Donald Macleod explores the years Szymanowski spent at Tymoszowka and the production of what has become one of his most popular works, Stabat Mater, written after his niece died.
Following Chopin's death in 1849, Poland was on the lookout for a worthy successor. When, some fifty years later, Karol Szymanowski produced some preludes at the age of only 14, it seemed as if a new talent had emerged that could unite Poland's musical past with a musical future. But although Szymanowski wanted to release Polish music from what he identified as its lethargy and provincialism, his vision of music exceeded purely geographical boundaries. An inveterate and keen traveller, his music would find references in Debussy, Wagner and Richard Strauss, Scriabin, and Stravinsky, as well as the rhythms of his native country. The politics of history played its part in Szymanowski's musical development. When he was born in 1882, Poland as we know it didn't really exist, it had been carved up by Russia, Austria and Prussia, effectively wiped off the map, at the end of the 18th century. Szymanowski grew up in the Ukraine, in an area that had been part of the kingdom of Poland's eastern borderlands. These days it's still the Ukraine, to the east of a line due south from Kiev to Odessa, on the Black Sea.
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