I first heard about Karol Szymanowski when Decca released its digital recording of his third symphony, "Song of the Night," with Antal Dorati and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. In listening to the first and second symphonies, which I had never heard before, it was immediately apparent that he was much-influenced by the German composer Richard Strauss (1864-1949), who was living when these symphonies were written. Strauss influenced many other composers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, who adopted his preference for very large orchestra and a really grand sound, sometimes epic and heroic, much as a continuation of Richard Wagner and Franz Liszt's pioneering efforts in their use of the orchestra. Certainly, Strauss' "Domestic Symphony" had quite an impact on composers such as Szymanowski and the Roumanian composer Georges Enesco (or Enescu, if you prefer), whose symphonies have also been largely neglected.
The first and second symphonies are very exciting, dramatic works and, for those who love a really big sound in a symphony, they are quite enjoyable. It has to be said that Szymanowski was ambitious and quite original in his actual composing, while clearly influenced by Strauss, Max Reger, and eventually the Russian mystical composer Alexander Scriabin. The influence of Scriabin is more apparent in the third and fourth symphonies; in the first and second symphonies the inspiration appears to come more from the German school. I don't know if Szymanowski was influenced by the Second Viennese school, which includes Arnold Schoenberg, Anton Webern, and Alban Berg, although there are some reflections of their music in his later works.
The Polish State Philharmonic Orchestra provides a really BIG sound in these recordings, which are exceptionally clear and vivid, thanks to some fine engineering by Marco Polo. The label, which is associated with Naxos, is known for neglected works, sometimes even providing first recordings. These works clearly are largely unknown in the U.S., but they certainly could be included in symphony concerts devoted to non-standard repertoire. Many of us who have regularly attended symphony concerts wish there would be more time devoted to works such as those included on this disc. The two symphonies are definitely worth hearing and, fortunately, they are very well performed here.
Szymanowski studied at the Warsaw Conservatory and eventually taught there for a few years. However, like his countryman Frederic Chopin, he later battled an advanced form of tuberculosis that shortened his life. He was definitely a very creative and impressive composer. He traveled widely, even to the U.S., and his ears were open to all he heard, sometimes providing ideas for his compositions. Apparently, he was also a very fine pianist and that is reflected in his fourth symphony with its extensive use of the piano. The orchestral music of Szymanowski is much in the late romantic style, but it also sometimes looks to the future because of his innovative use of the orchestra. The symphonies are brilliantly orchestrated and the Polish orchestra displays some very exceptional playing by individual members and as a whole.
Symphonies 1 & 2 インポート
SZYMANOWSKI: Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2 by Karol Stryja
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