Karlowicz: Lithuanian Rhapsody, Etc / Tortelier, Bbc Po
The three-movement Eternal Songs substitutes Schopenhauer for Nietzsche as the inspiration for this Zarathustra-like tone poem. Peppered with "meaning of life" motives and headings but with no explicit program, Eternal Songs is anchored by powerful low brass climaxes (perfect intervals that mark the so-called "Eternity" theme) in both the first and final movement (the latter a giant self-contained Bruckner coda) and will remind listeners not only of Strauss' famous work but also of Scriabin's Poem of Ecstasy. The central movement comprises the inevitable twin themes of Love and Death, and, befitting the lofty subjects embodied in this work, they are sumptuous and overwrought, replete with tam-tam and cymbal crashes, soaring horns, and trumpet flourishes.
Described as a "travesty" of Romeo and Juliet, the next work deals with the incestuous and ultimately forbidden love of siblings Stanislaw and Anna Oswiecim. Again, Strauss is the model (an unlikely mix of Don Juan, Der Rosenkavalier, and Symphonia Domestica), featuring a yielding, limpid melody ("Anna") juxtaposed with a more forceful high-spirited theme denoting Stanislaw. The music becomes more turbulent and tumultuous (their unrequited love?) only to culminate in the couple's ineluctable death, the clear highlight of the work. At 13:44, the music changes dramatically with the ominous entry of the bass clarinet, builds slowly into an impressive funeral march, and finally explodes into an awesome orchestral tutti at 18:42 that would do Siegfried justice. Chandos captures the BBC Philharmonic in all its glory (the brass section is really on its game) and thus provides a fitting farewell to Yan Pascal Tortelier as the orchestra's principal conductor.
After all this orchestral bombast, the gentler Lithuanian Rhapsody seems an odd way to end the disc. Remarkable only for the fact that it is the one tone poem by Karlowicz to be based on folksong, this coloristic work simply plods along, suffering from a dull main theme that can barely support its 17-minute length. Nonetheless, the rest of the music, however indebted it may be to other better-known composers, is thrilling, involving, and well-crafted. Complementing a two-disc complete set of tone poems from Dux (issued October, 2000) this disc is a highly worthwhile and sonically spectacular remnant of the late Romantic age from an unlikely source.
--Michael Liebowitz, ClassicsToday.com
Catalog Number: CHAN 9986
Composer: Mieczyslaw Karlowicz
Conductor: Yan Pascal Tortelier
Orchestra/Ensemble: BBC Philharmonic Orchestra