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Symphony No. 1 in F minor Op. 15 - Karol Szymanowski

Szymanowski, who wrote his Symphony in F minor Op. 15 in 1906-07, originally envisaged this first symphony of his as a three-movement composition, yet eventually completed only two movements: the first Allegro pathétique and the third Allegretto con moto grazioso, with the middle movement never instrumented nor performed. In Szymanowski's lifetime the Symphony was presented to the public only once, on 26th March 1909 in Warsaw, Grzegorz Fitelberg conducting. The following performance - under the same conductor - took place after Szymanowski's death, on 6th October 1938 at the Polish Radio in Warsaw.

Szymanowski came to dislike his Symphony while he was still working on it, and in a letter written from Tymoszówka to his friend, composer and pianist Anna Maria Klechniowska, confessed:

"I do not like it - or rather I like only the last movement, a very light-hearted one...".1

The two finished movements are written in the Wagnerian-Straussian style similar to that of the previous year's Concert Overture Op. 12, with a similar gusto, expressiveness and a special, dissonant harmony evocative of Richard Wagner's famous Tristan and Isolde.

Rarely featuring in concert programmes (one recent exception being the concert of the Symphony Orchestra of the Academy of Music in Katowice under Jan Wincenty Hawel during the Second Days of Karol Szymanowski Music in Zakopane in 1978), the 1st Symphony has so far been recorded only once, by the Silesian Philharmonic Orchestra under Karol Stryja; the recording has been released as two LPs in 1989 by Naxos and Marco Polo, respectively.


1 "Karol Szymanowski. Korespondencja", tom I: lata 1903-1919, s. 112, list z 28 X 1906 do Hanny Klechniowskiej, red. Teresa Chylińska, PWM, Kraków 1982.

Author: Anna Iwanicka-Nijakowska, September 2007.

Tags: Symphony No. 1 in F minor Op. 15karol szymanowski

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