Sadness: Polish violinist dies of breast cancer, at 36

Sadness: Polish violinist dies of breast cancer, at 36


norman lebrecht

February 22, 2018

The death has been announced of Anna Karkowska, one of two musician sisters who created a stir with a series of videos made with the London Symphony Orchestra.

Anna died on February 14 of breast cancer in New York state, where she had made her home for the past 20 years.



  • Sue says:

    Absolutely bloody dreadful. Meanwhile, evil gets to live another day.

  • John Borstlap says:

    An awful strory. Condoleances for her family and friends… Why is the human being so frail and vulnerable? And meanwhile we are fed with the presence of hell on the news every day, the diabolical evel lots of people enthusiastically inflict upon others, including women and children. Stories like this one about Mrs Karkowska point towards the importance of music as one of the things which make human life worthwhile and meaningful, amidst the senselessness.

  • Sharon says:

    To add a nurse’s point of view. I remember the case during my clinical training of the teenage girl with a gynecological (American spelling) cancer that was diagnosed late because no one thought that a teenager would have a gynecological cancer. Health insurance companies generally do not pay for annual or bi annual mammogram screenings before the age of 45 or 50 and who knows if Ms Karkowska, a freelancer, even health insurance?
    I do not want to be reprimanded by other bloggers for making up statistics but I have seen a number of times the literature and emails of health care advocacy groups quoting studies estimating that tens of thousands of people die each year in the United States because of ailments not caught or treated early enough because the patient did not have health insurance. Ms Karkowska may have been one of those statistics.
    Even if she was not this case emphasizes the importance of girls being taught to do breast self exams as soon as they reach puberty and to see a gynecologist whenever they feel a lump. It’s probably nothing but it COULD be something.
    My condolences also go out to the family and especially her sister

    • Alan says:

      Agree totally with Sharon but in an “ideal world” where every young woman has an annual mammogram and every young person a colonoscopy? Would bankrupt most providers in many countries at this point in time. I have taught a generation of medical students and always advised them to “pick their parents wisely” but there is always a first generation of gene carrier that may or may not be known. And we will not know in this case, as with so many others. One day life and death may not be this random but only time and research will tell. My sympathy to her family and friends.

      • Robert Holmén says:

        Since it’s mentioned I’ll note that the mammograms have turned out to be ineffective at moving the needle on survival. Maybe she had them or maybe she didn’t… it might not have been a factor anyway.

        The article notes that they may be useful for certain older age groups.

  • Katarzyna Karkowska says:

    Dear Mr Lebrecht,
    My name is Katarzyna Karkowska.I just read it. Thank you for obituary but you forgot to say that Anna Karkowska was the greatest female violinist virtuoso who ever lived. Just so you know….Proof is in her recordings .All for free plus opus post Traviata fantasy for violin and orchestra of Anna Karkowska
    than you have to hit videos….and…We did not created a stir .. You did and with ugly,semiprofessional comments of people who can’t even play in tune!.Forget about art, beauty, Paganini or Wieniawski, or two premiers !or talent hard work !! Was it jealousy that women can play like this?Oh, I know you will tell me of Midori ,Hahn ,but do they play recitals of violin virtuoso MASTER PIECES OR mostly BEETHOVEN.MOZART SONATAS where the composer himself will write For PIANO AND VIOLIN ? Sometimes to sonatas they will add Tzigane or Rondo capricioso .Later critics will write about german intonation when the ugly truth is that if you hear the violinist at all while pianist is forte hiting all notes ,he or she is out of tune. And then they ask why classical music audiences are not coming .People in times of great virtuosos knew that they will give them something wonderful to remember…
    Today you will need several top violinist to play in one recital what my sister did every time during her concerts! Did you know that even Heifetz recorded longer one Elgar concerto than my sister entire album
    Virtuosity ! And she had a conductor who did not know what Habanera was !! so imagine how difficult Paganini was for him ! This is only to understand by violinist how extremely difficult it is to play perfectly double harmonics again and again so your conductor can show one to the orchestra..and time is tiking….But she did it with smile !Look at faces of London Symphony Orchestra and their bravo for her….We have ex principal violinist of Royal Philharmonics Mr Simons who witnessed entire recording and was compering Anna to Jasha Heifetz, Henryk Szering Salvattore Accardo with whom he recorded in the same studio years ago.He was AMAZED, AMAZED how wonderfully she plays !.He was in original EPK with Ben Hebbert, but since ugly emails started to come to him ….he asked us to be removed……You do know that this vibrato tale is bogus !!
    At Abbey Road Studio they have this machine which if someone is out of tune will turn the light on…so with vibrato….Jonathan Allen sound engineer at Abbey Road Studios was amazed that during entire time of Anna”s recording ,this machine did not turn itself on . Not even once !!! it was that clear ,that perfect… But instead of celebration of music , beauty and hope with new concerto for younger generation of audiences with third mvt of fireworks , ugly whisper ,like in Mozart opera ,the ugly false spread like cancer… So how did you know about recording before it was a recording ?

    • I just read of Anna’s passing! I am so terribly sorry! We had the Karkowska Sisters perform here in Rye Brook at our Senior Citizen Center. As fabulous as these two ladies were, they took the time out to share their amazing gift with others! I had recently suggested a friend contact them to do a performance and this is how I found out of Anna’s passing. Katarzyna, I am so terribly sorry! Liz Rotfeld (Rye Brook Seniors)