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Mieczysław KARŁOWICZ (1876-1909)
Violin Concerto in A major, Op.8 [24:47]
A Sorrowful Tale 'Preludes to Eternity', Op.13 [8:50]
Lithuanian Rhapsody, Op.11 [19:06]
Bartłomiej Nizioł (violin)
Mieczysław Karłowicz Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra in Szczecin/Łukasz Borowicz
rec. June & August 2016, Symphony Hall, Mieczysław Karłowicz Philharmonic in Szczecin
DUX 1377 [55:59]

Born in Vishneva, which is now a border town between Lithuania and Belarus, Mieczysław Karłowicz was, along with Karol Szymanowski, an important member of the “Young Poland” generation of composers. He died in an avalanche whilst on a skiing holiday. Sadly, his untimely death has meant than relatively few works survive. All of them show great potential of what might have been. His musical style was rooted in Romanticism. His earlier works were influenced by Tchaikovsky, a composer he greatly admired. His later works show a move towards the style of the late Romantics, coming after he discovered the music of Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss. I have only a couple of discs of his music, one on Chandos (CHAN 9986) which presents his Lithuanian Rhapsody, the other the Violin Concerto on Naxos (8.572274), although I have heard a few other discs of his music.

This disc opens with an excellent recording of the 1902 Violin Concerto, one which eclipses Ilya Kaler’s for Naxos. Bartłomiej Nizioł’s virtuosic reading is overall a couple of minutes quicker than Kaler’s, mainly in the second movement Romance. This helps heighten the link between Karłowicz and Tchaikovsky, although whenever I listen to this concerto I always find I want to listen to the Korngold directly afterwards as well. Nizioł is well balanced with the orchestra in a very enjoyable and recommendable performance.

The other two works were both composed a few years after the Violin Concerto. A Sorrowful Tale from 1908 tells of the last moments of a suicidal man. Lithuanian Rhapsody of 1906 is based on three traditional folk melodies. Both these works, full of character, show a composer who is now firmly in control of the late Romantic idiom, with the Lithuanian Rhapsody especially full of orchestral colour. This is especially well brought out by Łukasz Borowicz, more so than Yan Pascal Tortelier for Chandos. I borrowed Gianandrea Noseda’s recording of A Sorrowful Tale, again for Chandos (CHAN 10298). Although he gives the music a little more time to breath, I did find that performance a little plodding and laboured at times in comparison to the present recording. I did however like his recordings of the Returning Waves Op. 9 and the Episode at a Masquerade Op. 14.

The performances are strong throughout. The Szczecin Philharmonic Orchestra sounds really at home with this music. The recorded sound is excellent. The notes, though brief, are informative and aid the enjoyment of this wonderful music. This recording makes me hope that the same forces are given a chance by DUX to record more of Mieczysław Karłowicz’s music. If you do not know Karłowicz’s music well, this recording is an ideal starting point. It will have you hooked.

Stuart Sillitoe

Previous review: Stephen Greenbank



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