Saturday, April 02, 2011

Let's hear it for Karlowicz and co...

I was pleased to turn to my music column in this month's Standpoint and find it has been illustrated with a picture of Mieczyslaw Karlowicz. He was a deeply romantic and humungously gifted Pole who was killed at the age of 32 in an accident in the Tatra Mountains. You might have heard of him from two fabulous recordings of his exquisite, romantic, memorable, singable, adorable Violin Concerto, made respectively by today's two leading British violinists, Nigel Kennedy and Tasmin Little. But in a concert hall?...

This piece ought to be standard repertoire and yet live performances still experience the constant domination of Brahms, Beethoven and Bruch. Great music, but after however many decades it is, I do know by ear every single note of them. It can start to feel like reading a very, very good novel for the 1000th time. Yes, for while you're happy noticing new nuances and trying out new interpretations for size, but after this many goes, something not so much in the brain as in the soul can sometimes start to atrophy. Here is the article, complete with the suggestion that A Very Good Orchestra could do worse than hand over two or three concerts to Hyperion Records to programme...

Meanwhile I've just this morning received a communication from the English Music Festival - not a magazine, but a gazette, if you please. Norman had a go at these guys a few weeks back for being too, well, English. Assuming most music lovers are more interested in what a composer wrote than in what they personally happen to believe he stood for, that's a pity. We need to hear more of all the immigrant composers Norman mentioned. We also need to hear more York Bowen, whose music is fabulous. We need to hear more of a heck of a lot of stuff beyond the same-old same old. The EMF is one of scandalously few who dare to programme some.

As for Holst, Tony Palmer has just made a film about him that is being televised at the Easter weekend. I'm assured it will reveal the composer of The Planets to be anything but a tub-thumping patriot... I'm not exactly a tub-thumping patriot myself, but I don't see why the likes of Bowen shouldn't have a chance to be heard - and truly he's not getting that chance in many other outlets. Danny Driver - another excellent pianist from, you guessed it, Hyperion Records' stable - is playing some of his piano music in this year's EMF.

Here is Nigel playing and talking about that Polish Spirit album, with extracts of Mlynarski and Karlowicz and some thoughts on their neglect. But if the efforts of Nigel and Tasmin between them are not enough to resurrect Karlowicz's concerto to the mainstream, then what on earth will be? Korngold's has made it, so it can be done... We "just" need promoters to take some risks now and then.