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Mieczysław KARŁOWICZ (1876-1909)
Symphonic Poems Vol. 2:
Returning Waves (1904) [24:12]
A Sorrowful Tale (Preludes to Eternity) (1908) [11:00]
Eternal Songs (Song of Everlasting Yearning [10:51]; Song of Love and Death [11:37]; Song of Eternal Being [5:33]) (comp.1906) [28:01]
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra/Antoni Wit
rec. Wellington Town Hall, New Zealand, 11-13 July 2006
NAXOS 8.570295 [63:13]
Experience Classicsonline

Rather oddly Antoni Wit conducts a New Zealand orchestra for this second album of  Karłowicz Symphonic Poems. You will notice that this new CD was recorded in Wellington, New Zealand in July 2006 whereas Volume One in the series (8.570452 - see review) was recorded more appositely for a Polish composer, by the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra in Warsaw in November 2006.
The earliest work in this second collection of Karłowicz’s symphonic poems, Returning Waves begins balefully on low woods, brass and strings. The fact that the composer appeared to have harboured thoughts of suicide makes the darkness of this work’s opening seem apposite. Actually the enigmatic title Returning Waves could be open to all sorts of interpretations. Richard Whitehouse writes, “[Karłowicz] initially hinted at youthful memories being recollected in sadness, whilst just before his death he wrote in explicit terms about suicide provoked by unrequited love … but any more concrete connection between this and his own ‘intended’ suicide in the subsequent skiing accident must remain a matter of speculation.” As the symphonic poem progresses it unfolds a kaleidoscopic panorama of heroic, noble, romantically yearning and strangely mystical episodes with material reminiscent of the symphonic poems of Liszt and the music of Wagner and Richard Strauss. There is little sea evocation here. There is, on the other hand, perhaps, a little more seascape imagery implicit in A Sorrowful Tale.
Not surprisingly, given its title, there is an equally gloomy opening for A Sorrowful Tale. Richard Whitehouse reckons fateful recollection again might be at the root of it and memories of the suicide of the composer’s friend, playwright Jozafat Nowinski. Furthermore, Whitehouse suggests a link with Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde.  This animated music grows, in its climactic pages ever more menacing and stormy.
The Eternal Songs is the only Karłowicz symphonic poem to be structured in three separate movements. No programmatic details are available – only the titles that speak of a Schopenhauer-like process of self-annihilation. Whitehouse further suggests that the Tatra Mountains could have been a further inspiration and that the music is indebted to Richard Strauss, particularly Also Sprach Zarathustra. ‘The Song of Everlasting Yearning’ has a most affecting yearning melody set amongst turbulent material that suggests a hostile environment. ‘Song of Love and Death’ is more optimistic with a sweetly dreamy melody that builds in fervour to an impassioned climax with swirling, angst-ridden strings. Finally the ‘Song of Eternal Being’ brings the work to a triumphal, heroic conclusion amongst brass fanfares and folklore-like and icy environmental music that is more reminiscent of Sibelius and other Nordic composers. 
This CD comes with a bonus. Entering a code printed at the end of the album’s notes allows you to download Szymanowski’s Concert Overture, Op. 12.
If you can get past the rather unrelenting doleful, angst-ridden, somewhat derivative material that pervades so much of this second volume, there is plenty to admire especially at bargain price.
Ian Lace


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