Karol Szymanowski was a Polish composer and pianist who lived from 1882 to 1937. He was a leader of the modernist Young Poland movement in music.
Szymanowski was born into a noble family in Ukraine. He studied music privately with his father and then at the Warsaw Conservatory. He traveled extensively in Europe and North Africa.
Szymanowski’s first period of works was influenced by the late Romantic German school and the early works of Alexander Scriabin. He wrote two symphonies, an opera, and several piano pieces.
Szymanowski developed an impressionistic and partially atonal style in his second period, inspired by French and Russian music. He wrote his Third Symphony, his Violin Concerto No. 1, and his song cycles.
Szymanowski was influenced by the folk music of the Polish Górale people in his third period of works. He wrote his ballet Harnasie, his Fourth Symphony, and his sets of Mazurkas for piano.
Szymanowski’s most popular opera is King Roger, which he composed between 1918 and 1924. It is a psychological drama that explores the conflict between paganism and Christianity.
Szymanowski received the highest national honors, including the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta and the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland. He also received foreign distinctions.
Szymanowski is regarded as the foremost Polish composer of the early 20th century. He influenced many Polish composers, such as Witold Lutosławski and Krzysztof Penderecki. He also wrote essays and novels.
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