Karol Szymanowski, a Polish pianist and composer. A representative of the so-called Young Poland movement, regarded as one of the most outstanding Polish composers. He began his musical education in 1889 under the guidance of his father and continued it first in Elizavetgrad and later in Warsaw. His main instrument was the piano, but he was never considered to be a virtuoso. On completing his music studies, in 1905, he travelled to Italy with the poet Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, and he then co-founded the Young Polish Composers Publishing Company, later dubbed Young Poland. The other co-founders were Grzegorz Fitelberg, Ludomir Różycki and Apolinary Szeluto, while its patron was Władysław Lubomirski.
The year 1906 brough the Company’s first concerts in Warsaw and Berlin. Over subsequent years, Szymanowski repeatedly visited Berlin and Leipzig, and in 1908 he returned to Italy. In 1912 he settled in Vienna, where he began working with Universal Edition, which still prints some of his compositions. Between 1914 and 1922 Szymanowski travelled to Italy, France, the UK, Russia, North Africa and the US. In 1922 he made his first trip to Zakopane since the First World War, and over many subsequent visits he expanded his knowledge of Polish folklore. From 1927 to 1932 Szymanowski was director of the Warsaw Conservatory and rector of the Music Academy. From 1930 he lived at his Atma villa in Zakopane, which today houses a museum devoted to his work.
In the years 1933–1936 he performed in concert across Europe. The frequent travelling affected his health, and he ultimately contracted tuberculosis. He visited health spas in France and Switzerland several times. He died in 1937, in Lausanne.
Karol Szymanowski’s music derives from the late Romantic tradition, but it also betrays many impressionistic influences. Visits to North Africa brought oriental influences to his music (e.g. Songs of the Infatuated Muezzin). Thanks to frequent sojourns in Zakopane, he got to know the traditions of Polish folklore and incorporated them into his works (e.g. Kurpian Songs, the ballet Harnasie). While his early output contains more instrumental works (e.g. Preludes for piano), the late period in his oeuvre is dominated by orchestral music and vocal music with instrumental accompaniment, including operas.