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Karol Szymanowski

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Tymoszowka, Poland (1882 – 1937)

Karol Maciej Korwin-Szymanowski (1882-1937), was a Polish composer and pianist,

Born on the 3rd October 1882 in Tymoszowka, Poland, he lived between the death of Chopin and the rise of the post-World War II generation of Grażyna Bacewicz and Witold Lutosławski. His style developed in three distinct stages: from a strong affinity with Richard Strauss, Alexander Scriabin and fellow countryman Frédéric Chopin, to flavourings of the Orient, the Mediterranean, and the of Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel, to a nationalist final period influenced by Polish folk music and the Eastern Church.

Even when writing in a Polish idiom, Szymanowski far exceeded the established musical language of central Europe, and is remembered as an exotic outlier of twentieth-century music. He began, however, strongly opposed to folk material as a source for Polish music and considered it provincial. We should remember, however, that Poland, at this point a duchy of the Russian empire, did not become an official nation until after the First World War. Nationalism was expressed mainly through the Catholic Church and through identification with either Chopin or Western Europe – that is, against Russia.

After graduating from the Warsaw Music Institute (now, the Conservatory), Szymanowski became involved with a group that called itself Young Poland and included the composer and conductor Grzegorz Fitelberg and composer Ludomir Różycki. His music began to get played in both Poland and Germany. To this period belong the Concert Overture (1906) and his First Symphony (1907). Born into a well-to-do and cultured family, Szymanowski read and travelled widely.

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