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Composer and Pianist Karol Szymanowski Died in 1937

He is remembered as one of the eminent Polish composers of the twentieth century


Polish composer and pianist Karol Szymanowski died on this day in 1937 in Lausanne, aged 66.

His signature works include four symphonies, the ballets Harnasie and Mandragora, the operas Hagith and Krol Roger — plus two violin concertos, and the popular Three Myths for violin and piano.

Born in 1882 in Tymoszówka (now part of Ukraine), Szymanowski initially studied music with his father. He furthered his studies at the Warsaw State Conservatory, and he would later spend four years as the director of this institution.

The early part of Szymanowski's career was spent in Berlin, and accordingly, much of the works from this period were influenced by late Romantic German composers, such as Richard Strauss and Richard Wagner. The arrival of the First World War forced him to remain in Tymoszówka until his family home was destroyed, at which point he settled in Warsaw.

From this point on, Szymanowski began to experiment with a more impressionistic style, taking his cues from composers such as Debussy and Ravel, and he occasionally employed aspects of atonality. He developed a parallel interest in Polish folk music and incorporated these colors into a number of his works — including the Mazurkas for solo piano, which were inspired by his compatriot Frédéric Chopin.

After he had accepted the position of Director of the Warsaw Conservatory in 1929, Szymanowski began to suffer from tuberculosis. Despite undergoing treatment in Switzerland, he succumbed to the disease in a sanatorium in 1937.

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