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17 Dec 2018

Szymanowski – Concerto No. 1 for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 35

Karol Szymanowski

Karol Szymanowski

Szymanowski’s first violin concerto, which he composed in 1916 in the Polish town of Zarudzie, is credited as the first modern violin concerto. (Alban Berg wrote his violin concerto in 1935.) In place of harmonies and scales in traditional major and minor modes, Szymanowski gives us a poetic statement that relies upon the singing quality of the violin sound. He also employs unfamiliar sonorities from Eastern cultures interwoven with minor thirds and semitones, cultural discoveries he made while in Sicily and with the writer Witkacy, and which also enrich the concerto. Melodic lines emerge without necessarily resolving on a traditional tonic note; musical lines take shape through tension and relaxation. The concerto proceeds without pauses to define movements. Szymanowski’s musical language builds a sense of narrative without referencing specific events: the moods are not suggestive of romance or human tragedy, but they are intense. If we give ourselves to this music, it becomes a highly personal experience for each listener, seeming to reach the feelings that are most important to us as individuals.