WORKS: Symphony Op. 7 (Rebirth); Bianca da Molena (The White Dove), Op. 6
PERFORMER: Warsaw Phil/Antoni Wit
CATALOGUE NO: Naxos 8.572487
Had Karłowicz survived beyond his 33rd year – he was killed by an avalanche while skiing in his beloved Tatra mountains – who knows where his spiraling musical imagination would have taken him. The handful of works that survive would do credit to any major late Romantic composer. The Rebirth Symphony began life as a student work and was completed in 1903. Partly autobiographical, it progresses from tragic darkness to triumphant light. Clearly, Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony is the model. That said, while the formal shaping and some of the melodic vocabulary is indebted to the Russian master, there is much that is arrestingly original: the second subject of the first movement is particularly notable, almost anticipating the mature Elgar. Karłowicz certainly handles large-scale composition with confidence; the only weak point is the disappointingly banal chorale in the finale.
Antoni Wit has proved his mettle in fine recordings of Karłowicz’s symphonic poems and does not disappoint here. He has a genuine feel for the structure of the Symphony and handles the bright colours in the two pieces of incidental music to the White Dove superbly. Occasionally the orchestra is slightly less than unanimous, but in general this brightly recorded issue is one to treasure. Jan Smaczny