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by Jan Jakub Bokun

Mieczyslaw Karlowicz, ca. 1903.

(b. 1876, Wiszniewo - d. 1909, Tatra Mountains)

Biography List of Works List of Opus Numbers Bibliography


Polish composer, conductor, writer, photographer, and mountain climber Mieczys豉w Kar這wicz was born in Wiszniewo on December 11, 1876. He died at the young age of 32 on an expedition in the Tatra Mountains when he was buried by a sudden avalanche on February 8, 1909. In his youth, Kar這wicz spent some time travelling through Europe (Heilderberg, Prague, Dresden) and in 1887, his family settled in Warsaw where he studied violin with Jan Jankowski and Stanis豉w Barcewicz. After a few years, poor health (both mental and physical) forced him to give up the violin, but he quickly began studying composition with Gustaw Roguski in Warsaw (1894) and later with Heinrich Urban in Berlin (1895-1901). His early compositions include short piano pieces, the Serenade op. 2 for string orchestra," Muzyka do bia貫j go陰bki" ("Music to the White Dove") Op.6 for full orchestra, and various songs which were published in two collections as Op. 1 and Op. 3.

After completing his studies, Kar這wicz returned to Warsaw where he was a board member and later director of the Polish Music Society. He also supported the society financially and bequeathed to it his entire estate. In 1907, frustrated with the atmosphere in the Warsaw musical life, he settled in Zakopane at the foot of the Tatras. There his physical condition began to improve, and there he also completed his greatest symphonic poems: "Stanis豉w i Anna O鈍i璚imowie," "Smutna opowiesc" (The Sorrowful Tale). The symphonic poem "Epizod na maskaradzie" (Episode at a Masquerade) was begun here as well, yet was completed posthumously by Grzegorz Fitelberg. His other works include the symphony "Odrodzenie" (Revival) and a violin concerto, both written in 1902, the symphonic poems "Powracajace fale" (Returning Waves), "Odwieczne pie郾i" (Eternal Songs) and finally "Rapsodia litewska" (Lithuanian Rhapsody) which was written between 1904 and 1906.

Kar這wicz was the composer most representative of "Young Poland," the artistic movement based on the idea of a unification of modernistic tendencies and national tradition initiated by R騜ycki, Fitelberg, Szymanowski, and Szeluto. Although he himself did not belong to the initial group, he strongly supported it, and his work expressly reflected their ideals. His settings of poems by Kazimierz Tetmajer, one of the most eminent poets of Young Poland, are characterized by a melancholy and yearning lyricism which was stylistically typical of the Polish art of this movement. The programs of his symphonic poems also reflect the ideals of the group, namely: pantheism, expressive sorrowfulness, and Wagnerian symbols of love and death. It should also be mentioned that at some times Kar這wicz's work moved toward the philosophy of Nietzsche, and at other times, Schopenhauer.

His excellent techniques of orchestration derived from Strauss, Wagner, and Tchaikovsky. Nevertheless, his music, which is dominated by a mood of sadness, melancholy, and resignation, has a clearly individual character. His early output of symphonic poems and songs showed a great talent, which brought about hopes that he would develop into a major Polish composer--possibly of an even greater stature than Szymanowski. Unfortunately, his untimely death in the Tatra Mountains buried those hopes.

For more information about this composer you may visit another part of the site, i.e. PMRC Newsletter of December 1998 (vol. 4 no. 12), where Kar這wicz is described as the Composer of the Month.


Voice and Piano

Various songs Op.1, 3 & 4. Lyrics by: K. Tetmajer, A Asnyk, H. Heine, Z. Krasi雟ki, J. S這wacki, and others. (1897-98)

Orchestral works

Serenada na ork. smyczkow Op. 2 (1897)
Serenade for string orchestra.

Muzyka do bia貫j go陰bki Op. 6 (1899-1900)
Music to the White Dove, symphonic prologue and intermezzo for orchestra.

Symphonia e-moll Op. 7 Odrodzenie (1901-1902)
"Revival" Symphony in E-minor.

Koncert skrzypcowy A-dur Op. 8 (1902)
Violin Concerto in A-major.

Powracaj帷e fale, poemat symfoniczny Op. 9 (1903)
Returning Waves, symphonic poem for orchestra.

Odwieczne pie郾i, tryptyk symfoniczny Op. 10 (1904-1906)
Eternal Songs, symphonic poem for orchestra:
1. Song about eternal longing, 2. Song about love and death, 3. Song about the universe.

Rapsodia litewska, poemat symfoniczny Op. 11 (1906)
Lithuanian Rhapsody, symphonic poem for orchestra.

Stanis豉w i Anna O鈍i璚imowie Op. 12 (1906-1907)
symphonic poem for orchestra.

Smutna opowiesc Preludia do wieczno軼i, poemat symfoniczny Op. 13 (1908)
The Sorrowful Tale, symphonic poem for orchestra.

Epizod na maskaradzie poemat symfoniczny Op. 14 (1908)
Episode at a Masquerade, symphonic poem for orchestra; completed by Grzegorz Fitelberg.


Op. 1 songs (1897-1898)
Op. 2 Serenade for string orchestra (1997)
Op. 3 songs (1897-1898)
Op. 4 songs (1897-1898)
Op. 5 Prelude and Double Fugue for piano (1897-98)
Op. 6 Music to the White Dove (1899-1900) for orchestra
Op. 7 "Revival" [Odrodzenie] Symphony in E-minor (1901-1902)
Op. 8 Violin Concerto in A-major (1902)
Op. 9 Returning Waves (1903) for orchestra
Op. 10 Eternal Songs (1904-1906) for orchestra
Op. 11 Lithuanian Rhapsody (1906) for orchestra
Op. 12 Stanis豉w i Anna O鈍i璚imowie (1906-1907) for orchestra
Op. 13 The Sorrowful Tale (1908) for orchestra
Op. 14 Episode at a Masquerade (1908) for orchestra


  • Anders, H. "Pie郾i solowe Mieczys豉wa Kar這wicza," [The solo songs of Mieczys豉w Kar這wicz] Studia muzykologica (1955) p.292-415.

  • _______, ed. Mieczys豉w Kar這wicz w listach i wspomnieniach [Mieczys豉w Kar這wicz in letters and remembrances] (Krak闚, 1960).

  • Be透a, I. Mieczys豉w Kar這wicz (Moscow and Leningrad, 1951).

  • Chomik, I., H. Harley, and A. Sp霩. "Katalog r瘯opis闚 muzycznych Mieczys豉wa Kar這wicza w Bibliotece WTM," [Catalogue of Mieczys豉w Kar這wicz' musical manuscripts] Muzyka, 10 no. 3 (1965) 76.

  • Chybi雟ki, A. "Mieczys豉w Kar這wicz (1876-1909) preludia," Muzyka polska i (1934) 3.

  • _______. Mieczys豉w Kar這wicz (1876-1909) Kronika 篡cia artysty i taternika [Chronicle of the life of an artist and mountaineer] (Krak闚, 1949).

  • Dzi瑿owska, E. "Instrumentacja Kar這wicza a Czajkowskiego," Polskorosyjskie miscellanea muzyczne,ed. Z. Lissa, (Krak闚, 1967) p.209ff.

  • _______. "Mieczys豉w Kar這wicz jako krytyk muzyczny," [Mieczys豉w Kar這wicz as music critic] Studia Hieronymo Feicht septuagenario dedicata (Krak闚, 1967) p.425ff.

  • _______, ed. Z 篡cia i tw鏎czo軼i Mieczys豉wa Kar這wicza [From the life and works of Kar這wicz] (Krak闚, 1970).

  • K璚ki, F. Mieczys豉wa Kar這wicza: szkic monograficzny [Monographic Sketch] (Warsaw, 1934).

  • _______. A Catalogue of Musical Works M. Kar這wicza and Moniuszko, (Warsaw, 1936).

  • Liebeskind, M. "Utwory fortepianowe Mieczys豉wa Kar這wicza," [Piano Works of Mieczys豉w Kar這wicz Muzyka (1926) nos. 11-12, p.571.

  • Lissa, Z. "Kar這wicz, Mieczys豉w," Entry in Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart.

  • Marek, T. Poematy symfoniczne Mieczys豉wa Kar這wicza [Symphonic Poems of Mieczys豉w Kar這wicz] (Krak闚, 1959).

  • Wightman, A. Karlowicz, Young Poland and the Musical Fin-De-Siècle (Hampshire, 1996).

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    Edited and updated in April 1999 by Brian Harlan. Updated in February 2005.