures and the use of differentiated means of articulation. Towards the end, a motif from the beginning of this movement returns in modified form. Both the third movements (Capriccioso in the Quatuor [à cordes], Con vivezza in the Seventh Quartet) take the form of a rondo, and appearing in each of them is the same ‘warbling’ theme, based on scattered notes with grace notes. The Seventh String Quartet is in three movements. The presumed prototype consists of four movements. The last movement of the Quatuor [à cordes] is a Maestoso resembling a mine of textural ideas for other works of a sonoristic provenance from this period. The introduction, constituting a closed narrative whole and a reference point for the rest of the movement, is followed by segments that are dominated by ostinatos of various kinds, including with the use of harmonics, passages built on the progressive shifting of short motifs, and unevenly spread chords.
Grażyna Bacewicz used material from earlier works more than once in her compositions. Her oeuvre also includes ‘twin’ pieces merely scored for a different set of instruments. Yet the self-quotation that occurs in the case of the Quatuor [à cordes] and the Seventh String Quartet – lengthy passages from another of her works reused with minor modifications – is an unusual situation. It undermines the former’s status as an independent work.
- ISMN 979-0-2740-3103-9
- Language of edition: eng, pol
- Number of pages: 100
- Cover: softcover
- No. of edition: 1
- Published: 2021
score and parts