WORKS: Eternal Songs; Stanislaw and Anna Os´wiecim; Lithuanian Rhapsody
PERFORMER: BBC Philharmonic/Yan Pascal Tortelier
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9986
Chopin, of course; Szymanowski, almost certainly; Moniuszko and Lutoslawski, quite possibly; but how many music lovers will have heard of that other Polish musical luminary, Mieczyslaw Karlowicz? And yet he can lay claim to being one of Poland’s greatest late-Romantic composers; sadly, a skiing accident cut his aspiring genius off in its prime, and what reputation he has is built partly on song settings, though largely on a small handful of symphonic poems written early in the 20th century, three of which are recorded here.
As its leading musical supporter, Karlowicz reflected in his music the preoccupations of the ‘Young Poland’ movement: love, death and pantheism. But far from being gloomily introspective, these magically orchestrated symphonic poems communicate a yearning for the eternal which at times draws Karlowicz close to his Czech contemporaries Novák and Suk. Clear affinities with Wagner, Strauss and Tchaikovsky form a background to Karlowicz’s style, but these never drown out a clear, very winning personal voice. Of the three, perhaps the most fascinating is the Lithuanian Rhapsody; based on folksong, it opens with a brooding intensity that parallels Sibelius. Tortelier’s committed, idiomatic performances are a ‘must hear’ experience for any admirer of late Romanticism.