Be very afraid: The Karkowskas are back

Be very afraid: The Karkowskas are back


norman lebrecht

August 12, 2015

Four years ago, two Polish sisters terrified the music world by challenging established perceptions of tonality.

A video of their LSO recording sessions at Abbey Road went up on Youtube – and down again when large numbers of musicians pointed out extreme discrepancies between their sense of pitch and that of the enterprising sisters.

What remains from those sessions is this (comments have apparently been disabled):

anna karkowska


Well, clutch your ears dear readers, the sisters are back – and they’re making a new recording in the heart of New York. Health warning: this website takes no responsibility for apoplexy that may arise from watching the next video.

h/t: Ariane Todes



  • Society Gone Mad says:

    It is very sad to see great British orchestras having to perform such crap to survive. Will British governments ever start supporting and democratising the arts? Or do they intend to transform Britain into a desert?

    If British orchestras had substantial state funding (not 100% of course), instead of wasting precious time on such horrific and most embarrassing projects, they would be learning new pieces including contemporary works.

    Just have a look at London’s concert programming and see how repetitive it is and how reliant on repertoire and lollipops it is (although conservative, incompetent programmers are also to blame for this). It’s a real shame!

    • Doug says:

      100% state funding, you mean like they did in the Soviet Union? In my history book (I know, I know, to you it’s herstory) artists tried desperately to leave the Soviet Union for places like the UK. But those were different times. Today, promoting communism is très chic.

      • Tom Hartley says:

        Funding for the arts takes us down that slippery slope to secret police and the gulags. Why not go all the way, Doug, and remind us that Hitler liked classical music? Of course, Hitler was anti-communist, so maybe he’s not so bad in your book.

        • John Borstlap says:

          It is perfectly legitimate for governments to make sure the cultural institutions have a stable financial basis, because they are an important part of national identity and they provide cultural experiences for everybody who takes the trouble to get to know them. Providing a basis does not mean that governments get involved in what is been played there or by whom or how. A civilized nation takes care of a working infra structure, health systems, police, garbage collecting, street lights, and cultural institutions: museums, orchestras, concert halls, opera houses with thier companies, ballet companies. Because culture should not be a mere hobby for the rich.

      • SOCIETY GONE MAD says:

        Please read carefully : I ‘did not’ say that orchestras should be funded 100%.

        The situation in the UK is that orchestras have ended up playing to survive to the extent that many of them use concerts as rehearsals. Any trained ear will notice that.

    • Daniel Frosch says:

      In his famous autobiography Gregor Piatigorsky described concerts, that were led by rich amateurs in the first half of 20th century. His orchestra was Berlin Philharmonic. So this is not a modern problem.

  • Keepingitreal says:

    Career advise to ego-driven classical musicians:

    Marry a rich gas-money Russian

    So, norman – when Ray Chen makes an idiot of himself, and Igudesman & Joo mocks Mozart, fart in concert hall, play ‘Crossover”, etc – you call it “outreach”, but when these girls do basically the same, its apoplexy?

    Standards…so hard to stay consistent these days….

    • Ricardo says:

      Hello! Igudesman and Joo are great musicians, and they have the enviable ability of making people laugh. What this lady does is unlistenable, defin itely not funny and an insult to the great tradition of violin playing. Did someone pay that guy in the video to compare her with Heifetz? I am rarely shocked, but these two videos managed to shock me.

  • John Borstlap says:

    The Hoffmann piece combines 19C stuff with quarter tones in the solo part…. interesting.

    I did not know that Chopin also employed quarter tones…. also interesting.

  • Milka says:

    It all depends on whose musical ox is being gored ….
    At least they are not “playing ” the awful Butterfly violin concerto
    One could add to the list Lang Lang, Dudamel , Domingo, on and on . plus
    every violinist who has ever played the dreadful violin solo from Schindler’s list.

  • Andy Lim says:

    This is incredible! Norman, this post made my day!
    Never heard such a ”vibrato”, obviously Ben Hebbert thinks it is similar to Heifetz. Any good otolaryngologist to recommend to Ben??
    Musical conductor and composer with great knowledge for violin composin. Good actors too.(hope for them)

  • Andy Lim says:
    I am now a big fan! The singing saw. I will need some time for going through You Tube gems from Anna. Highly recommended!

  • Andy Lim says:

    Another fan of her unique sound:

  • Jon says:

    Have you realized both sisters are wearing the same hat in the NY street video? I wonder if that hat is controlling their brains or something and that’s why they both actually believe in what they’re doing…

    Seriously, who are these two sisters and why are they producing CDs in 2015? Anna is an awful violinist, she plays a conventional repertoire and she isn’t particularly hot… what’s the target market here?

  • John Borstlap says:

    I stil find THIS really much better:

  • muslit says:

    the composer is hot

  • Plush says:

    Very sorry to report that Anna Karkowska died on February 14, 2018