Review of Concert by Blazej Maliszewski. 12 January 2014

Lunchtime Concert by Blazej Maliszewski (viola) with Jon French (piano).

Reviewed by Laura Feeney  : Year 2 Master of Music student at Birmingham Conservatoire.



Bacewicz: Sonata for viola solo

            I. Adagio-Allegro

            II. Presto

Hindemith: Sonata Op.11 No.

 I. Fantasie

            II. Thema mit Variationen

            III. Finale (mit Variationen)

Wieniawski: Reverie

          Bacewicz: Oberek I (1949)


It was a wonderful cultural occasion when violist Blazej Maliszewski came to Birmingham Conservatoire’s viola day to champion the works of his native Poland. I was particularly intrigued by the compositions of Polish composer    Grażyna Bacewicz as like many audience members I was unfamiliar with her works. There was a palpable sense of occasion and anticipation in the Recital Hall as we were all eager to hear what the music of this composer held in store.

The concert began with a stark, held doubled G, a bold  gesture, one that created an intriguing opening. This G formed a pedal over which a melody with haunting dissonance enveloped. This line was interspersed with cadenza-like motifs. The movement then built upon the thematic interplay between these two ideas. Blazej Maliszewski played this movement with deep understanding, carefully expressing the beauty of dissonance. There was a real tenderness in the legato double-stop melodies in the Adagio section of this movement.  The following Allegro section displayed the instrumental virtuosity that is expected of any solo sonata.

The second movement of the sonata consisted almost entirely of glissandos, once again written in two voices. Blazej displayed an impressive geography of the instrument as his left hand skillfully glided up and down the fingerboard playing the multitude of double stops. The rapid spiccato semiquavers were a real test of stamina and control, which was well displayed.  The sonata was a powerful piece, one which deserves to be more widely performed.

Grażyna Bacewicz was the first female composer in Poland to achieve both  National and International status. Her early career was divided between her studies of composition and the violin. During the 1930’s she studies in Paris and during that time studied violin with André Touret and Carl Flesch. After some research I discovered that Bacewicz composed many pieces for the violin, Oberek I being one of these. Bacewicz accompanied by her Brother premiered this work in 1949, soon after it was transcribed for the viola.

Like the Bacewicz viola sonata , Maliszewski performed Oberek I from memory. It was clear to all that Bacewicz is a composer whom he holds in high regard. The exuberant style of the piece suited him well and the performance of this work was both charming and sincere, in particular the folk music element of this music was conveyed with rustic charm.

The programme was a wonderful introduction to the virtuosic compositions of Grażyna Bacewicz. Blazej Maliszewski’s enthusiastic interpretation of both these works was a great champion of her artistic output.