• WL100/35: Lutosławski in Riga

This photograph was taken in Riga on 4 May 1935.  Lutosławski was part of a group of music students from Warsaw who were on a little concert tour.  He played his new Piano Sonata, which he’d finished at the end of December 1934 and played on Polish Radio in 1935.  It then disappeared from view and was not published until after his death.


The photograph is interesting for a particular reason.  Karol Szymanowski was also in Riga on what turned out to be his last major concert tour (with his sister, the soprano Stanisława Szymanowska-Korwin and the violinist Wacław Niemczyk) and the two parties met.  Szymanowski is on the left (looking in), Lutosławski on the far right (looking to camera).  It was their one and only meeting.  Lutosławski recalled: ‘Szymanowski was extremely kind to our small group.  He came to our concert, we walked around town together and accompanied him to Radio Riga. […] After our concert, Wacław Niemczyk told me: “Karol liked your Sonata very much; however, he wouldn’t say it to you.”‘

• Polish Music at the 2013 BBC Proms

Polish Music at the 2013 BBC Proms

p0179z7mThe 2013 BBC Proms have been launched today.  It is great to see Polish music taking a prominent role, instigated by the centenary this year of the birth of Witold Lutosławski.  This is no mean feat, given that 2013 also marks the centenary of the birth of Benjamin Britten and the bicentenaries of Verdi and Wagner.  And this is not to mention other anniversaries, like the 50th anniversary of the death of Francis Poulenc.

There are seven pieces by Lutosławski in this year’s programme.  There are also two by both Andrzej Panufnik (his centenary falls next year) and Karol Szymanowski.  And there is one each by Henryk Mikołaj Górecki and Krzysztof Penderecki, who were born 80 years ago.  There is also a concert including music of the Polish Renaissance.  An outline calendar of Polish music at the 2013 Proms is given below.

My essay for the BBC Proms Guide may be read here.

Prom 1 • 12 July
• Lutosławski: Variations on a Theme by Paganini

PCM 1 • 15 July
• Lutosławski: Partita

Prom 8 • 17 July
• Lutosławski: Cello Concerto

Prom 9 • 18 July
• Szymanowski: Symphony no.3 ‘Song of the Night’

PCM 2 • 22 July
• Polish and other European Renaissance Music

Prom 32 • 7 August
• Lutosławski: Symphonic Variations
• Lutosławski: Piano Concerto

Prom 44 • 15 August
• Penderecki: Concerto Grosso

Prom 55 • 23 August
• Lutosławski: Concerto for Orchestra
• Panufnik: Tragic Overture
• Panufnik: Lullaby

PSM 4 • 24 August
• Lutosławski: Paroles tissées

Prom 68 • 2 September
• Szymanowski: Violin Concerto no.1

Prom 71 • 4 September
• Górecki: Symphony no.3 ‘Symphony of Sorrowful Songs’

• William Hughes completes his Szymanowski

It is almost five months since I last posted links to William Hughes’s invaluable English translations of Polish articles on Szymanowski (The Chronicles of Dr Hughes), the vast majority of them from 1937-38.  Since then, he has posted 68 more, making a final total of over 130 translations.  This has been a mammoth task, undertaken with love and care as well as from a burning desire to share these important documents with a wider audience.  I hope that his efforts will one day be rewarded with a hard-copy publication, so if you appreciate his extraordinarily selfless achievement and agree with me about wanting to see this material in print, do let him know.  He has redesigned his website so that is is easy to scroll through the summaries and click for the full articles.  He’s also added images to many of the items.

It’s superfluous for me to itemise these documents as in my previous posts, so it gives me great pleasure to direct you straight to his own site: http://drwilliamhughes.blogspot.co.uk/.  Bravo, William!

• New CD Note (Szymanowski/Chandos)

CHAN 5115After four volumes of Lutosławski in its ‘Muzyka Polska’ series, with a fifth to follow shortly, Chandos has begun a new Polish strand.  New Year’s Day 2013 marks the issue of its first Szymanowski CD in the series.  The principal forces remain the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Edward Gardner.

I heard Louis Lortie’s recording of Szymanowski’s Symphony no.4 ‘Symphonie Concertante’ when it was broadcast on Radio 3 last November.  It fairly zinged along and the finale was the best that I’ve heard.  Also on this new CD are the early Concert Overture and Symphony no.2.

The front cover, if I’m not mistaken, shows the Tatra Mountains from the southern, Slovakian side rather than from a Polish vantage point that Szymanowski might have known.  The lake is Štrbské Pleso.

Here’s the link to my booklet note for this new Szymanowski CDor you can scroll the CD NOTES tab above.

• BBC Scottish SO’s ‘Muzyka Polska’

Later this week I’m paying a flying visit to Glasgow to give a pre-concert talk as part of the first night of the BBC Scottish SO’s Muzyka Polska series during its 2012-13 season.  This has been built around next year’s centenary of the birth of Witold Lutosławski and I’m very happy to have been able to play a small part in advising on the choice of repertoire.  With its concentration on Lutosławski and on Szymanowski, the 75th anniversary of whose death falls this year, there was limited room for other major figures (no Baird, Górecki or Serocki, for example).  I’m particularly delighted to see Mieczysław Karłowicz’s Eternal Songs (1906) in the mix and pleased to see that there is music by at least one composer born after World War II, Paweł Szymański’s A Study of Shade (1989).  The ‘big’ night is on 17 January 2013, when six Polish works will be performed.

• Chopin  Piano Concerto no.2 (1829-30)   14 March 2013
• Chopin  Piano Concerto no.1 (1830)   11 October 2012
• Szymanowski  Concert Overture (1905)   11 October 2012
• Karłowicz  Eternal Songs (1906)   15 November 2012
• Szymanowski  Songs of a Fairytale Princess (1915, orch. 1933)   17 January 2013
• Szymanowski  Violin Concerto no.1 (1916)   15 November 2012
• Szymanowski  Songs of an Infatuated Muezzin (1918, orch. 1934)   17 January 2013
• Bacewicz  Concerto for String Orchestra (1948)   25 October 2012
• Lutosławski  Concerto for Orchestra (1954)   17 January 2013
• Penderecki  Polymorphia (1961)   17 January 2013 (Post-Concert Coda)
• Lutosławski  Cello Concerto (1970)   28 February 2013
• Szymański  A Study of Shade (1989)   17 January 2013 (Post-Concert Coda)
• Lutosławski  Symphony no.4 (1992)   17 January 2013

There are two supplementary chamber recitals as Post-Concert Codas: Johannes Moser will play Polish music for cello on 28 February after his performance of Lutosławski’s Cello Concerto, and Garrick Ohlsson will play solo piano pieces by Chopin on 14 March after his performance of Chopin’s Second Piano Concerto.  Ohlsson rocketed to fame after winning the Chopin Competition in Warsaw in 1970.  Moser is becoming one of the foremost performers of the Lutosławski.  His Glasgow appearance follows on from a performance in Poole in January with the Bournemouth SO (which premiered the work with Rostropovich in 1970), three performances in Stuttgart the week before he comes to Glasgow, and he then plays it twice in Bilbao in April.

The full schedule for the BBC SSO Muzyka Polska series may be accessed here or by navigating from its home website.

• New Polish Pantheon in Kraków

Last week it was announced that a new Polish Pantheon would be established in Kraków.  The existing Krypta/ Panteon Zasłużonych (Crypt/Pantheon of the Distinguished), under St Stanisław’s Church on Skałka, has no more room.

The existing Crypt was first brought into use in 1880, and first honoured Jan Długosz, an early Renaissance historian and diplomat.  Over the past 130 years, the Crypt of the Distinguished has become the final resting place of just twelve more men (no women), most of whom were writers and many of whom had Kraków connections.

Photo: Ivonna Nowicka (2010). Szymanowski’s tomb is on the far left


1880  Jan Długosz
1881  Wincenty Pol
1881  Lucjan Siemieński
1887  Józef Ignacy Kraszewski
1893  Teofil Lenartowicz
1897  Adam Asnyk
1902  Henryk Siemiradzki
1907  Stanisław Wyspiański
1929  Jacek Malczewski
1937  Karol Szymanowski
1954  Ludwik Solski
1955  Tadeusz Banachiewicz
2004  Czesław Miłosz


Wyspiański was also a renowned artist, and his interment and that of the painter Siemiradzki seem to have opened the way for other non-literary figures to be included: Malczewski (painter), Szymanowski (composer), Solski (actor and theatre director) and Banachiewicz (mathematician and astronomer).

As the above list indicates, the Crypt was used very intermittently, so can hardly be said to be representative of the great and the good from the worlds of the arts and sciences over the last 130 years.  I wonder whom the authorities have got in mind for the new Pantheon, which will be under the Church of SS Peter and Paul, close to Kraków’s city centre?  They could, I imagine, disinter some who are already dead, such as the composers Witold Lutosławski (Warsaw) or Henryk Mikołaj Górecki (Katowice), but somehow I think that is unlikely.  When Krzysztof Penderecki’s time comes, he might be a likely candidate, not least because he is Kraków born and bred.  Among literary figures, Wisława Szymborska – who died earlier this year and, like Miłosz, was a Nobel laureate – might be considered.  It remains to be seen how the new Pantheon will mark the resting places of those who have been cremated.

The Poles are attached to their great figures and believe in good memorials.  Being given a magnificent tomb in such a crypt, however, is no guarantee of long-lasting recognition or significance, especially outside Poland, as the list of those in the existing Crypt makes evident.

Sometimes you can find just as much dignity and remembrance in a graveyard open to the air.  The Powązki Cemetery in Warsaw is a case in point.  It is the resting place of huge numbers of distinguished people from all walks of life, from times of both peace and war.  There is a particular area with a cluster of composers and performers, including Lutosławski, Baird, Serocki, Rowicki and many others.  I make a point of going to Powązki when I am in Warsaw for more than a couple of days.  Next time I go, I will search out the grave of my friend and distinguished music critic and thinker, Andrzej Chłopecki, who was buried there three days ago.

• More Szymanowski from Doctor Hughes

In the three months since I last posted links to William Hughes’s invaluable English translations of Polish articles on Szymanowski (The Chronicles of Dr Hughes), he has posted 36 more, making 63 to date, with more to come.  I am in awe of his industry and generosity as well as his insights in those postings where he provides commentaries or explications.

I’m adding here the two previous tranches of links posted on 28 March (14 items) and 13 May 2012 (13 items).    The 36 new pieces focus in the main around the reaction within Poland to the death of Szymanowski in March 1937.  But William Hughes has also selected further writings, by Mycielski and Iwaszkiewicz, which are more revealing of the music itself, of Szymanowski’s character, his writings or his faith.  Hughes is also not afraid in these translations to reveal (where others have glossed over) Szymanowski’s occasional anti-Jewish jibes or vulgarity.

You can find The Chronicles of Doctor Hughes at http://drwilliamhughes.blogspot.co.uk/.

• 13.08.12  Witold Hulewicz, ‘Bibliographic Sketch’Muzyka Polska no.4 (1937)
• 13.08.12  Witold Hulewicz, ‘On Karol Szymanowski’s Literary Activity’Muzyka Polska no.4 (1937)
• 9.08.12  Zbigniew Drzewiecki, ‘Szymanowski’s Testament’Muzyka Polska no.4 (1937)
• 7.08.12  Kazimierz Sikorski, ‘Address’ [at Szymanowski’s funeral]Muzyka Polska no.4 (1937)
• 4.08.12  Prof. Ujejski, ‘Address’ [at Szymanowski’s funeral]Muzyka Polska no.4 (1937)
• 31.07.12  Adolf Chybiński, ‘Karol Szymanowski (1883[sic]-1937)’Muzyka Polska no.4 (1937)
• 27.07.12  Stefania Szurlejówna, ‘The Funeral of Karol Szymanowski in KrakówProsto z mostu no.18 (1937)
• 24.07.12  Zygmunt Mycielski on Szymanowski’s Symphonie Concertante, pt.2Ucieczki z pięciolinii (1952)
• 21.07.12  Zygmunt Mycielski on Szymanowski’s Symphonie Concertante, pt.1Ucieczki z pięciolinii (1952)
• 17.07.12  Zygmunt Mycielski, ‘Nine Years Ago’Ucieczki z pięciolinii (1946)
• 14.07.12  ‘From Letters and Remembrances of Szymanowski’, pt.3Prosto z mostu no.17 (1937)
• 12.07.12  ‘From Letters and Remembrances of Szymanowski’, pt.2Prosto z mostu no.17 (1937)
• 10.07.12  ‘From Letters and Remembrances of Szymanowski’, pt.1Prosto z mostu no.17 (1937)
• 6.07.12  Stanisław Piasecki, ‘Szymanowski’s Final Moments’Prosto z mostu no.17 (1937)
• 4.07.12  Stefania Szurlejówna, ‘The Funeral of Karol Szymanowski [in Warsaw], pt.3Prosto z mostu no.17 (1937)
• 2.07.12  Stefania Szurlejówna, ‘The Funeral of Karol Szymanowski [in Warsaw], pt.2Prosto z mostu no.17 (1937)
• 1.07.12  Stefania Szurlejówna, ‘The Funeral of Karol Szymanowski [in Warsaw], pt.1Prosto z mostu no.17 (1937)
• 29.06.12  Jerzy Waldorff, ‘Szymanowski, the ‘Educator of a Generation’ ‘Prosto z mostu no.17 (1937)
• 27.06.12  Michał Kondracki, ‘A Memoir about Szymanowski’Prosto z mostu no.17 (1937)
• 25.06.12  Karol Szymanowski, ‘Religion as a Power Fortifying the Life of the Soul’ [poem ‘To Man’, plus commentary], undated
• 21.06.12  Stanisław Piasecki, ‘From Tymoszówka to the Skałka’Prosto z mostu no.17 (1937)
• 19.06.12  Zygmunt Piasecki, ‘Lecioły Zórazie’ [on the Kurpian Songs], Ucieczki z pięciolinii (1934)
• 17.06.12  Jerzy Andrzejewski, [untitled]Prosto z mostu no.17 (1937)
• 15.06.12  Konstanty Regamey, ‘Szymanowski’s Oeuvre’, pt.2Prosto z mostu no.17 (1937)
• 12.06.12  Konstanty Regamey, ‘Szymanowski’s Oeuvre’, pt.1Prosto z mostu no.17 (1937)
• 10.06.12  Karol Szymanowski, ‘A Man’s Individual Ethic’, [undated]
• 9.06.12  Bolesław Miciński, ‘Memory’Prosto z mostu no.17 (1937)
• 8.06.12  Roman Maciejewski, ‘Szymanowski’s Religiousness’Prosto z mostu no.17 (1937)
• 6.06.12  Zygmunt Mycielski, ‘Karol Szymanowski’Prosto z mostu no.17 (1937)
• 3.06.12  Zygmunt Mycielski, ‘What was Szymanowski Like?’, pt.2 (1972)
• 3.06.12  Zygmunt Mycielski, ‘What was Szymanowski Like?’, pt.1 (1972)
• 28.05.12  Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, ‘Karol in Słupsk’ (1972)
• 26.05.12  Iwaszkiewicz, ‘About a Friendship’ [Dzieje przyjaźni – Szymanowski’s Correspondence], Życie Warszawy no.7 (1972)
• 24.05.12  Zygmunt Mycielski, ‘Szymanowski’s Letters’Notatki o muzyce i muzykach (1958)
• 21.05.12  Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, ‘ ‘From the Letters’ of Karol Szymanowski’ (1957)
• 17.05.12  Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, ‘Szymanowski as a Writer’ (1947)

• 12.05.12  Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, ‘Szymanowski’s ‘King Roger”Wiadomość Literackie no.26 (1926)
• 11.05.12  Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, ‘Ahead of the premiere of King Roger’Wiadomość Literackie no.25 (1926)
• 10.05.12  Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, ‘The History of ‘King Roger”Muzyka no.6 (1926)
• 8.05.12  Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, ‘My composition lessons with Szymanowski’Muzyka Polska no.3 (1939)
• 5.05.12  Stanisława Korwin-Szymanowska, ‘The Last Days of Karol Szymanowski’, pt.3Muzyka Polska no.4 ( 1937)
• 1.05.12  Stanisława Korwin-Szymanowska, ‘The Last Days of Karol Szymanowski’, pt.2Muzyka Polska no.4 (1937)
• 26.04.12  Stanisława Korwin-Szymanowska, ‘The Last Days of Karol Szymanowski, pt.1Muzyka Polska no.4 (1937)
• 22.04.12  Zygmunt Mycielski, ‘Szymanowski’s Horizon’Nowiny Literackie no.3-4 (1947)
• 16.04.12  Zygmunt Mycielski, ‘Szymanowski – the Romantic?’Odrodzenie (1947)
• 11.04.12  Mycielski reminisces… Muzyka Polska no.4 (1937)
• 8.04.12  Zygmunt Mycielski, ‘Harnasie in Paris’Prosto z mostu no.19 (1936)
• 4.04.12  Leonia Gradstein, ‘Harnasie in Paris’, pt.2Ruch Muzyczny no.3 (1948)
• 1.04.12  Leonia Gradstein, ‘Harnasie in Paris’, pt.1Ruch Muzyczny no.3 (1948)

• 28.03.12  Szymanowski’s Piano Concerto, pt.2 (1950)
• 28.03.12  In memoriam Karol Szymanowski (28/03/1937)
• 24.03.12  Szymanowski’s Piano Concerto, pt.1 (1950)
• 19.03.12  Tadeusz Baird, ‘Szymanowski’s music has always meant so much to me’ (1979)
• 17.03.12  Stefan Kisielewski, ‘Karol Szymanowski’s Final Journey’, pt.3 (1937)
• 15.03.12  Stefan Kisielewski, ‘Karol Szymanowski’s Final Journey’, pt.2 (1937)
• 10.03.12  Stefan Kisielewski, ‘Karol Szymanowski’s Final Journey’, pt.1 (1937)
• 4.03.12  ‘Stefania Łobaczewska, ‘The Myth of Karol Szymanowski’Muzyka no.4-5 (1937)
• 28.02.12  Paying Homage, pt.4: Roman MaciejewskiMuzyka no.4-5 (1937)
• 24.02.12  Paying Homage, pt.3: Zygmunt MycielskiMuzyka no.4-5 (1937)
• 22.02.12  Paying Homage, pt.2: Piotr Perkowski, Muzyka no.4-5 (1937)
• 21.02.12  Paying Homage, pt.1: Jan MaklakiewiczMuzyka no.4-5 (1937)
• 17.02.12  ‘The Breath of Greatness’: Lutosławski on SzymanowskiMuzyka Polska no.4 (1937)
• 13.02.12  Andrzej Dobrowolski analyses Szymanowski’s ‘Preludium and Fugue’Ruch Muzyczny no.20 (1948)

• More Szymanowski from Doctor Hughes

William Hughes has been busy translating more Polish accounts of Szymanowski to extend the list that I linked to on 28 March (The Chronicles of Dr Hughes). The thirteen new translations include accounts of the Paris premiere in 1935 of the ballet Harnasie (Mountain Robbers) by Szymanowski’s secretary Leonia Gradstein and his young friend, the composer Zygmunt Mycielski.  There are three further articles by Mycielski and contributions from the writer Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz.  Iwaszkiewicz was Szymanowski’s cousin and the co-author with the composer of the libretto for Szymanowski’s opera King Roger.  Iwaszkiewicz’s three articles about King Roger are particularly interesting.  The highlight of William Hughes’s new translations is the account of Szymanowski’s sister Stanisława of the composer’s last days.  She is remarkably frank and detailed, and her emotional description is still moving today, 75 years after his death.

I’m posting links to these new translations below, starting with the most recent. Further down the page I’ve reprinted the list from 28 March, so that they can be viewed together.

You can find The Chronicles of Doctor Hughes at http://drwilliamhughes.blogspot.co.uk/.

• 12.05.12  Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz – ‘Szymanowski’s ‘King Roger” (‘Wiadomość Literackie’ 1926, nr 26)
• 11.05.12  Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz – ‘Ahead of the premiere of King Roger’ (‘Wiadomość Literackie’ 1926, nr 25)
• 10.05.12  Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz – ‘The History of ‘King Roger” (‘Muzyka’ 1926, nr 6)
• 8.05.12  Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz – ‘My composition lessons with Szymanowski’ (‘Muzyka Polska’ 1939, nr 3)
• 5.05.12  Stanisława Korwin-Szymanowska – ‘The Last Days of Karol Szymanowski’ (‘Muzyka Polska’ 1937, nr 4) [part III]
• 1.05.12  Stanisława Korwin-Szymanowska – ‘The Last Days of Karol Szymanowski’ (‘Muzyka Polska’ 1937, nr 4 [part II]
• 26.04.12  Stanisława Korwin-Szymanowska – ‘The Last Days of Karol Szymanowski’ (‘Muzyka Polska’ 1937, nr 4 [part I]
• 22.04.12  Zygmunt Mycielski – ‘Szymanowski’s Horizon’ (‘Nowiny Literackie’ 1947, nr 3-4)
• 16.04.12  Zygmunt Mycielski – ‘Szymanowski – the Romantic?’ (‘Odrodzenie’ 1947)
• 11.04.12  Mycielski reminisces… (‘Muzyka Polska’ 1937, no.4)
• 8.04.12  Zygmunt Mycielski – ‘Harnasie in Paris’ (‘Prosto z mostu’ 1936, nr 19)
• 4.04.12  Leonia Gradstein – ‘Harnasie in Paris’ (‘Ruch Muzyczny’ 1948, nr 3) [Part II]
• 1.04.12  Leonia Gradstein – ‘Harnasie in Paris’ (‘Ruch Muzyczny’ 1948, nr 3) [Part I]

• 28.03.12  Szymanowski’s Piano Concerto [Part II] (1950)
• 28.03.12  In memoriam Karol Szymanowski (28/03/1937)
• 24.03.12  Szymanowski’s Piano Concerto [Part I] (1950)
• 19.03.12  Tadeusz Baird – ‘Szymanowski’s music has always meant so much to me’ (1979)
• 17.03.12  Stefan Kisielewski – ‘Karol Szymanowski’s Final Journey’ [Part Three] (1937)
• 15.03.12  Stefan Kisielewski – ‘Karol Szymanowski’s Final Journey’ [Part Two] (1937)
• 10.03.12  Stefan Kisielewski – ‘Karol Szymanowski’s Final Journey’ [Part One] (1937) 
• 4.03.12  ‘The Myth of Karol Szymanowski’ – Stefania Łobaczewska (‘Muzyka’ 1937, nr 4-5)
• 28.02.12  Paying Homage (Part IV): Roman Maciejewski (‘Muzyka’ 1937, nr 4-5)
• 24.02.12  Paying Homage (Part III): Zygmunt Mycielski (‘Muzyka’ 1937, nr 4-5)
• 22.02.12  Paying Homage (Part II): Piotr Perkowski (‘Muzyka’ 1937, nr 4-5)
• 21.02.12  Paying Homage (Part I): Jan Maklakiewicz (‘Muzyka’ 1937, nr 4-5)
• 17.02.12  ‘The Breath of Greatness’: Lutosławski on Szymanowski (‘Muzyka Polska’, 1937, No 4)
• 13.02.12  Andrzej Dobrowolski analyses Szymanowski’s ‘Preludium and Fugue’ (‘Ruch Muzyczny’, 1948 nr.20)

• Szymanowski’s Funerals

Szymanowski’s sister Stanisława by her brother’s coffin, Lausanne, March-April 1937

Today is the 75th anniversary of Szymanowski’s funeral ceremony in Warsaw and tomorrow the anniversary of his burial in Kraków.  His body had travelled to Warsaw by train from Lausanne, where he had died on the night of 28-29 March 1937 (see my earlier post, When did Szymanowski die?).  The train stopped for commemorative ceremonies in Berlin, at the German-Polish border, and in Poznań in central Poland.  It arrived in Warsaw on Sunday evening, 4 April, and was taken to the Conservatory of Music, where it lay in state until the following evening.

The Warsaw funeral took place on the morning of Tuesday, 6 April, in the Church of the Holy Cross (where an urn containing Chopin’s heart was immured).  Szymanowski’s Stabat Mater was performed during the service. Afterwards, the cortège moved north up Krakowskie Przedmieście, past the University, and turned left to pass in front of the Grand Theatre, where an excerpt from Wagner’s Götterdämmerung was played.  From there it moved south to the Philharmonic, pausing while an arrangement of some of Szymanowski’s piano Variations on a Polish Folk Theme was heard.  Late that evening, the coffin was placed on an overnight train to Kraków.

Szymanowski’s coffin arrived in Kraków early on Wednesday, 7 April, and by 09.00 it had been ceremonially placed in the Mariacki Church on the city’s central square.  During the Kraków service, which began two hours later, Berlioz’s Requiem was performed.  At noon, the famous daily iteration of the hejnał (trumpet alarm) was sounded from the top of the church tower.

Afterwards, the cortège wound its way, to the strains of Beethoven, south-west past Wawel castle and on to St Stanisław church on Skałka (‘the little rock’).  There, Szymanowski’s coffin was placed in the Krypt Zasłużonych (Crypt of the Distinguished).  Szymanowski shares this Polish Pantheon with a dozen other distinguished artistic figures, including Adam Asnyk, Stanisław Wyspiański, Jacek Malczewski and Czesław Miłosz.  Szymanowski is the only composer.  The last music heard after his committal was a folk tune played by Tatra highlanders (a modern commemoration is shown in the picture below), a tribute that was also paid in Katowice at the burial of Henryk Mikołaj Górecki in 2010.

For a contemporary account of the events of 4-7 April 1937, by the composer and critic Stefan Kisielewski, see the following three-part English translation by William Hughes:

Stefan Kisielewski – ‘Karol Szymanowski’s Final Journey’ [Part One]
Stefan Kisielewski – ‘Karol Szymanowski’s Final Journey’ [Part Two]
Stefan Kisielewski – ‘Karol Szymanowski’s Final Journey’ [Part Three]

Photos from these impressive ceremonies in Warsaw and Kraków can be found on several pages of the Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe (National Digital Archive), starting at http://www.audiovis.nac.gov.pl/haslo/279:224/. They knew how to do funerals in those days.

• When did Szymanowski die?

As I write, Wikipedia and several other English-language websites give Karol Szymanowski’s date of death as 28 March 1937 – 75 years ago today.  Yet hard-copy publications, including the 2001 New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, generally state that it was 29 March 1937 – 75 years ago tomorrow.  So which date is correct?

Szymanowski was in the terminal stages of tuberculosis of the throat and lungs when he was admitted to the ‘Signal’ clinic in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Thursday 25 March 1937.  By Easter Sunday, 28 March, he was failing fast and was dead within hours.  Christopher Palmer, in his BBC Music Guide Szymanowski (1983), reports that the composer ‘died just before midnight on 29 March 1937’, in other words, late on the following day.  Teresa Chylińska, the foremost authority on Szymanowski’s life and work, and the author/editor of multiple Polish-language volumes on his life and of his correspondence and writings, corroborated this in her English-language biography Szymanowski (1993): ‘On Easter Sunday he became worse. He died on March 29, 1937, fifteen minutes before midnight’.  I must admit to my own failing here: I took Chylińska’s apparent equation of Easter Sunday 1937 with 29 March as gospel and dated Szymanowski’s death accordingly at the start of my own Polish Music since Szymanowski (2005).  I should have checked more carefully, because Easter Sunday was on 28 March in 1937.

Fast forward to Chylińska’s most recent account of Szymanowski’s life, the three-volume Karol Szymanowski i jego epoka (Karol Szymanowski and His Epoch, 2008), and her dating becomes even more erratic.  In close succession, at the end of volume 2, Easter Sunday is on 29 March (p.756), then 28 March (p.758).  The time of his death has changed, however, from 23.45:

Szymanowski died at 23.05.  In Poland (according to the Warsaw meridian) it was Easter Sunday 28 March, while in Switzerland (in keeping with its geographical longitude, in other words its time zone) it was 00.05 on Easter Monday, and this date – 29 March 1937 – is written on the death certificate.  The composer was 55 years old.  [In fact, he was 54 (he was born on 3 October 1882).]

Chylińska is here repeating the hypothesis which she advanced in an earlier volume of his correspondence (2002).

I do not know how zones and clocks were set internationally in 1937, but they were certainly different from today, when Poland and Switzerland are in the same time zone.  Switzerland is a good distance west of Poland, so why was its time zone ahead of Poland’s?  But the Warsaw dimension is irrelevant anyway, as the salient details of the discrepancy between times and dates of Szymanowski’s death are contained solely in the surviving documentation from the ‘Signal’ clinic in Lausanne.

Even so, this evidence still lacks conclusiveness.  At least we now have a credible account from Jerzy Stankiewicz in his Polish-language article ‘Smierć Karola Szymanowskiego’ (The Death of Karol Szymanowski) in the multi-authored volume Karol Szymanowski w perspektywie kultury muzycznej przeszłości i terazniejszości (Karol Szymanowski from the perspectives of musical culture past and present), edited by Zbigniew Skowron (2007), pp. 369-76.

Stankiewicz reproduces Szymanowski’s patient card, with entries on his condition, temperature, pulse and medication for the four days that he was in the clinic.  The entry on his condition on 28 March reads: ‘décédé à 23h. 45’ (died at 23.45).  That seems to confirm the time of day reported by Palmer (1983) and Chylińska (1993), but on 28 March rather than on 29 March.

Yet by Stankiewicz’s account, the death certificate lodged with the authorities in Lausanne on 30 March, reads: ‘Died 29 March 1937 at 00.05 in Lausanne’.  The timing and dating on the death certificate, rather than the entry on Szymanowski’s patient card, is the basis for Chylińska’s 2008 hypothesis.

My hunch, for what it’s worth, is that the 20-minute discrepancy, which happened to cross over the hour of midnight and therefore straddled two different days in the Swiss time zone, is simply explained.  It’s the period between the moment of Szymanowski’s death (23.45 on Easter Sunday, 28 March) – when staff were carrying out the immediate tasks of cleaning, dressing and preparing his body – and the completion of the paperwork five minutes into Easter Monday, 29 March.  Perhaps the doctor didn’t think it was that important that the two documents didn’t tally.

To this day, 29 March 1937 is the official, generally recognised date of Szymanowski’s death, even if there is compelling evidence that it actually happened on the previous day, 28 March.  It’s really not a matter of great importance, except when anniversaries such as this come by, but it is a pity that the confusion persists.

Any thoughts, corrections or alternative hypotheses warmly welcomed!

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