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Mieczysław KARLOWICZ (1876-1909)
Complete Piano Music
Piotr Banasik (piano)
rec. 2019, Mieczysław Karlowicz State Music School, Katowice, Poland
Notes in Polish and English
DUX 1579 [60:03]

Unlike many composers, Mieczysław Karlowicz’s cultivated parents had no objections to his following a musical career. After studying the violin in Warsaw, the young Karlowicz went to Berlin in 1895 hoping to study with Joseph Joachim. He did not make it into Joachim’s highly competitive class and instead began to study composition with the well-known pedagogue Heinrich Urban. Except for the early Chant de Mai, all the pieces on this disc are composition exercises for Urban.

The Chant de Mai is definitely a salon piece, but it has some interesting emotional shifts, as does the Waltz in G-major. Interestingly, Karlowicz’s inspiration for this waltz is not Chopin, as one would expect, but Johann Strauss. Urban stressed form, and tracks 3-6 on this disc are all essays in the rondo. Rondo II and the Andante in F major prefigure some of Karlowicz’s later symphonic poems in their solemnity slightly dashed with humor. Rondo III is reminiscent of Liszt.

Bach was next on Urban’s curriculum, as evidenced by the Fugue in B flat major and the Prelude and Double Fugue, Op. 5, the latter the only piano work that Karlowicz published. The Fugue is an accomplished exercise and nothing more, but Op. 5 demonstrates a natural feeling for the form and is unusual in having the Prelude in one key, D-major, and the Double Fugue in another, G-major; one wonders if Bach would have approved. Next, Karlowicz produced essays in sonata-allegro form, although he only wrote sonata movements, not whole sonatas. Here Karlowicz prefigures the experimental harmony of his orchestral works as well as demonstrating real emotional depth-one is reminded that it was less than a year later that he produced his first orchestral work: the Serenade Op. 2.

Karlowicz could ask for no better interpreter than Piotr Banasik. He has a lovely sound, pays attention to detail and handles the varied stages of the composer’s education with great sensitivity. This seems to be his only currently available disc but it is worth acquiring both for its insight into the evolution of one of Poland’s greatest composers and for Banasik’s combination of skill and acumen.

William Kreindler

1) Chant de Mai (1893/94) [3:04] 
2) Waltz in G major (1895) [8:39] 
3) Andante in F major (1896) [5:17] 
4) Rondo I (1896) [2:44] 
5) Rondo II (1896) [4:07]
6) Rondo III (1896) [6:24]
7) Fugue in B flat major (1897) [5:34]
8) Prelude and Double Fugue, Op. 5 (1897/98) [8:39]
9) Sonatina in D minor (1898) [5:13]
10) Sonata in B flat major (1898) [10:20]

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