Play for string quartet (1971)
Performers: Dafô Quartet, "Warsaw Autumn" 23 IX 2006, Polish Composers' Union
Chronologically, it is the second of Baird’s string quartets. It was commissioned by the Royal Danish Quartet to which it was dedicated and by which it was premiered. The title of the quartet suggests an artistic and very ingenious “sound play”, intended for excellent and sensitive instrumentalists and listeners.
The single-movement structure of Play can be internally divided into five phases resulting from a succession of various sound planes. The first phase is “spacious” and mysterious, the second – aggressive, the third – quiet and resembles a virtuoso candenza, the fourth – simultaneously contrasting, the fifth – successively variable, final. Each phase is stabilised by its central note.
The quartet is one of few works by Baird in which the melodic-lyrical factor is pushed to the background, with pure sound playing the main role. That is why Play is regarded as one of Baird’s sonorist works.
Within 27 months of its premiere, Play was performed about 150 times in 12 countries. In 1973 the piece received an award from Danish critics. A 2002 recording entitled Baird, Knapik, Meyer, Penderecki, Zieliński – Quartetto Dafo won the Fryderyk Prize in the “album of the year – contemporary music” category.
In the contexts of Baird's Play Krzysztof Knittel quotes composer's words about mysteries of the compositional process: