WorldView Episode 35: Karol Szymanowski   

WorldView episode thirty-five features three new artists, including Polish composer Karol Szymanowski. A pianist and modernist, Szymanowski is most known for his 1924 opera “King Roger” and his catalog of works inspired by the Górale people of southern Poland. 

Szymanowski was born to a wealthy Polish family in modern day Tymoshivka, Ukraine, in 1882. He studied music with his father before enrolling at the State Conservatory in Warsaw (a school the composer would preside over years later). Career opportunities in music were difficult to find in the Russian-controlled region, and Szymanowski spent much of his young life traveling abroad in Europe, Africa, and North America. From Germany he founded the Young Polish Composers’ Publishing Company, an organization that published works by Polish composers for almost a decade. 

After health complications removed him from service in World War I, Szymanowski traveled extensively in Greece and Southern Europe. Homosexuality became a more prominent topic in his writings and works, and he revealed his sexual orientation to his friend and fellow pianist Arthur Rubenstein. Szymanowski also pursued a relationship with Russian poet Boris Kochno, to whom he dedicated several poems. The composer returned to Poland in 1926, where he became director of the Warsaw Conservatory. He passed away from tuberculosis in 1937. In Poland, Szymanowski remains one of the most well-known composers since Frederic Chopin. 

The works of Szymanowski can be broken down into three stages of composition. His first period, which lasted until roughly 1914, was heavily influenced by German stylists such as Richard Strauss and Max Reger. He composed in the second period for several years, were he focused on exploring different styles and cultures in music. By 1920, he had developed a specific amalgam of polytonality and eccentric orchestration with which he would write for the rest of his life. Episode thirty-five features pianist Martin Jones performing “Mazurkas, Op. 50”, completed by Szymanowski in 1931. It is made up of 20 Polish dances, and was inspired in part by the works of Chopin. 

WorldView Episode Thirty-Five Playlist:
Elizabeth STIRLING, “Air with Variations”, {Max Yount (org)} – The Organ Historical Society 90
Karol SZYMANOWSKI, “Mazurkas, Op. 50”, {Martin Jones (pf)} – Nimbus Records
Jackson HILL, “Tango No Tango”, {Yvar Mikhashoff (pf)} – New Albion Records

Notice something different about today’s logo? Tune in next week for a special Halloween episode of WorldView!

WorldView is a classical music radio show featuring composers from everywhere in the world – except Western Europe. Tune in to hear works by lesser-known artists such as Irving Fine and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, and widen your knowledge of classical music. Hinke Younger hosts each week’s episode of WorldView on Mondays at 9AM and 6PM (with a rebroadcast Saturdays at 2PM) on

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