Nocturne and Tarantella Op. 28. – Karol Szymanowski
Szymanowski composed his Nocturne and Tarantella Op. 28 in Józef Jaroszyński's manor in Zarudzie and in Ryżawka, the estate of August Iwański, his friend to whom he dedicated the work. Written in spring and summer of 1915, the piece was first performed by Paweł Kochański and Feliks Szymanowski in Warsaw on 24th January 1920.
Nocturne and Tarantella Op. 28 belong to the lighter current of Szymanowski piano music, one invoking the 19th century virtuoso music which was popular at that time. The work's character can be explained by the circumstances of the writing of its second part, Tarantella, as once confided by August Iwański:
Sometimes unceremonious guests managed to get out some delicious beverages from his [Jaroszyński's] cupboard. It was from one of such bottles that good spirits, expressed in ... Tarantella, quite unexpectedly spurted.1
While an attentive listener will discern in Nocturne allusions (often humorous ones) to characteristic turns which are common in violin music and which bring to mind Oriental, Gypsy and Spanish music, Tarantella, which is styled as a buoyant and rhythmic Italian dance, delights one with unfettered vitality and expressiveness. It is modern harmony and new sound that unite the work's two building blocks.
Nocturne and Tarantella Op. 28 are among Szymanowski's most popular violin compositions. First published by Universal Edition as early as 1921, the work has featured in the repertoires of the top violinists, with Paweł Kochański at the forefront. Its popularity is also reflected by numerous recordings, starting from Yehudi Menuhin's and Marcel Gazelle's (His Master's Voice, 1937) and continuing after the war with, among others, Ida Haendel with Adela Kotowska (Decca). Among the contemporary releases one should definitely mention the interpretations of Wanda Wiłkomirska and Tadeusz Chmielewski from 1982 (Polskie Nagrania, Muza), Kaja Danczowska and Krystian Zimerman from ca. 1987 (Deutsche Grammophon) and Piotr Pławner and Waldemar Malicki from 2002 (DUX).
Grzegorz Fitelberg, who did a symphonic orchestration of Nocturne and Tarantella Op. 28 in 1937, recorded it with the Great Symphony Orchestra of the Polish Radio for Polskie Nagrania and Muza in 1955. Another recording of the orchestral transcription, by the Silesian Philharmonic Orchestra under Karol Stryja, was released on CDs by Marco Polo in 1991 and Naxos in 1996.
1 August Iwański, "Zarudzie 1915-1916", "Ruch Muzyczny" 1967 no. 6, p. 12).
Author: Anna Iwanicka-Nijakowska, September 2007.