Hyperion Records

Two Mazurkas, Op 62
composer
1933/4

Recordings
'Szymanowski: The Complete Mazurkas' (CDA67399)
Szymanowski: The Complete Mazurkas
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Details
No 1: Allegretto grazioso
No 2: Moderato

Two Mazurkas, Op 62
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The two isolated mazurkas of Op 62, the first composed in 1933, the second in 1934, are not only Szymanowski’s last pieces for the piano: they are the last works that, raddled with tuberculosis, he managed to complete at all. They take the austerity of the Op 50 set even further, their abstracted, improvisatory quality removing almost all echoes of their folk origin—virtually all that is left, like the grin of the Cheshire Cat, are those sharpened fourths and flattened sevenths.

In an interview given in 1936 (reproduced in Szymanowski on Music, pp 113–14), in response to the interviewer’s observation that ‘in your work it is not difficult to observe the tonal and rhythmic elements of Polish folk-song’, Szymanowski countered that:

folklore is only significant for me as a fertilising agent. My aim is the creation of a Polish style, from ‘Slopiewnie’ onwards, in which there is not one jot of folklore […].

With that ‘Sabala’ motive cropping up in ‘Slopiewnie’ and the first of the Op 50 Mazurkas and a Góral melody in the ballet Harnasie (1922–31) furnishing a fugue subject for the Second String Quartet (1927), he wasn’t being entirely accurate. But there was no doubting his sincerity when, in his 1924 article ‘On Highland Music’ (also quoted in Szymanowski on Music, pp 124–25), he commended the stimulus of Tatra folk-music and ‘the unalloyed purity of its ethnic expression’ to the Polish composers who would come after him:

I should like our young generation of Polish musicians to understand how our present anaemic musical condition could be infused with new life by the riches hidden in the Polish ‘barbarism’ which I have at last ‘uncovered’ and made my own.

This was no false modesty: the harmonic system that Szymanowski articulated in the composition of these mazurkas is unique. He was only 54 when he died, on 28 March 1937, a victim of chronic tuberculosis; quite how he would have developed the musical language he had forged himself is one of the major unanswerable questions of twentieth-century music. Among the ‘younger generation of Polish musicians’ Lutoslawski, Czeslaw Marek and Roman Maciejewski did indeed infuse their music with the riches of Polish barbarism—at least in their early works. The fact that no Polish composer has since taken up his challenge in any systematic way may, in truth, be a tribute to the deeply personal nature of his achievement.

from notes by Martin Anderson © 2003

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Details for CDA67399 track 26
Allegretto grazioso
Artists
ISRC
GB-AJY-03-39926
Duration
2'33
Recording date
29 August 2002
Recording venue
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Andrew Keener
Recording engineer
Simon Eadon
Hyperion usage
  1. Szymanowski: The Complete Mazurkas (CDA67399)
    Disc 1 Track 26
    Release date: June 2003
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