Mieczysław Karłowicz

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Mieczysław Karłowicz

Mieczysław Karłowicz (born 11 December 1876 in Wiszniewo; † 8 February 1909 in the High Tatra Mountains) was a Polish composer.


Mieczysław Karłowicz spent the first six years of his life on his family’s estate in Wiszniewo, Poland, now Belarus. In 1882 the family sold their property and moved first to Heidelberg, then via Prague to Dresden, and finally settled in Warsaw. Already during the family’s stay abroad, the young Karłowicz came into contact with the music of composers such as Georges Bizet and Johannes Brahms. In Dresden, he began violin lessons at the age of seven. Later he studied violin and composition at the Warsaw Academy of Music, then in Berlin from 1895.

He wrote his first works while studying in Berlin. Between 1895 and 1896 alone, he wrote 22 symphonic songs; the Serenade for String Orchestra op. 2 also dates from Karłowicz’s Berlin period. It was premiered by his teacher Heinrich Urban and the Berlin Philharmonic.[1] In 1901 he returned to Warsaw and finished his studies. In 1903 he founded a string orchestra in Warsaw.

In 1906 Karłowicz moved to Zakopane and discovered his second passion besides music: mountaineering and skiing. He joined the Polish Tatra Society and published reports of his mountain trips in magazines. The landscape of the Tatras was then a refuge for wounded national feelings; Polish artists transfigured it into a mystical symbol of resistance to foreign rule. The literary figures of Young Poland settled here, as did the group of young composers of the same name that had been founded in Berlin in 1905 and whose most notable representative was Karol Szymanowski.[2]

In 1909, Mieczysław Karłowicz was killed in an avalanche accident while skiing alone.


Mieczysław Karłowicz did not leave behind an extensive but remarkable oeuvre, which is an integral part of the national musical tradition in Poland but is little known beyond its borders. Among them are 23 songs for one voice and pianoforte, a four-movement symphony in E minor with the epithet “Rebirth”, a string serenade and an expressive violin concerto in A major, as well as his opus magnum – six symphonic poems, op. 9-14. The orchestral works, which were written in Berlin from the age of 19, are partly still in the style of the symphonic mainstream of the turn of the century, but are of solid craftsmanship. The later compositions, on the other hand, are the expression of a sensitive artistic self that creates its world from within and is capable of great visions.[2]


  1. Volker Michael:Festival Chopin and his Europe.Deutschlandfunk Kultur, 31 August 2018, accessed 24 September 2018.
  2. a b Nyffeler, Max: Sudden gestures of renunciation and contemplation. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung No. 78, 2 April 2011, page 38.


  • Luca Sala: European Fin-de-siècle and Polish Modernism. The Music of Mieczysław Karłowicz. Ut Orpheus Edizioni, Bologna 2010.
  • Christophe Jezewski, Le Retour d’un génie. Pour le centenaire de Mieczysław Karłowicz, in “Europe”, n°961, Paris, May 2009
  • Janusz Mechanisz, Mieczyslaw Karlowicz, Polihymnia 2009.
  • Henryk Anders: Mieczysław Karłowicz. Życie i dokonania. ABOS, Poznań 1998.
  • Alistair Wightman, Karłowicz, Young Poland and the Musical Fin-de-siècle, Aldershot, Ashgate, 1996 ; Polish translation: Ewa Gabryś, Karłowicz . Młoda Polska i muzyczny fin de siècle, Kraków, PWM, 1996 (Monografie popularne).
  • Leszek Polony, Poetyka muzyczna Mieczysława Karłowicza, Cracow, PWM, 1986.
  • Paul-Gilbert Langevin, Musiciens d’Europe, la Revue Musicale, Editions Richard Masse, Paris, 1986.
  • Elżbieta Dziębowska, éd. Z życia i twórczości Mieczysława Karłowicza, Cracow, PWM, 1970.

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