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Szymanowski - Symphonies Nos 1 & 2 [CD]

Karol Szymanowski , Karol Stryja , Polish State Philharmonic Orchestra Audio CD

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Frequently Bought Together

Szymanowski - Symphonies Nos 1 & 2 + Szymanowski: Symphonies Nos. 3 & 4, Violin Concertos, Stabat mater, King Roger
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Song Title Time Price
Listen  1. Symphony No. 1 in F minor, Op. 15: I. Allegro moderato11:03Album Only
Listen  2. Symphony No. 1 in F minor, Op. 15: II. Finale 9:33Album Only
Listen  3. Symphony No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 19: I. Allegro moderato: Grazioso13:20Album Only
Listen  4. Symphony No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 19: II. Lento12:01Album Only
Listen  5. Symphony No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 19: III. Fuga 8:57Album Only

Product Description

Symphonie n° 1 en fa mineur op. 15 - Symphonie n° 2 en si bémol majeur op. 19 / Polish State Philharmonic Orchestra, Katowice - Karol Stryja, dir.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.2 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Szymanowski betrayed by his musical influences 30 Jun 2009
By Larry VanDeSande - Published on
Format:Audio CD
The other reviews here have this collection scored properly but not, I believe, for the right reasons. Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937) was born Ukranian but aspired to become a national composer in Poland, his adopted homeland. His early adulthood, which produced this pair of symphonies, was spent in Berlin, Vienna and Leipzig, where the Symphony 2 met success becuase of its originality. Trouble is, Szymanowski took many years to find his unique voice, the one that produced "King Roger" and the Violin Concertos, and that voice had not yet become apparent in these symphonies.

The shadow of Richard Strauss weighs heavily on the Symphony No. 1, produced in 1907 when Szymanowski was 25. The two-movement music is heavily indebted to ideas from Heldenleben and Zarathustra though it ends in a Tchaikovskyan flourish. The Symphony No. 2, written 1910, begins as if another paean to Strauss until it turns Brahmsian at about 7 minutes of the first movement's Grazioso. The second movement, a Lento, shows the variable influence Scriabin had on the composer, as feelings of ecstasy sweep until an almost Chopinesque ballet takes place. The closing Fuga is right out of Reger with a solid cadence that turns quiet, momentarily, until anotherm marital fugue closes with a grand statement.

I found this music interesting and entertaining, better than Strauss's "Aus Italian" and as good as anything I've ever heard from Scriabin. It lacks the stamp of a voice that wasn't yet developed, one that produced the piano-laden Symphony No. 4. Yet, I think I'll listen to this occasionally for a voice that sounds both familiar and somewhat foreign. This remains the only recording of Symphony No. 1.

Karol Stryja leads idiomatically and the Polish State Philharmonic plays as well as they can; they're not a world class orchestra and their shortcomings become apparent quickly. The sound on the 1988 recording (I have the original Marco Polo) is OK for its period, not outstanding and the notes help you understand a bit about the composer. All told, this is a package worthy of its price if your expectations are realistic. The Penguin Guide stills lists this and gives it three stars, so people still find it helpful and entertaining.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Academic Interest???? 11 April 2007
By Steve Sturgill - Published on
Format:Audio CD
Karol Szymanowski is one of the greatest modern era composers who lived during the Impressionist phase of artistic evolution. He was highly influenced by Chopin and Debussy amongst many others. These are both lovely and tonally interesting and deeply moving pieces. Please do not heed the other reviewers' opinion. By the way what scores have THEY created that are worthy of EVEN only academic interest? Do tell! Buy this album and you will love the music!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Rough playing of the second; a tad better for the musically unrewarding first 5 Aug 2009
By G.D. - Published on
Format:Audio CD
This disc continues to divide opinions, it seems, but I'll chime in on the detractor side. Naxos has now anyway embarked on a second round of Szymanowski symphonies (this time with Antoni Wit), which is probably a good thing. For despite the importance of this first project with Karol Stryja, the performances are too rough and technically insecure to be entirely successful (although they're not quite disasters, and at least the performances sound committed). The company's resurrection of the first symphony may or may not have been favored by the composer himself, but this early work contains only a few interesting things and might definitely be of more historical or biographical than musical interest. Heavily Straussian (more "heavy" than "Strauss"), with dense counterpoint and harmonic opacity, it is a rather tiring experience - even so, there are faint pre-echoes of the composer to emerge, although I hate to think that anyone might be encountering Szymanowski for the first time through this work.

The second symphony is more familiar (but infinitely inferior to the third and fourth and, come to think of it, too many other works by other composers for its relative popularity to be entirely defensible), which means there are competitors - and Stryja and the Polish State Philharmonic unfortunately fall dangerously short. Again, there is a certain smoldering power here hidden under the rough, unpolished surface of this performance, and Stryja has - at least for the most part - a secure grip of the architectonics, but the orchestral playing is not entirely up to the task and nuances and textural details are lost, resulting in a rather bland and static sound picture overall. In the final fugue Stryja's approach fails as well, giving us a far too heavy-handed (ham-fisted) account, ending on a mistakenly sustained chord (I think it's a mistake, at least - at least other conductors play it staccato). The sound quality is boomy and grainy (yes, both). Good intentions, then, behind this issue, but unfortunately and undeniably a failure in the execution.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining late-romantic wallow 8 Jun 2011
By dv_forever - Published on
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
There are some good reviews on this page already and I just wanted to add my two cents. Let's be clear, there is no great music here. These are early Szymanowski orchestral works that are drowning in the influence of other, greater composers. Be that as it may, I vastly prefer those other composers to even mature Szymanowski. To my ears, listening to Szymanowski disguised as a third-rate Strauss is almost better than listening to first rate Szymanowski.

Anyway, this is entertaining music and I say that because I love the fin-de-siecle sound that composers couldn't seem to get enough of post Wagner. These Szymanowski symphonies are extraordinarily self-indulgent pieces but if you like this kind of sound, then you're on the right wavelength and this music can be rewarding. The first symphony especially is absurdly over orchestrated and dense with many layers. The themes are barely distinguishable amidst the overblown mess but it's still a lot of fun.

The second symphony tries to be a bit more classically oriented and even has a fugue for a finale. Overall it's still the same idiom of masses of sound coming from various directions and competing for attention, smothered in strings and blaring brass. The performances by the Polish musicians are among the finest you can find for this repertoire because it's not exactly popular with mainstream orchestras/conductors like the later Szymanowski. The sound quality could use more sheen in the string tone but I'm not complaining.

This is a fun CD to have for listeners who enjoy the late romantic orchestra huffing and puffing away in a frenzy. I take it out occasionally and it always does the trick even if the music is not very good. I would love to hear the Berlin or Vienna Philharmonic play Szymanowski's first symphony with the added sheen and polish that they would provide, but understandably that's not very likely.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Influence of Chopin? Debussy? I think not. 21 April 2007
By Vivaldi Collector - Published on
Format:Audio CD
No - there is no influence of Chopin or Debussy in this music. Heck, Chopin and Debussy don't even go together. Szym's music, especially these two symphonies, was indeed heavily influenced by Staruss and Reger.
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