Karłowicz was born in Vishneva (now part of Belarus) into a noble family, being part of the Clan of Ostoja. His father Jan was a Polish linguist, lexicographer and musician. As a child he studied the violin, for which instrument he later wrote his only concerto.
Karłowicz’s music is of a late Romantic character. He was great admirer of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky whose Symphony No. 6 he praised. Tchaikovsky’s influence can be heard in Karłowicz’s earlier works, most notably the E minor symphony and the violin concerto. Like most of the late Romantics he also fell under the considerable influence of Richard Wagner, especially with Tristan und Isolde. Nevertheless he managed to develop an original musical language expressed in harmony and orchestration, the latter of which he mastered like few other composers and wrote some of the most colourful orchestral music ever found.
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