Karol Stryja: Szymanowski Symphonies 1 to 4

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Symphony No. 1 in F minor, Op. 15 (1907)

I. Allegro moderato [0:00]
II. Finale [11:01]

The first symphony by Polish composer and pianist Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937). Szymanowski described this early work as a "Monstrum kontrapunktyczno-harmoniczno-orkiestrowe". In this stage of his career, Szymanowski was still under the influence of Wagner, Strauss and Scriabin, but it is clear that he was seeking to transcend the late Romantic idiom by using even more extensive chromaticism and heavy textures to build up to grandiose, ecstatic climaxes. The composer eventually moved in a very different direction musically, breaking from the tradition that dominated European music at the turn of the century.

Conductor: Karol Stryja
Polish State Philharmonic Orchestra, Katowice


Symphony No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 19 (1910)

I. Allegro moderato: Grazioso [0:00]
II. Lento [13:18]
III. Fuga [25:19]

The second symphony by Polish composer and pianist Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937). The composer summarized this work succinctly: "the first movement in a grand manner, the second movement - a theme and nine variations, the adagio and finale with a fugue". Szymanowski expressed satisfaction with this symphony, more so than with his First Symphony from three years earlier, which he came to regard as flawed. The Second Symphony was premiered in Warsaw on April 7, 1911, but it was not enthusiastically received, in contrast with the very successful premiere of Szymanowski's Concert Overture, Op. 10; however, the symphony met with much greater success when it was performed in Leipzig, Vienna and Berlin, where its originality, sensuous textures and contrapuntal character were appreciated by critics and public alike.

Conductor: Karol Stryja
Polish State Philharmonic Orchestra, Katowice


Symphony No. 3 "Pieśń o nocy" (Song of the Night), Op. 27, for solo tenor, chorus and orchestra (1914)

The third symphony by Polish composer and pianist Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937). In this composition, Szymanowski sets the translation by Tadeusz Miciński of the poem "Song of the Night" by 13th century Persian poet Jalaluddin Rumi. Although the symphony is in a single movement, it can be subdivided into three contrasting phases corresponding roughly to an invocation, scherzo and finale. The composer described his Third Symphony in a letter to Alexander Siloti, who was planning to lead its premiere:

"The 'Symphony' lasts 20-22 m. and it could be called a symphonic poem. (Its other title is Chant de la Nuit [...]). However, as I am organically averse to 'Symphonic poems' (as a title), it had better stayed a symphony (the third one in order). [...] The tenor's solo in the 'Symph.' is very significant and lasts for a little less than half of the symphony's duration. It seems a very satisfying material for a singer; it is more melodic than declamatory and takes quite a big and graceful, lyrically coloured voice. The choir is rather episodic, except for the initial part, where it has a major role; the style is more harmon[ic] than polyphon[ic]; there is no text in several places."

Conductor: Karol Stryja
Polish State Philharmonic Orchestra, Katowice


Symphony No. 4 "Symphonie concertante", Op. 60, for piano and orchestra (1932)

I. Moderato [0:00]
II. Andante molto sostenuto - [10:19]
III. Allegro non troppo [18:40]

The fourth and final symphony by Polish composer and pianist Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937), a work where the piano plays a prominent role. The bright first movement is in a loose sonata form. The second features solos for violin and flute with piano accompaniment, followed by a restatement of the main theme from the previous movement. This leads directly into the last movement oberek, a traditional Polish round-dance similar to the rondeau in form. In the middle of the movement, there is an episode for the piano that resembles a mazurka. Overall, the composer described this work as something in between a symphony and a concerto for piano.

Pianist: Tadeusz Żmudziński
Conductor: Karol Stryja
Polish State Philharmonic Orchestra, Katowice


Concert Overture in E major, Op. 12 (1905)

An early orchestral work by Polish composer and pianist Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937).

Conductor: Karol Stryja
Polish State Philharmonic Orchestra, Katowice

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