LISTSERV mailing list manager LISTSERV 16.0

Help for CLASSICAL Archives


CLASSICAL Archives

CLASSICAL Archives


CLASSICAL@COMMUNITY.LSOFT.COM


View:

Message:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Topic:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Author:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

Font:

Proportional Font

LISTSERV Archives

LISTSERV Archives

CLASSICAL Home

CLASSICAL Home

CLASSICAL  September 2008

CLASSICAL September 2008

Subject:

Szymanowski's Symphonies 2+3

From:

Steve Schwartz <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 2 Sep 2008 15:58:29 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (96 lines)

Karol Szymanowski

*  Symphony No. 2 in B-flat, op. 19^
*  Symphony No. 3, op. 27 "Song of the Night"

^Ewa Marczyk (violin), Ryszard Minkiewicz (tenor)
 Warsaw Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra/Antoni Wit
Naxos 8.570721  Total time: 60:49.

Summary for the Busy Executive: Good value.

The music of Polish composer Karol Szymanowski's falls into three periods.
He begins as a follower of Richard Strauss then quickly falls under the
influence of Debussy.  In roughly the mid-Twenties, he suddenly moved
to a Modern nationalistic Polish idiom, a conscious archaism, similar
to what Stravinsky had accomplished with his early ballets, and continued
mainly in that vein until his premature death in 1937.  I can't deny his
power as a composer in any of his styles, even though I don't care for
the first two.  To me, he becomes really interesting (rather than merely
a superb craftsman) only from the Twenties on.  To some extent, one can
attribute this to the conservativism of Polish musical life at the time,
where Richard Strauss (and not necessarily something as harsh as Elektra)
represented the "music from Pluto." As Szymanowski comes into contact
with the work of Debussy and the Stravinsky-influenced French, his idiom
changes.

The two symphonies here fall into Szymanowski's earlier two phases.  I'd
call each, in its own way, over the top.

The premiere audience in Warsaw hated the second symphony, but the score
went down more smoothly abroad.  I should mention that no less a critic
than Deems Taylor liked Szymanowski's second symphony when he heard it
in 1922.  Writing for the New York World, he rated it the best work he
had heard that year.  Second-best was a piece by Charles Martin Loeffler.
Ravel's La Valse, Falla's El Sombrero de tres picos, and Vaughan Williams's
Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis made up the contingent of also-rans.
So critics, let alone me, don't know everything.

The second symphony shows the unmistakable trace of Richard Strauss,
particularly the Symphonia domestica (1903), although Szymanowski scores
less thickly.  Nevertheless, it shares the idiom and the formal gigantism
of its predecessor.  In two large movements, it begins with a super-sonata
(three major thematic groups) and ends with a theme-and-variations
movement.  The second movement in turn breaks down into a lyrical opening,
a suite of dances (scherzo, gavotte, minuet), and an introduction and
huge fugue.  In general, I can pretty much leave post-Wagnerian chromaticism
alone.  It tends to run together for me.  Strauss differs from the run
of the mill in that he can create memorable melodies and gestures out
of that chromaticism.  Szymanowski does not, at least not here.  The
best parts of the movement occur when Szymanowski gets into a lyrical
vein similar to Rachmaninoff's.  The link may well be Chopin.  I admire
the second movement, moreover, for the care toward and seamlessness of
the transitions from variation to another.  It turns out that the theme
of the second movement is a relative of the first subject of the opening
movement.  Normally I would delight in a twist like this, but in this
case it emphasizes the sameness of the work.

The third symphony, even "further out" than the second, premiered in
London.  In three movements, it features a tenor in the first and last,
with an orchestral interlude, augmented by a Ravelian wordless chorus,
in the middle.  The text comes from Persian poetry, although I doubt
the accuracy of the Polish translation.  It belongs to the tradition
of hot-house orientalism found in composers like Bantock which played
a part in throwing off Victorian and Edwardian inhibitions about sex. 
You either care for this sort of thing or you don't.  I find it about
as deep as a griddle.  Szymanowski follows Debussy rather than Strauss,
but the symphony has the same kind of problem as the second: you keep
waiting for something to happen, and you wait for Godot.  Instead of
Straussian noodling around, it's Impressionistic noodling around, and
you feel like you're listening to white noise or like a cat is rubbing
against your leg for twenty-five minutes.  Even more gorgeously scored
than the second, the symphony nevertheless goes nowhere and in a bigger
hurry.  I stress, however, that your mileage may vary.

No complaints at all about the performance.  I've never heard anything
less than a marvelous reading from Antoni Wit, never mind what I think
of the piece or the quality of the orchestra.  Tenor soloist Ryszard
Minkiewicz sounds a bit thin, but to be fair, Szymanowski puts a lot
of orchestra behind him.  The engineering could be better.  Some of
the climaxes seem sonically over-saturated and hence muddy.  Still,
the Warsaw Philharmonic manages to unravel Szymanowski's textures
almost all the time.

Naxos has a nice Symanowski mini-series going with conductors Wit
and Karol Stryja, among others, including recordings of the opera King
Roger, the Stabat mater, the Harnasie and Mandragora ballets, both string
quartets and both violin concerti, all four symphonies, and so on.  The
Naxos price invites you to explore.

Steve Schwartz

             ***********************************************
The CLASSICAL mailing list is powered by L-Soft's renowned LISTSERV(R)
list management software together with L-Soft's HDMail High Deliverability
Mailer for reliable, lightning fast mail delivery.  For more information,
go to:  http://www.lsoft.com/LISTSERV-powered.html

Top of Message | Previous Page | Permalink

Advanced Options


Options

Log In

Log In

Get Password

Get Password


Search Archives

Search Archives


Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Subscribe or Unsubscribe


Archives

May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
February 2002
January 2002
December 2001
November 2001
October 2001
September 2001
August 2001
July 2001
June 2001
May 2001
April 2001
March 2001
January 2001
December 2000
November 2000
October 2000
September 2000
August 2000
July 2000
June 2000
May 2000
April 2000
March 2000
February 2000
January 2000
December 1999
November 1999
October 1999
September 1999
August 1999
July 1999
June 1999
May 1999
April 1999
March 1999
February 1999
January 1999
July 1997

ATOM RSS1 RSS2



COMMUNITY.LSOFT.COM

Secured by F-Secure Anti-Virus CataList Email List Search Powered by the LISTSERV Email List Manager