Welcome to the world of Polish heritage music!
Karol Macie Szymanowski
(Tymoszówka, Ukraine, 3 October 1882 – 28 March 1937, Lausanne, Switzerland) was a Polish composer and pianist.
Szymanowski was influenced by the music of Richard Wagner, Richard Strauss, Max Reger, Alexander Scriabin and the impressionism of Claude Debussy, and Maurice Ravel. He also drew much influence from his countryman Chopin and from Polish folk music. Like Chopin he wrote a number of mazurkas for piano. He was specifically influenced by folk music from the Polish Highlands [Górale], which he discovered in Zakopane, in the southern Tatra highlands, even writing in an article entitled About Górale Music: "My discovery of the essential beauty of Górale (Polish Highlander) music, dance and architecture is a very personal one; much of this beauty I have absorbed into my innermost soul." (p. 97) According to Jim Samson* (1977, p. 200), it is "played on two fiddles and a string bass," and, "has uniquely 'exotic' characteristics, highly dissonant and with fascinating heterophonic effects." Carefully digesting all these elements, eventually Szymanowski developed a highly individual rhapsodic style and a unique harmonic world of his own.
* Jim Samson (1977). Music in Transition: A Study of Tonal Expansion and Atonality, 1900–1920. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-02193-9.
Preludes No. 5 & 6, Op. 1
Szymanowski Sinfonia Concertante
3rd mvt Peter Jablonski piano
Karol Macie Szymanowski
(1882 – 1937)
It is usual to divide Szymanowski's music into three periods:
- Romantic - heavily influenced by Chopin, but also Wagner, Richard Strauss, Brahms, and Reger
- Impressionistic - absorbing lots of exotic and eastern influences
- Nationalistic - bringing in Polish folk elements, particularly highlander (górale) music of the Tatra Mountain region.
Fascinated by the highlander folk music of the Tatra Mountains, Szymanowski decided to compose the ''Harnasie'' ballet, which is regarded as the largest classical music work based on the highlander music motifs. Szymanowski expressed his enthusiasm for the Polish Highlander folk music also in one of his articles saying that: "My discovery of the essential beauty of Górale (Polish Highlander) music, dance and architecture is a very personal one; much of this beauty I have absorbed into my innermost soul." He felt at home here surrounded by those he loved: the mountains, friends and the highlanders. His home was visited by such outstanding personalities as Artur Rubinstein, one of the greatest piano virtuosos of the 20th century, Serge Lifar, one of the greatest 20th century male ballet dancers, and Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz, famous Polish poet. Szymanowski actively and willingly participated in the life of Zakopane – not only by giving concerts but coming to the highlander folk parties and receptions. When in 1935 Szymanowski left Zakopane and went on a European tour, he hoped to come back here. However, he did not. Two years later he died from tuberculosis in a sanatorium in Lausanne, Switzerland. The Association named after Karol Szymanowski is seated at the Atma Villa and is responsible for promoting his music. Of a variety of music events held two are worth mentioning: Karol Szymanowski's Music Days (the beginning of July) and concerts held at the composer's death anniversary (in March). Thus, it is a good idea to visit Zakopane at the times these events are held to get familiar with Szymanowski's music works.
Zakopane in the Tatra Mountains of Southern Poland