Karol Szymanowski

Karol Szymanowski
Karol Szymanowski

Karol Maciej Szymanowski (October 6, 1882 - March 29, 1937) was a Polish composer and pianist.

Szymanowksi was born in Tymoszwka, in present-day Ukraine. He studied music privately with his father before going to Gustav Neuhaus' Elizawetgrad School of Music from 1892 and, from 1901, the State Conservatory in Warsaw, of which he was later director from 1926 until retiring in 1930. Musical opportunities in Poland were quite limited at the time, so he travelled widely throughout Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and the USA. These travels, especially those to the Mediterranean area, provided much inspiration to the composer. Fruits of these trips included not only musical works, but his novel Efebos (which was subsequently lost). He died in a sanatorium in Lausanne, Switzerland while suffering from tuberculosis.

Szymanowski was influenced by the music of Richard Strauss, Max Reger, Alexander Scriabin and the impressionism of Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel. He also drew much influence from his countryman Frederic Chopin and Polish folk music, and like Chopin he wrote a number of mazurkas for piano (the mazurka being a Polish folk dance). He was specifically influenced by gorale folk music, which he discovered in Zakopane in the southern Tatra highlands, even writing an article "About Gorale Music": "My discovery of the essential beauty of the gorale 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."

Among Szymanowski's better known orchestral works are four symphonies (No. 3, Song of the Night with choir and vocal soloists and No. 4, Symphonie Concertante, with solo piano) and two violin concertos. His stage works include the ballet Harnasie and the operas Hagith and Krl Roger. He wrote much piano music, including the four Etudes, Op. 4 (of which No. 3 may be his single most popular piece), many mazurkas and his Mtopes. Other works include the Three Myths for violin and piano, a number of songs (some on texts by James Joyce) and his Stabat Mater. According to Samson (p.131), "Szymanowski adopted no thorough-going alternatives to tonal organization...the harmonic tensions and relaxations and the melodic phraseology have clear origins in tonal procedure, but...an underpinning tonal framework has been almost or completely dissolved away."


  • Boguslaw Maciejewski and Felix Aprahamian, eds. (). Karol Szymanowski and Jan Smeterlin: Correspondence and Essays. London.
  • Samson, Jim (1977). Music in Transition: A Study of Tonal Expansion and Atonality, 1900-1920. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0393021939.

See also:

External link

da:Karol Szymanowski de:Karol Szymanowski fr:Karol Szymanowski ja:カロル・シマノフスキ ko:카롤 시마노프스키 pl:Karol Szymanowski


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