Personalities | Karol Szymanowski | Modern Era | Classical
(Kär’-ol Shi-man-ov’-ske) 1882–1937
Szymanowski came from a wealthy family whose estate in the Ukraine was lost after the Russian Revolution. He suffered from tuberculosis, and as a child had to study at home. He later lived in Germany and in Vienna, also travelling to Russia, North Africa, Italy and Sicily, returning to Poland in 1919. From 1927 he directed the Warsaw Conservatoire, but recurrences of his illness forced him to spend more time in sanatoriums.
He was in his lifetime the greatest Polish composer since Chopin, who influenced his earliest works. Affected by Debussy, Scriabin and his travels, his music then took on a florid and harmonically sumptuous character (the Second and Third Symphonies and his remarkable opera King Roger). In his latter years, inspired by Polish folk music but also by Stravinsky, he turned to more primary colours and sparer textures, in the Fourth Symphony, the folk ballet Harnasie and the Stabat Mater.
Stabat Mater, Litany to the Virgin Mary, Symphony No. 3, soloists, CBSO & Chorus (cond) Sir Simon Rattle (EMI/Warner)
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