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Summary Article: Szymanowski, Karol Maciej
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Polish composer. He is regarded as the founder of 20th-century Polish music and the most distinguished Polish composer after Chopin. He wrote piano music, violin concertos, symphonies, and the opera Król Roger/King Roger (1918–24), in richly glamorous idiom drawing on national folklore and French Impressionist style. He was director of the Warsaw Conservatory from 1926.

He learnt music privately as a child and composed a set of piano preludes, Op. 1, in 1900. In 1903 he entered the Warsaw Conservatory, studying with Zygmunt Noskowski (1846–1909). At the Lviv Chopin Festival in 1905 he won a first prize with a C minor piano sonata. He lived in Berlin for a time from 1906 and worked on behalf of Polish music. He was initially influenced by Debussy and Richard Strauss, but also created his own lyrical late-Romantic vision, particularly in the 3rd symphony Song of the Night, the violin concerto, the Stabat Mater, and the opera King Roger. His more abstract works such as his piano sonatas and mazurkas embrace more modern techniques within traditional forms, and his masques seem almost improvisatory.

As an aristocrat he lost his property in World War I and was imprisoned in Russia, but escaped to Warsaw, where in 1926 he became professor of composition and director of the State Conservatory. His last years were marred by tuberculosis and he died in a sanatorium in Switzerland.

WorksStage opera King Roger (1926); ballet Harnasie (1935).

Choral and orchestral four symphonies, including no. 3 for tenor or soprano, male chorus, and orchestra (Song of the Night, 1916), Sinfonia concertante for piano and orchestra (1932); two violin concertos (1916, 1933); Hafiz Love Songs for voice and orchestra; Stabat Mater (1926).

Chamber two string quartets (1917, 1927); Masques, Métopes, Mazurkas, and many other works for piano; many songs including cycles Songs of the Infatuated Muezzin (Jaroslav Iwaszkiewicz), Słopiewnie (Julian Tuwim), settings of poems by Kasprowicz.

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