The works of Polish composer Szymanowski recorded here display the evolution of his style, which underwent many changes throughout his lifetime. The orchestral works, dating from his early years, reflect his enthusiasm for the works of Strauss and Wagner. The Concert Overture was his first orchestral work, composed in 1904-5, and then revised by the composer in 1913. The Second Symphony, completed in 1910, also shows the influence of the Germanic style in its orchestration.
During the years of World War I, Szymanowski turned to a different direction, becoming influenced by contemporary French music and flavoring his compositions with Greek and Oriental themes. The song-cycle Songs of an Infatuated Muezzin, composed for voice and piano in 1918, mingles the call of the muezzin with eroticism and themes of love and death in the desert sands. One of the composer's last creative acts was to orchestrate four of the six songs, in 1934. This is the only available recording of the orchestral version.
Following a three-year hiatus in his composing, Szymanowski found yet another avenue for his creativity with the composition of the song-cycle Slopiewnie (Wordsong). Having been inspired by works of Stravinsky that combined folkloristic elements with a modern expression, Szymanowski searched for an "ancestral Polish style," using texts with experimental combinations of ancient Slavic roots that are not translatable. This cycle was also originally composed for voice and piano (in 1921), and was arranged for voice and instrumental ensemble two years later.
Leon Botstein, music director and principal conductor of the American Symphony, has established a reputation for rediscovering masterpieces and introducing them once again into the orchestral repertoire. His previous, acclaimed recordings for Telarc have included the Bruckner 5th Symphony in the Schalk edition, the Dohanyi D-minor Symphony, and symphonies of Karl Amadeus Hartmann. Upcoming on Telarc in 2001 will be a live recording of the complete opera Die Liebe der Danae by Richard Strauss, with soprano Lauren Flanigan in the title role.
Polish soprano Zofia Kilanowicz was the winner of the First Prize at the Karol Szymanowski Competition in Poland in 1989, and was also the recipient of the Elly Ameling Prize at the Hertogenbosch Competition in Holland. She appears regularly in concert halls throughout Europe with such conductors as Rilling, Menuhin, and Lutoslawski, and has sung at Carnegie Hall under Charles Dutoit.