A twist of fate inextricably linked Karłowicz’s last, unfinished symphonic poem with his own tragic death in an avalanche at the foot of Mały Kościelec in 1909. It was the manuscript for Episode at a Masquerade that was found on the composer’s desk in his Lutnia villa in Zakopane shortly after the dramatic incident. The work was completed and orchestrated by Karłowicz’s close friend Grzegorz Fitelberg, a fervent advocate of the young composer’s outstanding talent. This composition, couched in the scheme of a sonata allegro, displays the composer’s wonderful musical imagination, mastery of development work and perfect deployment of a large orchestra.
Carl Orff’s cantata Carmina Burana, from 1936, is sometimes described as the most ‘overused’ work in the history of music. It is impossible to count the contexts (mainly in film and advertising) into which this exceptionally suggestive and characteristic composition has been woven. So how did Orff’s setting of poetry by thirteenth-century goliards come to be so inspiring and appealing? Well, the large performance apparatus, with a mighty chorus and expanded percussion, the archaicisms and motoric rhythms, as well as the texts, at times close in style to morality plays, laden with sarcastic, iconoclastic humour and eroticism that is far from subtle, have all contributed to the enduring success – unprecedented in the history of music – of Orff’s work.