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Mieczyslaw KARLOWICZ (1876-1909)
Violin Concerto in A major op. 8 (1903) [29:52]
Stanislas et Anna Oswiecimowie – symphonic poem op. 12 (1907) [22:54]
Dorota Anderszewska (violin)
Orchestre National de Montpellier LR/Friedemann Layer
rec. live, 20 May; 14 October 2006, l’Opéra Berlioz, Le Corum, Montpellier. DDD
ACCORD ACRD4769827 [52:48]
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I have been an admirer of Karlowicz’s orchestral music since hearing a broadcast of the turbulently romantic tone poem Eternal Songs played by the Chicago Symphony conducted by Rozhdestvensky. After that I managed to track down Olympia CDs of the Violin Concerto and tone poems. In the last decade or so Karlowicz has been taken up by Hyperion, Chandos and Polish CD Accord. Tasmin Little champions the Violin Concerto with the Moszkowski concerto on Hyperion (see review) and Konstanty Kulka has the Karlowicz concerto with two of the composer’s tone poems – the one above plus the wonderful Eternal Songs (see review).
The Concerto is one of those works you must hear if you like the Glazunov and the Tchaikovsky perhaps with a dash of the Bruch G minor. It is a succulent and dashingly whistleable work. Dorota Anderszewska and Layer give it its most extended recording running to just short of half and hour where Little and Kulka run it to about 27 minutes. You can tell this immediately the Layer version starts. That majestic gestural opening is so broad that it saps the works energy and a sense of flaccidity hangs over the proceedings for a good five minutes. Things then improve and it is fair to say that Anderszewska’s Chung-like tight tone is a pleasure to hear as is the effective and theatrically dramatic accelerando she makes in the fireworks at the send of the first movement. I can fully understand why she was lauded by the French press as "the pure diamond of this concert." If you are a fancier of this work you will of course have to have this because you will learn more about the concerto. However it is a matter of considering it alongside other obscure and deleted versions by the wonderful Wanda Wilkomirska on Polski Nagrania PNCD142 (although I see she takes over 30 minutes with Rowicki – who was also the conductor for the first version recorded by Kulka), Kaja Danczowska CDM LDC 278 1088 and the original 1960s one by Kulka on Olympia OCD304. Tell me if I have missed any. I would like to add them here and also to hear them if possible.
This is a full price issue and I am afraid its parsimony rules it out in the face of the competition principally from Polish CD Accord. Which also offers the same coupling as well as the remarkable Eternal Songs. The symphonic poem Stanislas and Anna Oswiecimowie was inspired by a painting by the Polish artist Stanislas Bergmann. This depicts the fatal incestuous loves of a brother and sister. The music is sumptuously late-romantic with dashes of Strauss (Don Juan), early Szymanowski (Concert Overture), Bax (Spring Fire), Elgar (Froissart), Delius (Song of the High Hills) and Scriabin (Poem of Ecstasy) – a heady brew. Layer gives an excellent performance and is extremely well recorded; superb work from the horns and trumpets ion the first five minutes. The work has the rhapsodic-ecstatic character of two Francesca da Rimini works – the tone poem by Tchaikovsky and the opera by Rachmaninov. If it has a weakness it is a tendency to sink into a ruminative Franckian Psyché-like dream from which it wakes but all too often sinks back into repletion. Layer makes a wonderful job of it with the final ten minutes redolent of Rachmaninov Symphony 2 and the Bernard Herrmann’s Gothic music for Citizen Kane.
Applause is retained for both the concerto and the tone poem. It is surprisingly stolid in the case of the concerto.
The booklet notes hit all the right bases.
Some good stuff here but as a disc in competition with others it cannot rival the generosity and excellence of the Polish CD Accord ACD 071-2 which together with the Hyperion are to be preferred in the concerto.

Rob Barnett




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