Szymanowski wrote his six Pieśni księżniczki z baśni / Songs of a Fairytale Princess in 1915, setting poems by his sister Zofia and dedicating the work to her. He used these short, aphoristic verses to create miniatures of extraordinary colour and diverse expression, from the lyrical (No. 1 Samotny księżyc / Lonely Moon, No. 3 Złote trzewiki / Golden Slippers and No. 5 Pieśń o fali / Song of the Wave), to Oriental (No. 2 Słowik / The Nightingale) to highly expressive (No. 3 Taniec / Dance and No. 6 Uczta / The Feast). The exotic and fairytale air is enhanced by ornamental vocalizes which Szymanowski introduced at the beginning of every song except the last one. However, it is the extensive piano part which dominates over the voice, with complex harmony coming to the fore with numerous ostinatos, the aftermaths of complicated chords.

In 1933 Szymanowski revisited the cycle, choosing to transcribe three of its miniatures (Lonely Moon, The Nightingale and Dance) for voice and orchestra, and it was this version of the work that was performed by Ewa Bandrowska-Turska and the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra under Grzegorz Fitelberg at a Polish Radio concert in Warsaw on 7th April that year.

Songs of a Fairytale Princess appeared in print in 1926, the publisher being Universal Edition and the languages Polish, French and German. Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne published the orchestral version (of the three pieces) in 1952.

Both versions have been widely popular with musicians, as testified by the numerous recordings, including those by Jadwiga Gadulanka (Polskie Nagrania and Marco Polo), Izabela Kłosińska (Koch-Schwann / Musica Mundi), Iwona Sobotka (EMI and Channel Classics), Dorothy Dorow (Etcetera / Helikon) and others.

Author: Anna Iwanicka-Nijakowska, September 2007.