More on the missing concerto

More on the missing concerto


norman lebrecht

November 20, 2007

Two eminent violinists have been in touch concerning my recent assertion that the Mieczyslaw Karlowicz concerto has ‘not been played outside Poland in living memory’.
Tasmin Little, who made a lovely recording for Hyperion with the BBC Scottish four years ago, tells me she did her best to secure a public performance in several countries and actually got it into a BBC concert, only for some chicken-heart to change the programme for reasons that were never satisfactorily explained. Tasmin’s recording, by the way, is mysteriously omitted from the 2008 edition of the compendious Penguin Guide to classical records.
Meanwhile, from her home in Australia, up pops the much-loved Wanda Wilkomirska, whose recordings have become notably scarce. After a mid-night shuffle through her old concert diaries she informs me (via David Schoenbaum in Iowa) that she played Karlowicz ‘in Prague in 1953, in Basel in 1961, in Minneapolis in 1962, toured the US and Canada for five weeks with it in 1964, and repeated it in Frankfurt in 1970.’
Still within living memory, for sure, but I guess the fact that she was a Polish artist, touring mostly with a Polish orchestra, may have led lazy-minded violinists and artistic administrators to assume that Karlowicz was a national specialty, like pierogi, and not one of the most affecting concertos written for the instrument since the ineluctable Bruch.
Let’s hope that Nigel Kennedy’s ardent advocacy will open a few more minds.


  • Marko Velikonja says:

    The Tasmin Little story raises an interesting question about programming dynamics that I’ve never fully understood: WHO decides what concertos get played? Obviously, there are times when an orchestra is pursuing some kind of theme and wants to do a particular piece – and then looks for a soloist to do it. But other times the first priority is presumably getting the soloist – in which case you’d think the player would have a fair bit of leverage about what to play. And the bigger the name, the more clout.
    I don’t mean to single him out, but several years ago Joshua Bell performed and recorded Nicholas Maw’s concerto (written for him), then said he didn’t plan to play it any more. The reason seemed to be less that he didn’t like the piece than that he didn’t figure to be asked to do it often enough to keep it in shape, and it wasn’t worth the time to relearn it for an occasional engagement. I would think that a soloist of his stature is in such demand that he’d have no trouble getting orchestras to agree to do any piece he wants. But perhaps I’m wrong.

  • ariel says:

    Bell has little to do with music ,except saw away on the violin,and keep a sharp eye on the box office ,as for his artistry the subway
    stint and its’ response tells us a lot.