Grazyna Bacewicz – Concerto for Strings (1948)

Grażyna Bacewicz (February 5, 1909 in Łódź – January 17, 1969 in Warsaw, Poland) 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.

Concerto for String Orchestra (1948)
Amadeus Chamber Orchestra conducted by Agnieska Duczmal

Her father and brother Vytautas identified as Lithuanian and used the last name Bacevičius, the other brother Kiejstut identified as Polish. Her father, Wincenty Bacewicz (lith. Vincas Bacevičius), gave Grażyna her first piano and violin lessons. In 1928 she began studying at the Warsaw Conservatory, where she initially took violin and piano classes, and graduated 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 1932-33 under the guidance of Nadia Boulanger. At the same time she took private violin lessons with Henri Touret. Later she also left France in order to learn from the Hungarian violinist Carl Flesch.

After completing her studies, Bacewicz took part in numerous events as a soloist, composer, and jury member. During the 1930s, 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, Grażyna Bacewicz lived in Warsaw, continued to compose, and gave underground secret concerts (premiering her Suite for Two Violins).

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.

Most of her compositions are for the violin. Among them are seven violin concertos, five sonatas for violin with piano including two for violin solo, seven string quartets, two piano quintets and four symphonies.

Scott Crothers – Quarter-tone Piano Prelude #1 (2008)

The Crothers’ Collection of Preludes for Quarter-tone Piano(s) currently number 12 Pieces. They may be purchased through PayPal from the download page of this web site. There are Samples from each Prelude that may be previewed before purchase. The Pieces were all composed by Scott Crothers using MOTU’s Digital Performer Notation Editor and their performance rendered by MOTU’s Symphonic Instrument plugin. _Quarter-tone Piano music has previously been composed by such notable musical figures as Charles Ives, Alois Hába and Ivan Wyschnegradsky. Although Quarter-tone Pianos have been constructed over the last hundred years, they are rather scarce and expensive. Live performance of Quarter-tone Piano Music is normally accomplished by two Pianists. One plays a Piano tuned normally while the other Pianist plays a Piano tuned a Quarter-tone sharp.

[via Peter Bengtson on Google+]

Boris Lyatoshynsky – Mourning Prelude (1920)

Mourning Prelude (1920), Lyatoshynsky’s first piano work.

Borys Demenko, piano

Boris Lyatoshynsky (1895-1968) was a major Ukrainian composer noted for teaching Valentin Silvestrov and founding a Kiev Avant-Garde school later in the 20th-century. His output is prolific and his style, like most of his contemporaries, was chameleon-like due to the shifting aesthetics in the U.S.S.R., from the experimental freedom allowed in the early 1920’s to the restricted idiom demanded in the 40’s and 50’s. Lyatoshynsky studied with Glière and his earliest compositions are primarily solo piano works. While he was aligned with the avant-garde movement of the 1920s, his thematicism and piano-writing suggest the Romanticism of middle Scriabin and Feinberg rather than the complexities and atonal language of Roslavets and Lourié. Larry Sitsky calls Lyatoshynsky the “Passionate Slav” and the appellation is fitting as these fiery and lyrical piano works demonstrate.

[via Jesse Gilsinger on *Diaspora – Dedicated to Eriko Makimura]

John Cage – Bacchanale for prepared piano (1940)

Composed in 1940 for a choreography by the American dancer Syvilla Fort, this was the first piece Cage composed for prepared piano. Cage and Fort were both working at the Cornish School in Seattle, Washington at the time. The room where the dance was to be performed was not large enough to allow for a percussion ensemble, but had enough space for a grand piano. Cage decided to try placing various objects on the strings of the instrument in order to produce percussive sounds, inspired by Henry Cowell’s experiments with extended piano techniques. The whole piece was finished in just three days. Twelve notes are prepared, mostly using weather strippings. In the score, in 11 cases out of 12, the performer is instructed to “determine position and size of mutes by experiment.”