SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews
MIECZYSLAW KARLOWICZ: Violin Concerto in A major Op.8; Eternal Songs Op.10 – Agata Szymczewska,violin / Sinfonia Varsovia / Jerzy Maksymiuk – BeArTon
Published on January 17, 2009
Mieczyslaw Karlowicz – together with Ludomir Rozycki, Karol Szymanowski, Apolinary Szeluto and Grzegorz Fitelberg – were the members of the group called Young Poland, founded to bring new life to the Polish music scene, which they achieved through performing, conducting and composing. Karlowicz died at the age of 33 in a skiing accident and left a small but increasingly popular corpus of works.
The violin concerto is one of his best-loved works, the violin part a rewarding play for the soloist. Agata Szymczewska, already well-travelled giving recitals around the world, plays with mature authority, reaching into the richly romantic idiom to the manner born. The tone she produces from her Stradivarius (1608) is quite lovely, and she brings a sense of nobility as well as youthful joy to this fine work. She is a very fine player, well worth looking out for.
The work had its first performance by Stanislaus Barcewicz with the Berlin Philharmonic in 1903, and was very well received. Karlowicz was a violinist and his deep knowledge of the instrument is apparent in the writing. Szymczewska’s performance of this virtuoso piece is all one wishes for, perfectly executed trills, faultless cadenzas, impeccable tuning, and that entirely idiomatic Slavic bounce when needed.
Eternal Songs is a tone poem in three movements, first heard in Berlin in 1907 in a performance conducted by Fitelberg. Inspired by the poetry and philosophy of the turn of the 20th century, and by Karlowicz’s trips to the Tatras, the work hinges on eternal longing, being and death, and as such needs to be considered in the light of its times. However, the music stands on its own merits, too; for those who love finely orchestrated rich late romantic works, this is a prime example. Karlowicz’s style had matured by this stage, and had become more individual, more Slavonic than Straussian. Jerzy Maksymiuk and the Sinfonia Varsovia produce a performance of rich textures and sound entirely committed to the music.
With superb high resolution recording quality, and a warm acoustic allowing a lot of orchestral detail, too, these works are given an excellent presentation. My only quibble is the slightly close balance of the violinist in the concerto, which produces the odd audible sniff. BeArTon’s booklet is a high quality production with excellent essays by Marek Wieroński and is very illustrated with photographs, some in color. Most highly recommended!
– Peter Joelson