The influence of Szymanowski’s compositional technique and aesthetic influence was at its strongest in the works of the young generation of Polish composers during the inter-war period. Szymanowski had his imitators, and his continuators, who developed his ideas. They adopted his idea of linking the Polish tradition with new musical thinking, rooted in contemporary musical trends. Reminiscences of Szymanowski and his models can be discerned in the technical solutions, particularly in the combination of melody based on folk patterns with new tonal-harmonic devices. Young composers were inspired – like their master – by the folklore of Podhale (e.g.,. Michał Kondracki in A Little Highland Symphony “Pictures on Glass”) and Kurpie (Roman Maciejewski Pieśni kurpiowskie/Kurpie songs), but also that of Hucuły (Roman Palester in Taniec z Osmołody/Dance from Osmołoda), Orawa (Orawa Suite for male choir by Tadeusz Z. Kassern), and even of Belarus and Lithuania (Tadeusz Szeligowski); however, they generally avoided quotations in crudo. When composing mazurkas for the piano, they modelled themselves in equal measure on Chopin’s form as on Szymanowski’s harmonics (Apolinary Szeluto, Bolesław Woytowicz, Piotr Perkowski, Antoni Gradstein, Roman Maciejewski and others). The style of Szymanowski’s Stabat Mater provided a different kind of creative impulse, particularly in those works where the religious content, pointing to the universal sources of Christian tradition, was expressed through evoking the past of Poland (for instance, Kassern’s motets Septem sidera to words by Nicolaus Copernicus in Polish translation by Jan Kasprowicz, or Roman Palester’s Psalm V with Polish translation by Wespazjan Kochowski). Examples of Szymanowski’s direct influence can be seen in some works of Jan Maklakiewicz (Symphony No. 2 “Święty Boże” [Holy God], Cello Concerto), Bolesław Szabelski (Symphony No. 2), and also Kassern (Concerto for voice and orchestra), Szeligowski (Epitaph on the death of Karol Szymanowski), Zygmunt Mycielski (Five wedding songs to words by Bruno Jasieński, Lamento di Tristano to the memory of Karol Szymanowski) or Grażyna Bacewiczówna (Witraż na skrzypce i fortepian [Stained glass for violin and piano]).
During the first postwar decade, the postulates of socialist realism aesthetics, which favoured works based on folklore, caused Szymanowski’s “tradition” to consists exclusively of works from his “nationalistic” period, acceptable to the regime’s cultural policy. They also became the point of departure for all composers seeking a compromise between the official socialist realist slogans and creating art of a high standard. One can discern links between Wierchy [Peaks] by Artur Malewski and Bacewiczówna’s Third Violin Concerto and the Polish Highland folklore and Harnasie. Lutosławski’s Melodie ludowe [Folk melodies] and Bucolics for the piano are a continuation of Szymanowski’s compositional technique, as are the works of Mycielski (Polish symphony), Stanisław Wiechowicz and others.
During the period of the domination of the avantgarde, beginning from the later 1950s, it was inevitable that Szymanowski’s style could only evoke a negative reaction from composers enthusiastic about the new ideas; however there were some who referred to the legacy of his creative thought, the “artistic morality” (Mycielski) or kinship in the emotional sphere (Tadeusz Baird). A return to the Szymanowski tradition can be seen in the 1970s, when inspiration was again sought in the culture of the Polish Highlands, in the works of Wojciech Kilar (Krzesany), or in Henryk Mikołaj Górecki’s linking of folk and religious threads (Third Symphony). Another example of the vitality of Szymanowski’s legacy is provided by works inspired by his Mazurka op. 62 No. 2, composed specially for the concert organised by Polish Society for Contemporary Music “Hommage a Karol Szymanowski”, to celebrate the anniversary of the composer’s hundredth birthday (works of Zygmunt Bargielski, Włodzimierz Kotoński, Andrzej Krzanowski, Zygmunt Mycielski, Zbigniew Rudziński, Paweł Szymański).
Memories – Lutosławski