Szymanowski, Karol (Maciej)

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Szymanowski, Karol (Maciej)

Szymanowski, Karol (Maciej), eminent Polish composer; b. Timoshovka, Ukraine, Oct. 6, 1882; d. Lausanne, March 28, 1937. The son of a cultured landowner, he grew up in a musical environment. He began to play the piano and compose very early in life. His first teacher was Gustav Neuhaus in Elizavetgrad; in 1901 he went to Warsaw, where he studied harmony with Zawirski and counterpoint and composition with Noskowski until 1904. With Fitelberg, Rózycki, and Szeluto, he founded the Young Polish Composer’s Publishing Co. in Berlin, which was patronized by Prince Wladyslaw Lubomirski; the composers also became known as Young Poland in Music, publishing new works and sponsoring performances for some 6 years. Among the works the group publ. was Szymanowski’s op.l, 9 Piano Preludes (1906). He was greatly influenced by German Romanticism, and his first major orch. works reveal the impact of Wagner and Strauss. His first Sym. was premiered in Warsaw on March 26, 1909; however, he was dissatisfied with the score, and withdrew it from further performance. In 1911 he completed his second Sym., which demonstrated a stylistic change from German dominance to Russian influences, paralleling the harmonic evolution of Scriabin; it was played for the first time in Warsaw on April 7, 1911. After a Viennese sojourn (1911-12) and a trip to North Africa (1914), he lived from 1914 to 1917 in Timoshovka, where he wrote his third Sym.; he appeared in concert with the violinist Paul Kochañski in Moscow and St. Petersburg, giving first performances of his violin works; it was for Kochañski that he composed his violin triptych, Mythes (La Fontaine d’Aréthuse in this cycle is one of his best-known compositions). About this time, his music underwent a new change in style, veering toward French Impressionism. During the Russian Revolution of 1917, the family estate at Timoshovka was ruined, and Szymanowski lost most of his possessions. From 1917 to 1919 he lived in Elizavetgrad, where he continued to compose industriously, despite the turmoil of the Civil War. After a brief stay in Bydgoszcz, he went to Warsaw in 1920. In 1920-21 he toured the U.S. in concerts with Kochañski and Rubinstein. Returning to Warsaw, he gradually established himself as one of Poland’s most important composers. His international renown also was considerable; his works were often performed in Europe, and figured at festivals of the ISCM. He was director of the Warsaw Cons. (1927-29) and reorganized the system of teaching along more liberal lines; was rector of its successor, the Warsaw Academy of Music (1930-32). His Stabat Mater (1925-26) produced a profound impression, and his ballet-pantomime Harnasie (1923-31), based on the life and music of the Tatra mountain dwellers, demonstrated his ability to treat national subjects in an original and highly effective manner. In 1932 he appeared as soloist in the first performance of his fourth Sym., Symphonie concertante for Piano and Orch., at Poznań, and repeated his performances in Paris, London, and Brussels. In April 1936, greatly weakened in health by chronic tuberculosis, he attended a performance of his Harnasie at the Paris Opéra. He spent his last days in a sanatorium in Lausanne. Szymanowski developed into a national composer whose music acquired universal significance.


dramatic: Loteria na mezós (The Lottery for Men), operetta (1908-09; not perf.); Hagith, op.25, opera (1913; Warsaw, May 13, 1922); Mandragora, op.43, pantomime (Warsaw, June 15, 1920); Król Roger (King Roger), op.46, opera (1918-24; Warsaw, June 19, 1926); Kniaź Patiomkin (Prince Potemkin), op.51, incidental music to T. Micínski’s play (Warsaw, March 6, 1925); Harnasie, op.55, ballet-pantomime (1923-31; Prague, May 11, 1935).ORCH.: Salome for Soprano and Orch., op.6 (c. 1907; reorchestrated 1912); Concert Overture, op.12 (1904-05; Warsaw, Feb. 6, 1906; reorchestrated 1912-13); 4 syms.: No. 1, op.15 (1906-07; Warsaw, March 26, 1909), No. 2, op.19 (1909-10; Warsaw, April 7, 1911; reorchestrated with the collaboration of G. Fitelberg, 1936; rev. version by S. Skrowac-zewski, Minneapolis, Oct. 14, 1967), No. 3, Pieśń o nocy (Song of the Night) for Tenor, Soprano, Chorus, and Orch., op.27 (1914-16; London, Nov. 24, 1921), and No. 4, Symphonie concertante for Piano and Orch., op.60 (Poznan, Oct. 9, 1932, composer soloist); Penthesilea for Soprano and Orch., op.18 (1908; Warsaw, March 18, 1910; reorchestrated 1912); Pieśni milosne Hafiza (Love Songs of Hafiz) for Voice and Orch., op.26 (1914; Paris, June 23, 1925; arranged from op. 24, 1911); Pieśni ksieżnicki z baśni (Songs of a Fairy-Tale Princess) for Voice and Orch., op.31 (Warsaw, April 7, 1933; arranged from the songs of 1915); 2 violin concertos: No. 1, op.35 (1916; Warsaw, Nov. 1, 1922) and No. 2, op.61 (Warsaw, Oct. 6, 1933); Demeter for Alto, Women’s Chorus, and Orch., op.37b (1917; reorchestrated 1924; Warsaw, April 17, 1931); Agave for Alto, Women’s Chorus, and Orch., op.39 (1917); Pieśni muezina szalonego (Songs of the Infatuated Muezzin) for Voice and Orch., op.42 (1934; arranged from the songs of 1918); Slopiewnie for Voice and Orch., op.46b (1928; arranged from the version for Voice and Piano of 1921); Stabat Mater for Soprano, Alto, Baritone, Chorus, and Orch., op.53 (1925-26; Warsaw, Jan. 11, 1929); Veni Creator for Soprano, Chorus, Orch., and Organ, op.57 (Warsaw, Nov. 7, 1930); Litania do Marii Panny (Litany to the Virgin Mary) for Soprano, Women’s Chorus, and Orch., op.59 (1930-33; Warsaw, Oct. 13, 1933). CHAMBER: Violin Sonata, op.9 (1904; Warsaw, April 19, 1909); Piano Trio, op.16 (1907; destroyed); Romance for Violin and Piano, op.23 (1910; Warsaw, April 8, 1913); Nocturne and Tarantella for Violin and Piano, op.28 (1915); Mity (Myths) for Violin and Piano, op.30 (1915); 2 string quartets: No. 1, op.37 (1917; Warsaw, April 1924) and No. 2, op.56 (1927; Paris, 1929); 3 Paganini Caprices for Violin and Piano, op.40 (Elizavetgrad, April 25, 1918); Kolysanka (Lullaby): La Berceuse d’Aïtacho Enia for Violin and Piano, op.52 (1925). Piano: 9 Preludes, op.l (1900); Variations, op.3 (1903); 4 Studies, op.4 (1902); 3 sonatas: No. 1, op.8 (1904; Warsaw, April 19, 1907), No. 2, op.21 (Berlin, Dec. 1, 1911), and No. 3, op.36 (1917); Wariacje na polski temat ludowy (Variations on a Polish Theme), op.10 (1904; Warsaw, Feb. 6, 1906); Fantasy, op.14 (1905; Warsaw, Feb. 9, 1906); Prelude and Fugue (1905-09); Metopy (Metopes), op.29 (1915); 12 Studies, op.33 (1916); Maski (Masques), op.34 (St. Petersburg, Oct. 12, 1916); 20 Mazurkas, op.50 (1924-25); Valse romantique (1925); 4 Polish Dances (1926); 2 Mazurkas, op.62 (1933-34; London, Nov. 1934). VOCAL: About 100 songs.


Wychowawcza rola kultury muzycznej w spolec-zenstwie (The Educational Role of Musical Culture in Society; Warsaw, 1931); T. Bronowicz-Chylińska, ed., Z pism (From the Writings; Kraków, 1958; selected essays).


Z. Jachimecki, K. S.: Zarys dotychczasowej twórczości (K. S.: An Outline of His Output; Kraków, 1927); S. Gola-chowski, K. S.(Warsaw, 1948; second ed., 1956); S. Lobacze-wska, K. S.: Zycie i twórczośc (1882-1937) (K. S.: Life and Work [1882-1937]; Kraków, 1950); T. Bronowicz- Chylińska, ed., S. K.: Z listow (S. K.: From the Letters; Kraków, 1957); J. Chomiński, Studia nad twórczóscia K.a S.ego (Kraków, 1969); A. Wightman, The Music of K. S.(diss., Univ. of York, 1972); J. Samson, The Music of S.(London, 1980); C. Palmer, S.(London, 1983); M. Bristiger et al., eds., K. S. in seiner Zeit (Munich, 1984); Z. Sierpiński, ed., and E. Harris, tr., K. S.: An Anthology (Warsaw, 1986); T. Chylińska, K. Z.: His Life and Works (Los Angeles, 1993); S. Downes, S. as Post-Wagnerian: The Love Songs of Hafiz, op.24 (N.Y., 1994); T. Zieliński, S.: Liryka i ekstaza (Kraków, 1997); A. Wightman, K. S.: His Life and Work (Brookfield, Vt, 1999).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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Szymanowski, Karol (Maciej)

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