The Symphony Orchestra of The Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic in Białystok – Elgar, Karłowicz & Schumann

Symphonic Prelude: Polonia, Op.74
Mieczyslaw Karłowicz
Eternal Songs, Op.10
Violin Concerto in A, Op.8
Symphony No.4 in D minor, Op.120 [original 1841 version]

Charles Siem (violin)

The Symphony Orchestra of The Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic in Białystok
Marcin Nałeçz–Niesiołowski

Reviewed by: Bob Briggs

Reviewed: 11 December, 2009
Venue: Cadogan Hall, London

As the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra did recently in a Cadogan Hall concert, a piece by Elgar opened the programme, then it was In the South, this time Polonia was chosen, Elgar’s response to the First War effort, more a rhapsody on folk themes than a symphonic prelude – indeed, there’s nothing symphonic about it. This was a good performance, the bassoonists enjoying themselves.

Mieczyslaw Karłowicz was one of the rising stars of Polish music when he died in an avalanche, aged 33. There are a mere handful of works, only 14 opus numbers to his complete output, which was represented on Muza LPs and now on Chandos CDs yet the time is still to come for him to be fully accepted into the fold. On the strength of these two performances it can’t be far away. Eternal Songs (1906) is a three-movement work, written in the shadow of Scriabin, with rich orchestration, big tunes and a slight impressionistic tinge; strong, colourful and interesting stuff.

Although written a couple of years earlier, the Violin Concerto seems much more like an apprentice work. Charles Siem obviously believes in the piece and he revelled in it, throwing off the difficulties with aplomb. Marcin Nałeçz–Niesiołowski and his orchestra were perfectly at home and treated the music like an old friend, never allowing the biggest climaxes to degenerate into noise, nor to overpower the soloist.

Schumann’s Fourth Symphony, in its original version, brought the evening to an exciting and very satisfactory conclusion. Perhaps, on occasion, Nałeçz–Niesiołowski chose over-fast tempos but the orchestra had no problems and brought off his interpretation with aplomb, the finale was especially thrilling.

As an encore was an excerpt from Stanisław Moniuszko’s opera “Halka” (1847/1858), a fitting conclusion to an excellent concert.

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