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Karol Szymanowski

Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937)

Nationality: Polish
Born: October 3, 1882, Tymoszówka Died: March 29, 1937, Lausanne (age 54)

String Quartet No. 1 in C major, Op. 37

(for 2 violins, viola and cello)
8:41 I. Lento assai - Allegro moderato
6:39 II. Andantino sempilce (In modo d'una canzone) - Adagio dolcissimo - Lento assai
4:16 III. Vivace - Scherzando alla burlesca - Vivace ma non troppo
Duration: 20 minutes (approximately)
Composed: 1917 (age 41-35)
Published: 1924-1925 (age 41-43)
Dedication: Henry Prunières
5 recordings, 15 videos
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8:16
Goldner String Quartet
I. Lento assai - Allegro moderato
6:10
Goldner String Quartet
II. Andantino sempilce (In modo d'una canzone) - Adagio dolcissimo - Lento assai
4:47
Goldner String Quartet
III. Vivace - Scherzando alla burlesca - Vivace ma non troppo
8:09
Silesian String Quartet
I. Lento assai - Allegro moderato
6:11
Silesian String Quartet
II. Andantino sempilce (In modo d'una canzone) - Adagio dolcissimo - Lento assai
3:44
Silesian String Quartet
III. Vivace - Scherzando alla burlesca - Vivace ma non troppo
7:27
Equalis Quartet
I. Lento assai - Allegro moderato
5:20
Equalis Quartet
II. Andantino sempilce (In modo d'una canzone) - Adagio dolcissimo - Lento assai
4:29
Equalis Quartet
III. Vivace - Scherzando alla burlesca - Vivace ma non troppo
7:43
Asasello Quartett
I. Lento assai - Allegro moderato
5:28
Asasello Quartett
II. Andantino sempilce (In modo d'una canzone) - Adagio dolcissimo - Lento assai
4:19
Asasello Quartett
III. Vivace - Scherzando alla burlesca - Vivace ma non troppo
13:17
Akademos Quartet
I. Lento assai - Allegro moderato
12:05
Akademos Quartet
II. Andantino sempilce (In modo d'una canzone) - Adagio dolcissimo - Lento assai
3:51
Akademos Quartet
III. Vivace - Scherzando alla burlesca - Vivace ma non troppo
From Kai Christiansen

Karol Szymanowski, 1882-1937

String Quartet in C Major, Op. 37, 1917

Karol SzymanowskiKarol Szymanowski is surely not a household name, but he is a worthy composer that is frankly underperformed, unappreciated. Descending from an aristocratic Polish family, he was born and raised in the Ukraine eventually becoming one of the most important Polish composers since Chopin. Szymanowski is primarily celebrated for his orchestral works (including symphonies and two violin concerti), piano pieces and art songs, but he composed a handful of chamber works including two string quartets in 1917 and 1927 respectively.

Szymanowski is a fascinating representative of his time in that his evolving musical interests chart an adventurous course of changing styles and influences that nonetheless emerge in a unique, original voice. Szymanowki's early influences included Chopin and the "classics" as well as a distinct leaning towards the late Romantic music of Strauss and Mahler. Subsequently, he digested the French impressionism of Debussy and Ravel, the second Viennese school of Schoenberg and his pupils, the music of Bartók and Stravinsky and finally, under the influence of a rising Polish nationalism, indigenous folk music of the Tatra highlands. Readily identifiable threads of all this music run throughout Szymanowski's oeuvre in a rich amalgam that emphasizes one or more of these trends depending on the point in his timeline.

His first string quartet is easily one of the most bewitchingly unique quartets in the literature. A relatively early work, it is an uncanny blend of late Romanticism and impressionism particularly in the first movement that expends close to half of the total duration. Rather than a bristling opening allegro, the quartet begins with moderately paced music of great suavity and insinuation. Languid chromatic lines with rich counterpoints strongly contrast with surging energies of nervous and unresolved restlessness, suggesting, by turns, Debussy and the late German romantics.

The middle andantino semplice maintains this contrast within the rubric of a slow, lyrical movement. A sweet song vies with darker, muscular currents in an atmosphere of eerie, other worldly sonorities achieved by high registers, mutes, harmonics, trills and tremolos. Ghostly and amorphous, the lyrical waxes lush and occasionally lurid like a pale, fragrant night-blooming flower tinged with poison.

The last of three movements proves to be a rather bumptious scherzo, a burlesque encompassing a fugue where each of the four parts is written in a different key. Strong accents, spiky pizzicato, more trills and tremolos pursue a imitative follow-the-leader dance that suggests some of the tart sarcasm of Shostakovich as well as the motoric bite of the neo-classicists that helped define the sound of the 20's. Eventually, the four differently keyed lines converge to conclude in a simple, uni-tonal C major. Szymanowski originally planned this scherzo as the second of a four-movement work but the chaos of the October revolution in 1917 prevented him from writing the intended finale. Perhaps with some hesitation, Szymanowski switched the order of the scherzo and the slow movement resulting in the "finished" three-movement quartet as it now stands.

© Kai Christiansen Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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1900 WWI WWII Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849) Zygmunt Noskowski (1846-1909) Claude Debussy (1862-1918) Richard Strauss (1864-1949) Max Reger (1873-1916) Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) Grzegorz Fitelberg (1879-1953) Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937) Apolinary Szeluto (1884-1966) Ludomir Różycki (1884-1953)
Zygmunt Noskowski (1846-1909)
Teacher
Nationality: Polish
Born: May 2, 1846, Warsaw Died: July 23, 1909, Warsaw (age 63)