WORKS: Recurring Waves; Eternal Songs; A Sad Tale; Lithuanian Rhapsody; Stanislaw and Anna Os´wiecim; An Episode During a Masquerade
PERFORMER: Silesian State PO/Jerzy Salwarowski
CATALOGUE NO: 0132-33
A tragic irony hovers over the premature death of Mieczysaw Karowicz. His favourite landscape, the Tatra Mountains, proved his nemesis when he was killed there in an avalanche. Conclusively the finest of Poland’s late Romantics, he would have become one of the nation’s 20th-century greats had he lived beyond his mid-thirties – he died in 1909. Recorded here in their entirety, Karowicz’s symphonic poems are a remarkable testimony to his nascent genius: Strauss and Wagner are there as influences, but everywhere, most notably in the three Eternal Songs, his powerful individuality is clear. Interestingly, Karowicz’s underlying preoccupations, touching on melancholy, unfulfilled love and a mystic affinity with nature experienced most poignantly in the mountains, could almost be the ground plan for the inspiration of his near-exact Czech contemporary, Vítzslav Novák. As with Novák, a contemplative starting point – apparent in all of these works – gives way to captivating passion matched by a strong feeling for structure.
These performances by the Silesian State Philharmonic are far more than serviceable. Jerzy Salwarowski has a real affinity with Karowicz’s richly Romantic musical language as well as a clear respect for the formal aspects of these works. There are times, however, when the ensemble is less than secure and occasionally the orchestral sonority sounds undernourished, a situation not helped by a slightly dead acoustic. Yan Pascal Tortelier’s readings of the Eternal Songs and two other of the symphonic poems on Chandos offer a fuller experience, though for commitment and, of course, completeness this present set is certainly recommendable. Jan Smaczny