Hyperion Records

Violin Concerto in A major, Op 8
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The appearance of the Violin Concerto in 1902 marks a turning point in Karlowicz’s creativity, with his preceding output, the symphony included, being considered as ‘student’ works. During the spring of 1902 Karlowicz had approached his former violin teacher, Barcewicz, asking if he would take part in his forthcoming Berlin debut concert in March 1903, although at that time he had not yet actually written the concerto. The invitation, however, was duly accepted and the work was completed in December 1902, with a dedication to Barcewicz.

The Violin Concerto follows tradition in its three-movement format, yet it reflects the composer’s newly acquired confidence. Tchaikovsky’s influence predominates, and is obvious from the very beginning with its suggestion of the opening bars of the Russian’s famous B flat minor Piano Concerto (albeit here with the motif in reverse). After the short opening statement from the orchestra the soloist boldly presents the main theme, unaccompanied, which is subsequently taken up by the orchestra, before the appearance of the second subject, contrasting in its lyrical simplicity. As one might expect, Karlowicz makes considerable demands of the soloist as he exploits the instrument’s full potential, but as with Moszkowski’s concerto the required virtuosity never seems superfluous, even in the cadenza, which he places before the recapitulation.

The second movement Romanza, which follows without a break, is in ternary form and is characterized by a gentle contemplative lyricism, which then makes way for the lead up to the more agitated central climax, before an almost ethereal calm is restored. The finale—Vivace assai—follows the classic rondo form but almost could qualify as a scherzo, such is the lightness in texture of the soloist’s fleeting passagework, complemented by a corresponding delicate subtlety in the orchestration. It is the second counter-theme that here provides a contrasting lyrical episode before the return of the movement’s opening material leads us into the coda. Here the first movement’s main theme is momentarily reintroduced before a final flourish brings about an affirmative conclusion.

from notes by Martin Eastick © 2004

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