Thursday, 11 January 2018

CD Review (The Straits Times, January 2018)

KARLOWICZ Violin Concertos
Chandos 5185 / *****

Some sixteen years separate the two violin concertos of Polish nationalist composer Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937), but when heard one after another, they sound like contiguous movements of a mega-concerto that plays for some 45 minutes. 

The First Violin Concerto (1916) is so ethereally beautiful that its neglect in concert halls is perplexing. The outsized demands for the soloist, both technical and expressive, are likely the reason. Its rhapsodic nature and dynamic shifts from impressionistic dreaminess to boisterous drama makes it an exciting listen. The Second Violin Concerto (1932-33) that follows is more compact, utilising gritty folk music elements in its two movements linked by a cadenza.    

The Violin Concerto in A major (1902) by the short-lived Mieczyslaw Karlowicz (1876-1909, killed in an avalanche while mountaineering) comes from a different era. Its spirit is closer to the effusive Romanticism of Wieniawski, Bruch and Glazunov with the requisite fireworks to match. 

All three concertos receive gorgeous performances by British violinist Tasmin Little that go to the music's heart, the perfumed decadence of Szymanowski and the showmanship of Karlowicz. Every detail of is captured on demonstration sound by Edward Gardner's excellent BBC Symphony Orchestra. A must listen for violin lovers.

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