Karol Szymanowski, full name Karol Maciej Szymanowski, was a prominent Polish composer in the early twentieth century. He was born on October 6, 1882, in Timoshovka, Ukraine, Russian Empire, and died on March 29, 1937, in Lausanne, Switzerland.
At a young age, Szymanowski started to write and play the piano. From 1901 to 1904, he studied harmony, counterpoint, and composition privately in Warsaw. He moved to Berlin, where he established the Young Polish Composers' Publishing Co. (1905–12), to publish new works by his countrymen, after finding the musical life in Warsaw to be restrictive. His works from this period, such as the opera Hagith (1913), display Strauss, Wagner, and Scriabin's influence.
Szymanowski returned to his homeland when World War I broke out. Between 1914 and 1917, he was cut off from the rest of Europe's musical world, so he wrote a lot of music and learned Islamic culture and ancient Greek drama and philosophy. Mity (1914; "Myths"), Metopy (1915; "Metopes"), and Maski (1916; "Masques"), among Szymanowski's works from this time, display great originality and diversity of design. Although retaining the expressive melodic style of his earlier works, he softened his dynamic extremes, used coloristic orchestration, and used polytonal and atonal material. With the creation of an independent Polish state in 1918, Szymanowski became profoundly interested in the Polish folk idiom and attempted to develop a Polish national style for the first time since Chopin. Also, he became more conventional, abandoning his atonal lexicon. He adapted their tonal language, syncopated rhythms, and winding melodies in his new style while living in Zakopane, the provincial capital of the Tatra mountain people. 20 Mazurkas for Piano (1924–25) and the ballet-pantomime Harnasie (1923–31) are notable works from this era. Szymanowski also traveled extensively, promoting his works in London, Paris, and the United States, earning international recognition for his operas Hagith and Król Roger (1918–24; "King Roger"). He moved to Warsaw in 1927 to take over as director of the Warsaw Conservatory for five years to improve musical education in Poland. Szymanowski moved away from direct use of folk music in his compositions during the 1930s. Although he continued to use folk music material, his forms and orchestration harkened to his earlier works. The Symphony No. 4 (1932) and the choral works Veni Creator (1930) and Litania Do Marii Panny (1930–33; "Litany to the Virgin Mary") are among the significant results from this time.
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