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String quartets – Karol Szymanowski

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When in 1917 Karol Szymanowski started to work on his first Kwartet smyczkowy/String Quartet, he had already composed some important pieces like the III Symfonia Pieśń o nocy/ Symphony no.3 Song of the Night or the I Koncert skrzypcowy/ Violin Concerto no. 1 OP. 35.

It is no surprise then, that the new work of the 35-year-old composer was immediately acclaimed as one of his most important, most profound and inspired compositions so far. Szymanowski in a very masterly and artistic manner combined here some elements of different genres (though without falling into eclectism) revealing at the same time his individual style. One can find in this work sounds referring to impressionism as well as simple melodies remaining of folk music, melodical turnarounds sounding like an archaisation, sensual lyrisicm (beautiful Andantino semplice), expression, dissonance, humour, grotesque no to mention the classical formal figures. The artistic quality of the piece was appreciated at the national forum and in 1922 awarded with the 1st prize by the Ministry of Religion and Public Enlightment.

The II KWARTET SMYCZKOWY / String Quartet No. 2 was created exactly ten years after the first one. It hence belongs to another period of Szymanowski's development, called the 'national' and characterised by a different stylistic. It was written at the same time when the composer was working on HARNASIE (1923-31) and therefore contains many similarities with the famous ballet. There are even direct quotations from HARNASIE (or rather common elements) - the melody of the highland robber's song 'Poccież chłopcy' and the variant of the higlander Sabała note. The first part of the QUARTET NO. 2 is filled with lyricism and beautiful cantilena, the next two feature clear references to highland music, brave, dissonant harmonies and an aggressive and sharp sound.

Both compositions were wondrfully performed by the CAMERATA QUARTET. This gifted, existing since 1984 ensemble was awarded at international performing and phonographic competitions, performed many concerts in Poland and abroad and also leads courses for other string quartets. It is specialised in the repertory of the great classic and romantic literature and in the music of the 20th century. It feels very comfortable performing the chamber music of Szymanowski as well, and its interpretation of the quartets delights with the diversity of ('from poetry to expression') and with the perfect technique.

Karol Szymanowski: String quartets. String quartet No. 1 in C Major op. 37, String Quartet No. 2 op. 56. Camerata Quartet. DUX 2002 - DUX 0366, DDD 35'33".
Polish Music Information Center
Polish Composers' Union
September 2002

Tags: String quartetskarol szymanowski

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