Karol Szymanowski

Born on 3rd October 1882 on the family estate at Timoshevka, now Ukraine, he died on 29th March 1937 in Lausanne. Szymanowski learned the piano from his father and with Gustav Neuhaus in Elizavetgrad. In 1901 he left for Warsaw, where he took composition lessons with Zygmunt Noskowski. He joined the Young Polish Composers’ Publishing Company in 1905. In later years, he frequently visited Vienna.
In 1914 he travelled in Italy, Sicily, and South Africa, also visiting Paris and London. He spent the World War I years at Timoshevka. In 1919 he settled in Warsaw. For several years he toured with concerts in Europe and the United States, where his music met with enormous acclaim. In 1927–1929 he held the post of director of Warsaw Conservatory, and in 1930–1932 – first vice-chancellor of the Higher School of Music. He suffered from tuberculosis and underwent treatment in Davos in that period. Zakopane, where he often stayed from the 1920s, and where he lived in 1930–1935, became an extremely important place in his life.
From 1933 he travelled in Europe, frequently appearing as solo pianist in his Symphonie concertante No. 4; 1936 he mainly spent in treatment in Grasse. In March 1937, he was moved to a clinic in Lausanne.
Szymanowski’s early compositions demonstrate a strong influence of the German neo-romanticism and expressionism. His travels in 1914 brought a fascination with oriental and ancient cultures as well as the works of Debussy and Ravel. These influences supplanted the late romantic style in his music. In that period, he wrote such master-pieces as Songs of an Infatuated Muezzin, Métopes, Masques, Myths, Symphony No. 3 ‘The Song of the Night’, Violin Concerto No. 1, and the opera King Roger.
The 1920s mark the beginning of the so-called ‘national’ period in Szymanowski’s music, with frequent references to the folklore of the Polish highlands and the Kurpie region. His fascination with the music of Podhale (Tatra foothills), with which he became familiar thanks to, among others, the folk fiddler Bartuś Obrochta, bore fruit in the ballet Harnasie (The Highland Robbers), the mazurkas, and Violin Concerto No. 2. His greatest works from that time also include Kurpie Songs and Stabat Mater.

Phot. Antoni Wieczorek
Przewiń do góry