Karol Szymanowski (1882 - 1937)



As a young man, Karol Szymanowski looked set for a rosy future.

In his early twenties, he fell in with a group of well-connected fellow Poles with a generous musical patron, who enabled them to publish their music and put on public concerts of their own works.

Donald Macleod introduces some of Szymanowski's earliest works, from a period when he looked towards Germany for musical inspiration.

Etudes Op 4, No 2

Martin Roscoe (piano)

Concert Overture

Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra

Jacek Kasprzyk (conductor)

Three Fragments from the poems of Jan Kasprowicz - No 3, Blessed is that Time

Teresa Zylis-Gara (soprano)

Jerzy Marchwinski (piano)

Symphony No 2

Detroit Symphony Orchestra

Antal Dorati (conductor).


A dramatic change occurred in Szymanowski's music early in his career when he fell under the spell of the classical cultures of the exotic East.

Donald Macleod introduces works inspired by the myths and poetry of ancient Greece and classical Persia.

Des Hafis Liebeslieder Op 26 - No 8, Das Grab des Hafis

Krystyna Rorbach (soprano)

Orchestra of the Polish National Opera

Robert Satanowski (conductor)


Lydia Mordkovitch (violin)

Marina Gusak-Grin (piano)

Symphony No 3, Song of the Night

Jon Garrison (tenor)

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Chorus

Simon Rattle (conductor).


Donald Macleod introduces works inspired by two important people in Szymanowski's life - the virtuoso violinist with whom he collaborated on his violin concerto, and his cousin, the writer Jarosaw Iwaszkiewicz, whose poems he set in a collection of songs concerning the love of an infatuated muezzin.

Violin Concerto No 1

Konstanty Andrzej Kulka (violin)

Polish State Philharmonic Orchestra of Katowice

Karol Stryja (conductor)

String Quartet No 1

Wilanow Quartet

Songs of the Infatuated Muezzin - Allah Akbar; O Vielgeliebte; Vorbei, o voruber fur ewig!

Claudia Barainsky (soprano)

Axel Bauni (piano).


In post-war Poland, Szymanowski tried to create a new life for himself.

Donald Macleod introduces a vocal work which came out of his association with a newly formed literary group in Warsaw, a choral piece brought about by personal tragedy and, thanks to an upturn in his fortunes, his long-cherished opera project King Roger.


Zofia Kilanowicz (soprano)

London Philharmonic Orchestra

Leon Botstein (conductor)

King Roger - Extract from Act 2

King Roger....Thomas Hampson

Edrisi....Philip Langridge

Roxana....Elzbieta Szmytka

Shepherd....Ryszard Minkiewicz

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Chorus

Simon Rattle (conductor)

Stabat Mater

Jadwiga Gadulanka (soprano)

Krystyna Szostek-Radlowa (alto)

Andrzej Hiolski (baritone)

Polish State Philharmonic Chorus and Orchestra of Katowice

Karol Stryja (conductor).

05 LAST20061006

In the final years of his life, Szymanowski settled in his beloved Zakopane in the Tatra Mountains.

Donald Macleod introduces a ballet inspired by the native folk music of the region, and the piano concerto he dedicated to his friend, pianist Artur Rubinstein, who features in this performance, recorded in 1952.

Mazurka, Op 50, No 11

Martin Roscoe (piano)


Henryk Grychnik (tenor)

Polish State Philharmonic Chorus and Orchestra of Katowice

Karol Stryja (conductor)

Symphonie Concertante

Artur Rubinstein (piano)

Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra

Alfred Wallenstein (conductor).