b. 1882, Tymoszówka – d. 1937, Lausanne


Karol Szymanowski was born on October 3, 1882, on his family’s estate in Tymoszówka (now Ukraine). He was raised in a strong musicial, conservative family. Szymanowski began his music education with his father and continued at Neuhaus’s school in Elisavetgrad. In 1901 he went to Warsaw for more regular studies in music. From that year until 1904 he had private lessons with Zawirski for harmony and with Zygmunt Noskowski for counterpoint and composition. His creative output may be divided into four periods: early career, the World War I period, the 1920s, and 1930s. Early musical studies and activities in Warsaw date from 1901 until 1906 and include membership in a Society for Performing Contemporary Polish Music. During the years 1907-14 Szymanowski travelled extensively in Germany, Italy, France and England. In the years 1914 – 1917 he remained in Tymoszówka where he studied and composed with a renewed intensity. Unfortunately, in the fall of 1917 the Szymanowski’s house was destroyed and the family moved to Elisavetgrad. For nearly two years Szymanowski exchanged music for literature. He wrote a long novel, Efebos, which was lost in the Warsaw fires of 1939. Towards the end of 1919 he settled in Warsaw. Together with his friends, violinist Pawel Kochański and pianist Artur Rubinstein, Szymanowski twice travelled to the USA by way of London in 1920-21, giving concerts that met with critical and popular success. During the years 1924-26 Szymanowski received increasing recognition at home, despite the opposition of conservative sections of musical society. He spent a lot of time in Paris, chiefly for the many performances of his compositions.

Szymanowski received many high distinctions and was appointed to numerous international societies. In 1927 he was offered the directorships of the conservatories of Cairo and Warsaw. He chose Warsaw, despite the much better terms of Egyptian invitation and the opportunity of living in a climate which would have benefited his health, threatened since early childhood by tuberculosis. Szymanowski saw the Warsaw post as an opportunity to re-invigorate Polish music education, neglected during the years of partition, and to form a new generation of Polish composers. The years 1927-29 were entirely taken up by his campaign to established a new model of training, to open wide horizons to the young and to provide them with a thorough knowledge of composition. He achieved his aim, but at a very high cost: these were years of creative stagnation and of great physical and nervous stress, which led to a serious crisis in his health. His pulmonary tuberculosis advanced seriously and he had to give up his duties and go to a sanatorium in Davos. There he remained for almost a year, writing a treatise, “The educational role of musical culture in society.” The next two years (1930-31) were the period of his greatest stability, success and prosperity. He rented a house “Atma” in Zakopane. In 1930 he was appointed rector of the Warsaw Academy of Music and made an honorary doctor of Kraków’s Jagiellonian University. He was elected to the highly select group of honorary members of the ISCM. The Stabat Mater brought him widespread renown, and in 1932 the opera King Roger was presented in Prague. In April 1936 he experienced his greatest popular success when his ballet Harnasie, which had received its premiere in Prague in the previous year, was presented at the Paris Opera and was highly praised by critics and public alike. He died shortly after a move to a sanatorium in Lausanne on 24 March, 1937.

List of Works

Stage Works

The Lottery for Men, operetta in 3 acts – 1908-09
Hagith, opera in 1 act – 1913
King Roger, opera in 3 acts by K. Szymanowski and J. Iwaszkiewicz – 1918-24
Mandragora, pantomime in 3 scenes by R. Boleslawski and L. Schiller for symphony orchestra – 1920
Harnasie, ballet-pantomime in 3 acts by J. Iwaszkiewicz and J.M. Rytard – 1923-31
Prince Potemkin, music for chamber orchestra to the 5th act of drama by T. Micinski – 1925

Orchestral and Vocal Orchestral Works

Concert Overture in E major for symphonic orchestra – 1904-05
Symphony No. 1 in F minor – 1906-07
Salome for soprano and orchestra – circa 1907
Penthesilea for soprano and orchestra to text from S. Wyspianski’s “Achilles” – 1908
Symphony No. 2 in B flat major – 1909-10
Love Songs of Hafiz for voice and orchestra – 1914

  • The Tomb of Hafiz
  • The Pearls of My Heart
  • Your Voice
  • Eternal Youth
  • Drinking Songs

Symphony No. 3 “Song of the Night” for tenor or soprano solo, mixed chorus and orchestra to words of the 13th century Persian poet and mystic, Jabal-al-din-Rum – 1914-16
Violin Concerto No. 1 – 1916
Demeter, cantata for alto solo, female choir and orchestra to poems of Z. Szymanowska – 1917
Agawe, cantata for alto solo, female choir and orchestra to text by Z. Szymanowska- 1917
Slopiewnie for voice and orchestra to words of J. Tuwim – 1928
Stabat Mater for solo voices, mixed choir and orchestra to text of medieval Latin sequences – 1925-26
Veni Creator for soprano solo, mixed chorus, organ and orchestra – 1930
Litany to the Virgin Mary, 2 fragments for soprano, female chorus and orchestra – 1930-33
Symphony No. 4 “Symphonie Concertante” for piano and orchestra – 1932
Violin Concerto No. 2 – 1933
Songs of a Fairy – Tale Princess for voice and orchestra – 1933
Songs of the Infatuated Muezzin for voice and orchestra – 1934

Chamber Works

Sonata in D minor for violin and piano – 1904
Piano Trio – 1907
Romance in D major for violin and piano – 1910
Nocturne and Tarantella for violin and piano – 1915
Mythes, 3 poems for violin and piano – 1915

  • Fountain of Arethusa
  • Narcissus
  • Dryads and Pan

String Quartet No. 1 – 1917
Three Paganini Caprices for violin and piano – 1918
Lullaby “La berceuse d’Aitacho Enia” for violin and piano – 1925
String Quartet No. 2 – 1927

Songs and Choruses for voice and piano

Six Songs to poems of Kazimierz Tetmajer – 1900-02

  • The world has been left afar
  • You have not died
  • In the fog
  • Sometimes when half – dreaming
  • I heard you
  • The Pilgrim

Three Songs to the poems of Jan Kasprowicz – 1902

  • Dear God
  • I am and I weep
  • Blessed be this moment

The Swan to words of Wladyslaw Berent – 1904
Four Songs to poems of Tadeusz Micinski – 1904-05

  • I am so sad
  • In an enchanted forest
  • Flying above me into the azure sea
  • Roar, o storm !

Five Songs to German Poems (R. Dehmel, F. Bodenstedt, O.J. Bierbaum) – 1905-07

  • Voice in the twilight
  • Christkindleins Wiegenlied from the collection “Des Knaben Wunderhorn”
  • On the sea
  • Zuleikha
  • The Black Lute

Twelve Songs to German poems (R. Dehmel, A. Mombert, G. Falke, M. Greif) – 1907

  • In early dawn
  • The Secret
  • Flirtations
  • In the night
  • Reflection
  • Foreshadow
  • After the storm
  • Disappointment
  • Lullaby
  • The Soul
  • Fragment Aflame
  • Night of Love

Six Songs to poems of T. Micinski’s cycle, “In the twilight of the stars” – 1909

  • On the dark moon
  • St. Francis speaks
  • The extraordinary scent of your golden hair
  • In my heart
  • From the singing halls of Mauritania
  • On the hollow reed

“Bunte Lieder” to German poems (K. Bulcke, A. Paquet, E. Faktor, A. Ritter, R. Huch) – 1910

  • The hermit
  • Song of the maiden at the window
  • For little girls
  • Summer night’s silver miracle

Love Songs of Hafiz, Hans Bethge’s paraphrase of Arabian texts – 1911

  • Greeting
  • The Only Medicine
  • Flaming Tulips
  • Dance
  • The Love-sick Wind
  • Sad Spring

Songs of the Fairy-tale Princess to the text by Zofia Szymanowska – 1915

  • Lonely Moon
  • The Nightingale
  • Golden Slippers
  • Dance
  • Song of the Wave
  • The Feast

Three Songs to poems of D. Dawidow – 1915

  • Sunrise
  • Sky Without Stars
  • Autumn Sun

Four Songs to text of R. Tagore from his cycle, “The Gardener” – 1918

  • My Heart
  • The Young Prince I
  • The Young Prince II
  • The Last Song

Songs of the Infatuated Muezzin to words by J. Iwaszkiewicz – 1918

  • Allah, Allah, Akbar
  • O, my beloved
  • Barely the sun glistens on tower’s roofs
  • At noon the city is white from the heat
  • At the hour when the city sleeps
  • You departed into the western desert

Two Basque Songs to folksong texts – circa 1920

  • Beautiful moon
  • Beloved golden hair

Slopiewnie, 5 songs to words of J. Tuwim – 1921

  • Slowisien
  • Green words
  • St.Francis
  • The guelder – rose orchard
  • Wanda

Three Lullabies to words by J. Iwaszkiewicz – 1922

  • Lean quietly over the crib
  • I sing to the sea, the stars and you
  • The white orb of the moon is enormous

Twenty Children’s Rhymes to poems of K. Illakowicz – 1922-23

  • Before falling asleep
  • How best to keep the hornet away
  • The dwelling
  • The little piglet
  • The little star
  • Wedding of the princess
  • The bumble bee and the beetle
  • Saint Christine
  • Spring
  • Lullaby of the dolls
  • The bullfinch and the magpie
  • Sadness
  • Visit with the cow
  • Chris’s Lullaby
  • The Cat
  • The doll’s lullaby
  • The mice
  • Bad Moses
  • Lullaby of the bay horse
  • The craven starling

Four Songs, to poems of J. Joyce – 1926

Manuscripts at USC


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PMC Books about Szymanowski
Polish Publisher’s Site: PWM
PWM in America: Theodore Presser Co.
Szymanowski on culture.pl
Republika page
Online Szymanowski group

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