Fantasy in C major for piano Op. 14 – Karol Szymanowski
Composed by Karol Szymanowski in 1905, Fantasy in C major Op. 14 was first played by the established pianist and composer's cousin, Harry Neuhaus (to whom the work was dedicated) in Warsaw, during the concert of the Young Poland in Music group on 9th February 1906.
Fantasy is evocative of the music style of Franz Liszt, especially in its architecture, with three movements inter-linked by a common musical idea. It is difficult in the technical aspect, as Szymanowski himself points out in a letter to Stefan Spiess:
I would not like to have 'Fantazja' [...] printed yet. Being so impossibly difficult, it would establish my reputation as an unspiel- und unsingbarer Komponist [an unplayable and unsingable composer].1
The domination of the elaborate (composing and performing) technique over the piece's character prompted a number of negative attitudes both in Szymanowski's contemporary and later times. Tadeusz A. Zieliński described Fantasy as a work which 'condenses all the unfavourable features of Szymanowski's early music'.2
While the performing difficulties may not endear pianists to Fantasy Op. 14, it has nevertheless been included in the repertoires of such piano virtuosi as Andrzej Stefański, Jerzy Godziszewski, Martin Jones, Martin Roscoe or Andrzej Tatarski. The interpretation by Tatarski has been included in the recent (2007) release by DUX, alongside Masques Op. 34 and the premier recording of Harnasie Op. 55 in Grażyna Bacewicz's transcription for two pianos.
1 Karol Szymanowski. Korespondencja, Tom I: lata 1903-1919, p. 248, letter of 11th December 1910 to Stefan Spiess, ed. Teresa Chylińska, PWM, Kraków 1982).
2 Tadeusz A. Zieliński, Szymanowski. Liryka i ekstaza, PWM, Kraków 1997, p. 46.
Author: Anna Iwanicka-Nijakowska, September 2007.