Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


The set is available from the conductor who can accept orders by fax: +48322018193, or by e-mail

The price, including postage is €30 for " Karlowicz Symphonic Poems", and €20 for the "Famous Caprices". Payable to GBG BANK, Katowice, account number: 15601108-714691-2700-217874, Jerzy Salwarowski.

Mieczysław KARŁOWICZ (1876-1909)
The complete symphonic poems

CD1 [61.57]
Returning Waves (1904) [25.15]
Eternal Songs (1907) [25.44]
A Sorrowful Tale - Preludes to Eternity (1908) [10.57]
CD2 [68.29]
Lithuanian Rhapsody (1906) [20.17]
Stanislav and Anna Oswieczin (1912) [22.33]
Episode during a Masquerade (1908-9) [25.37]
Silesian State PO/Jerzi Salwarowski
rec Katowice, 8 Dec 1981, 11-13 June 1983.
recorded with financial assistance from Ministerswa Kultury i Sztuki
DUX 0132-33


This set was once available on Chant du Monde and its repackaging here – a 2 CD set with excellent notes and documentary material and in idiomatic performances – makes it a locus classicus of the current Karłowicz discography. The tragically short-lived composer, killed on the Tatra Mountains in an avalanche, was a composer with an intense appreciation of nature and of complex psychology – late Romanticism with a powerfully Tchaikovskian cast and Straussian rhythmic and melodic snap. This is merely to attempt a broadly generalised musical stamp of this adherent of the ‘Young Poland’ movement. The tone poems were all written in the last five years of his life and are representative of some of the finest orchestral music of their type.

Recurring Waves was written on the Adriatic coast in 1904 and first performed under the composer’s direction in the same year in Warsaw. It has as its root a Turgenev short story and spans reflection, refraction and loss with some orchestral mastery. The bass clarinet and horn calls are allied as much to darkening Tchaikovskian rhetoric as to Sibelian chill. Out of the shuddering strings a solo trumpet takes on an obscure but profound brassy psychology, whilst the noble direction of the string cantilena and its admixture of Wagnerian-Straussian elements culminate in reflective intimacy – quiet strings and solemn winds and a strong sense of the narrative having run its course. Eternal Songs (1904-06, first performed in Berlin by Karłowicz proponent, the conductor Grzegorz Fitelberg) is in three movements. The first is full of power and drama with some eruptive and effulgent writing whilst winding Delian string melodies enrich the second. As indeed does the slashing storm tossed writing and the hieratic Parsifalian unfolding, pantheistic and brilliantly climaxed. The last of the pieces is rhythmically snappy with punchy brass writing. Throughout there is, as ever with this composer, a sense of narrative expectation, something the burnished brass and answering string go some way in resolving. The Sorrowful Tale, his last completed work, is a long limbed and gloomy with the most subtly revealing exchanges between wind and string choirs.

The Lithuanian Rhapsody seems to be predicated on somewhat Sibelian lines with its sense of evolutionary development and movement. The central part of the tone poem becomes increasingly mellow which in turn announces a brusque start to folksier music. There is plenty of rustic sounding charm here which acts as a good contrastive device and the work ends with the violins playing very high up the fingerboard, a chill modulated and warmed by the generous sound of the bass clarinet. Karłowicz called Stanislav a Polish travesty of Romeo and Juliet but it seems there was some psycho-biographical element behind it, reflective of his own youthful and thwarted love for his cousin Ludka. The buoyant optimism of the opening paragraphs is misplaced, the tone poem darkening and coiling into moments of intense introspection and externalised horror. For all the surging of the strings, the immutability of the brass flings down its own implacable charge; little motivic threads lead to a brief march theme but the game’s up for the doomed brother and sister, as the veiled reminiscences from Tristan and Die Walküre only serve to underline. Episode from a Masquerade written, but not completed, in his beloved Zakopane was finished and first conducted in 1914 by the loyal Fitelberg. Again there’s a surging confident start but once more the narrative darkens. Hollow horns echo, a degree of phantasmagoria develops before at 9.35 a beautiful string melody emerges; the drama is complex once more, internalised and constantly shifting. The musical means of expression here decisively embrace Strauss, whose Til Eulenspiegel seems constantly to be about to explode over the fabric of the score.

These are powerfully impressive performances of works that need a strong and idiomatic conductor to mediate their often baleful curve and they have one here. The recorded sound is very occasionally a little opaque but one can listen with pleasure to the tone poems – and with confidence. The booklet notes are full and very well written and argued. This is a genuinely important set and I recommend it.

Jonathan Woolf

See also review by Rob Barnett


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