B1713. CHRISTOPHER PALMER. Szymanowski. British Broadcasting Corp., 1983. 104pp. Index; Illus. (Pictorial thick paper covers) 0-563-20136-3
“Beginning with the first concerts in Warsaw and Berlin, Szymanowski’s work evoked a great deal of interest from Polish and foreign critics, although often it gave rise to continuous controversies and polemics. These took place both before the First World War, and during the period of Poland’s independence. Some valued his work and regarded him as the greatest Polish artist of his day; others did not understand him, and attacked him for his reforming activities at the Conservatory. However, he was not destined to enjoy for long the reputation as the one who restored European standard to Polish music. After the Second World War, during the domination of socialist realism, Szymanowski’s music was viewed one-sidedly, acknowledging the value of only those works based on stylisation of folklore, regarded as the pinnacle of the composer’s creative development. This led to his earlier works, including Symphony No. 3 and KING ROGER, being underrated, and meant that for a long time musicological writings carried judgements about the “overcoming” of mysticism and “atonal chaos” in Szymanowski’s final creative period. His idea of nationalistic style was made over to fit Marxist ideology, and Harnasie came to be regarded as a pioneering musical realism composition.
However, paradoxically and in spite of the official view, during the first postwar decade Szymanowski’s works were regularly included in the concert repertory of orchestras and soloists, and were recorded and published by the PWM [State Music Publishing House] as well as many re-editions of works published by Universal Edition). Numerous articles in the press, particularly on the tenth anniversary of Szymanowski’s death, provided unfalsified assessments of the composer’s role in the “Europeanisation” of Polish music, and brought much that was new to research on his life and works. From 1940, Stanislaw Golachowski was collecting and keeping secure Szymanowski’s autographs, documents and mementoes. The collection was handed over to the Museum Collections Department of Warsaw University Library in 1961, where new items are being added to it on a continuous basis. 1948 saw the publication of a small monograph on Szymanowski by Golachowski, and the biographical material he collected was published in 1960. With time, however, views on Szymanowski’s significance for the development of Polish music underwent a change. In particular, the thirtieth anniversary of Szymanowski’s death provided an opportunity for re-evaluation. From the point of view of the avantgarde, Szymanowski’s music appeared almost anachronistic when compared to that of his contemporaries. A turning point in this respect was the initiative of publishing the Collected Works of Karol Szymanowski (under the editorship of Teresa Chylinska, whose collaborators included Adam Neuer, Adam Walaciski, Alistair Wightman, Zofia Helman) in two series. The monumental edition of Szymanowski’s Correspondence (editing and commentary by Teresa Chylinska), as well as his Musical Writings (edited by Kornel Michalowski) and Literary Writings (edited by Teresa Szymanowsk) provides a summing up of the research and constitutes a veritable compendium of knowledge about the composer’s biography and the reception of his music up to 1937.”
- Harlan P. Casavant