Mieczyslaw Karlowicz (1876-1909) died in a skiing accident due to an avalanche, having completed a corpus of works which has gained in popularity in recent years. After fine issues by Chandos and Naxos, BeArTon’s “The Pearls of Polish Music” series has added the Rebirth Symphony to its steadily increasing catalogue of SACDs.
Lushly late-romantic, this is the most substantial of Karlowicz’s works and was written on the cusp of the twentieth century. First performed in Berlin in 1903, the symphony has a detailed commentary by the composer for each movement, though the music itself is more than capable of standing on its own; the “Young Poland” movement in the arts and the philosophy of Schopenhauer were deep influences on its composition.
The “Rebirth” refers to Karlowicz’s own rebirth after experiencing early disappointments, and the first movement opens in gloom and despondency to reflect this. The wind chorales imitate organ music, the solo trumpet, the soul reacting against its fate. Hints of happiness foretell what is to come but the overwhelming atmosphere of struggle returns to end the movement. The second is lyrical and peaceful, the third a mad whirligig of depicting the rushing of human life. The final movement has its climax as a hymn of rebirth and very effective it is, too. There are Elgarian moments in this work, Reger-like gloom and a refreshing originality; the whole piece begs for more performances.
The Sinfonia Varsovia is an excellent orchestra and Jerzy Maksymiuk conducts with authority in a rather more expansive reading than Noseda’s with the BBC Philharmonic on Chandos. BeArTon’s high resolution recording quality shows itself to its advantage in an elaborately scored work like this, the acoustic of the Lutoslawski Hall at Polish Radio allowing for first-class warm sound with detail. The superb booklet is printed on high quality paper and has both an excellent essay and fine photographs. I have bought several BeArTon SACDs via the website – a painless procedure, and delivery has been quick.
There is something quite uplifting about this work, in the way Mahler’s Third can affect the listener, and I recommend this issue enthusiastically.