Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937) [Composer Of The Week]

Episodes

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202001Tymosz\u00f3wka20200120

Donald Macleod explores the richly stimulating artistic environment in which Szymanowski grew up and thrived on his family estate.

The reshaping of Europe at the end of the First World War had a defining effect on Karol Szymanowski. As Europe was being repartitioned, the comfortable world he’d known up to that point disappeared for good. His family’s comfortable and cultured life disappeared, their assets wiped out by the October Revolution. From that point on, Szymanowski ceased to be a man of some privilege, able to compose in the relative seclusion of his family’s estate in what was then part of Ukraine. He needed to support himself and his mother and sisters but he found himself ill-equipped temperamentally to deal with this dramatic change in his lifestyle. He became increasingly weighed down by illness, quite probably tuberculosis. That, coupled with a chain-smoking habit and struggles with alcoholism, were to take their toll. He died in poverty at the age of just 54 in 1937.

Across the week Donald Macleod explores five distinct influences on Szymanowski’s music, starting with his formative years growing up in a family with a passion for the arts. As a young student, his studies in Warsaw led him towards the language of Richard Strauss and Max Reger, while his love of travel directed him towards impressionism, the ancient world and the Orient. Meeting Stravinsky in Paris and hearing the Ballets Russes was another turning point, as was in his later years in particular, his commitment to establishing a national musical voice for the newly formed country of Poland.

Szymanowski’s interest in the Arts was encouraged by his father. Described by those who knew him as something of a “Renaissance” man, by the time he was in his teens, Karol was already a skilled linguist, fluent in French, Russian and German. He was a voracious reader, and interested in philosophy, all of which found its way into his vocal and instrumental music.

Four Studies, Op 4, no 2
Martin Roscoe, piano

The Swan, Op 7
Piotr Beczala, tenor
Reinild Mees, piano

Métopes: l’Île des sirènes
Piotr Anderszewski, piano

Violin Concerto no 1
Nicola Benedetti, violin
London Symphony Orchestra
Daniel Harding, conductor

Songs of a Fairy Princess for coloratura soprano and piano
Izabella Klosińska, soprano
Orchestra of the Polish National Opera
Robert Satanowski, conductor

Donald Macleod explores Szymanowski's cultured background, growing up on his famiy estate.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

202002From Warsaw To Berlin20200121

Donald Macleod traces Szymanowski's passion for the music of Richard Strauss to his student years in Warsaw.

The reshaping of Europe at the end of the First World War had a defining effect on Karol Szymanowski. As Europe was being repartitioned, the comfortable world he’d known up to that point disappeared for good. His family’s comfortable and cultured life disappeared, their assets wiped out by the October Revolution. From that point on, Szymanowski ceased to be a man of some privilege, able to compose in the relative seclusion of his family’s estate in what was then part of Ukraine. He needed to support himself and his mother and sisters but he found himself ill-equipped temperamentally to deal with this dramatic change in his lifestyle. He became increasingly weighed down by illness, quite probably tuberculosis. That, coupled with a chain-smoking habit and struggles with alcoholism, were to take their toll. He died in poverty at the age of just 54 in 1937.

Across the week Donald Macleod explores five distinct influences on Szymanowski’s music, starting with his formative years growing up in a family with a passion for the arts. As a young student, his studies in Warsaw led him towards the language of Richard Strauss and Max Reger, while his love of travel directed him towards impressionism, the ancient world and the Orient. Meeting Stravinsky in Paris and hearing the Ballets Russes was another turning point, as was in his later years in particular, his commitment to establishing a national musical voice for the newly formed country of Poland.

Szymanowki's interest in German culture stemmed from childhood lessons with his uncle Gustav Neuhaus, who introduced his young nephew to Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. On his arrival as a young man in Warsaw this immersion into German art forms took on a musical shape as it began to percolate into his own compositions.

Mazurka, op 50 no XI – Allegretto
Roland Pontinen, piano

Love Songs of Hafiz Op. 26
Desires
The infatuated east wind
Dance
Ryszard Minkiewicz, tenor
Orchestra of the Polish National Opera
Robert Satanowski, conductor

Concert Overture
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Edward Gardner, conductor

Piano sonata no 2 in A major op 21, Allegretto tranquillo
Martin Roscoe, piano

Symphony no 2 1st movement
London Philharomonic Orchestra
Leon Botstein, conductor

Donald Macleod traces Szymanowski's fascination with Strauss and German romanticism.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

202003From Italy To Africa20200122

Donald Macleod surveys the musical impact of Szymanowski’s travels to Italy, Sicily and Algeria, including on his Third Symphony, inspired by medieval Islamic poetry.

The reshaping of Europe at the end of the First World War had a defining effect on Karol Szymanowski. As Europe was being reapportioned, the comfortable world he’d known up to that point vanished for good. His family’s comfortable and cultured life disappeared, their assets wiped out by the October Revolution. From that point on, Szymanowski ceased to be a man of some privilege, able to compose in the relative seclusion of his family’s estate in what was then part of Ukraine. He needed to support himself and his mother and sisters but he found himself ill-equipped temperamentally to deal with this dramatic change in his lifestyle. He became increasingly weighed down by illness, quite probably tuberculosis. That, coupled with a chain smoking habit and struggles with alcoholism, were to take their toll. He died in poverty at the age of just 54 in 1937.

Across the week, Donald Macleod explores five distinct influences on Szymanowski’s music, starting with his formative years growing up in a family with a passion for the arts. As a young student, his studies in Warsaw led him towards the language of Richard Strauss and Max Reger, while his love of travel directed him towards impressionism, the ancient world and the Orient. Meeting Stravinsky in Paris and hearing the Ballets Russes was another turning point, as was in his later years in particular, his commitment to establishing a national musical voice for the newly formed country of Poland.

The stimulation of visiting foreign lands enriched Szymanowski with a wealth of new ideas and a change in direction, with his music evoking the exotic sounds of the Orient, tales of antiquity and the shimmering Mediterranean sun.

La fontaine d’Aréthuse (Mythes, Op 30)
Kaja Danczowska, violin
Krystian Zimerman, piano

Sérénade de Don Juan (Masques, Op 34)
Piotr Anderszewski, piano

Demeter, Op 37b
Anna Malewicz-Madej, contralto
Polish State Philharmonic Chorus and Orchestra
Karol Stryja, conductor

String Quartet No 1 in C major, Op 37 (3rd movement)
Apollon Musagète Quartet

Symphony No 3, Op 27: The Song of the Night
Jon Garrison, tenor
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Chorus
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Simon Rattle, director

Donald Macleod assesses the musical impact of Szymanowski's years of travel.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

202004Sicily's Antiquities20200123

Donald Macleod charts Szymanowski's struggles to complete his only opera, King Roger - a philosophical and psychological masterpiece - as the Great War changed Europe's destiny and his life irrevocably.

The reshaping of Europe at the end of the First World War had a defining effect on Karol Szymanowski. As Europe was being repartitioned, the comfortable world he’d known up to that point vanished for good. His family’s comfortable and cultured life disappeared, their assets wiped out by the October Revolution. From that point on, Szymanowski ceased to be a man of some privilege, able to compose in the relative seclusion of his family’s estate in what was then part of Ukraine. He needed to support himself and his mother and sisters but he found himself ill-equipped temperamentally to deal with this dramatic change in his lifestyle. He became increasingly weighed down by illness, quite probably tuberculosis. That, coupled with a chain smoking habit and struggles with alcoholism, were to take their toll. He died in poverty at the age of just 54 in 1937.

Across the week, Donald Macleod explores five distinct influences on Szymanowski’s music, starting with his formative years growing up in a family with a passion for the arts. As a young student, his studies in Warsaw led him towards the language of Richard Strauss and Max Reger, while his love of travel directed him towards impressionism, the ancient world and the Orient. Meeting Stravinsky in Paris and hearing the Ballets Russes was another turning point, as was in his later years in particular, his commitment to establishing a national musical voice for the newly formed country of Poland.

Unfit for military service due to a childhood injury, Szymanowski spent the war years in seclusion at his family's homes, surrounded by books and his music, living in a world where culture could still reign supreme.

Study in B flat minor, Op 4 No 3
Cédric Tibérghien, piano

Penthesilea, Op 18
Iwona Hossa, soprano
Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra
Antoni Witt, conductor

Thème varié 'Caprice No 24' (Three Paganini Caprices, Op 40)
Thomas Zehetmair, violin
Silke Avenhaus, piano

King Roger, Act 1 (excerpt)
Robert Gierlach, bass, Archbishop
Jadwiga Rappé, contralto, Deaconess
Thomas Hampson, baritone, Roger
Philip Langridge, tenor, Edrisi
Elzbieta Szmytka, soprano, Roxana
City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus, Youth Chorus and Symphony Orchestra
Simon Rattle, conductor

King Roger Act 2 (excerpt)
Thomas Hampson, baritone, Roger
Philip Langridge, tenor, Edrisi
Elzbieta Szmytka, soprano Roxana
Ryszard Minkiweicz, tenor, Shepherd
City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus, Youth Chorus and Symphony Orchestra
Simon Rattle, conductor

Mazurkas, Op 50 Nos 1, 3, 6
Artur Rubinstein, piano

Donald Macleod charts Szymanowski's struggles to complete his only opera, King Roger.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

202005The Rebirth Of Polish Music20200124

Donald Macleod considers Szymanowski's study of Polish culture in his efforts to define a national identity in his music, with works including his ballet Harnasie and Stabat Mater.

The reshaping of Europe at the end of the First World War had a defining effect on Karol Szymanowski. As Europe was being reapportioned, the comfortable world he’d known up to that point vanished for good. His family’s comfortable and cultured life disappeared, their assets wiped out by the October Revolution. From that point on, Szymanowski ceased to be a man of some privilege, able to compose in the relative seclusion of his family’s estate in what was then part of Ukraine. He needed to support himself and his mother and sisters but he found himself ill-equipped temperamentally to deal with this dramatic change in his lifestyle. He became increasingly weighed down by illness, quite probably tuberculosis. That, coupled with a chain smoking habit and struggles with alcoholism, were to take their toll. He died in poverty at the age of just 54 in 1937.

Across the week, Donald Macleod explores five distinct influences on Szymanowski’s music, starting with his formative years growing up in a family with a passion for the arts. As a young student, his studies in Warsaw led him towards the language of Richard Strauss and Max Reger, while his love of travel directed him towards impressionism, the ancient world and the Orient. Meeting Stravinsky in Paris and hearing the Ballets Russes was another turning point, as was in his later years in particular, his commitment to establishing a national musical voice for the newly formed country of Poland.

Experiencing a sense of artistic freedom in the aftermath of the First World War, Szymanowski became absorbed by writing music that reflected not only a Polishness but also a modern musical language.

Wanda, Op 46b No 5
Iwona Sobotka, soprano
Reinild Mees, piano

Whip on the horse, Op 58 No 4
Russian State Symphonic Cappella
Larissa Nikishina, soprano
Olga Loboda mezzo soprano
Valery Polyansky, conductor

String Quartet No 2 (2nd movement)
Amati Quartet

Harnasie, Op 55 (Tableau 1: In the mountain pasture)
Timothy Robinson, tenor
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Simon Rattle, conductor

Symphony No 4, Op 60, 'Sinfonie concertante' (1st movement)
Louis Lortie, piano
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Edward Gardner, conductor

Stabat Mater (excerpt)
Elzbieta Szmytka, soprano
Florence Quivar, mezzo soprano
John Connell, baritone
City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus and Orchestra
Simon Rattle, conductor

Mazurka, Op 62 No 1
Martin Roscoe, piano

Producer Johannah Smith

Donald Macleod explores Szymanowski's interest in defining a Polish identity in his music.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.