Bunte Lieder to German texts op. 22 (1910)

Einsiedel – Pustelnik (K. Bulcke)
Lied des Mädchens am Fenster – Pieśń dziewczęcia u okna (A. Paquet)
An kleine Mädchen – Dla małych dziewczynek (E. Faktor)
Das hat die Sommernacht getan – Nocy letniej srebrny cud (A. Ritter)
Bestimmung – Przeznaczenie (R. Huch)

In August 1910 Szymanowski composed another vocal cycle to German texts – Bunte Lieder, five songs for voice and piano to words by Karl Bulcke, Alfons Paquet, Emil Faktor, Anna Ritter and Ricarda Huch. This time the composer, mindful of the experiences which accompanied the response to his previous German songs, intended a “thing popular in every respect”, works which “absolutely must be liked by the audience and the singers in the widest meaning of the word.” Writing about this in a letter to Stefan Spiess (on 11 December 1910) the composer continued with the explanation that the accessibility of Bunte Lieder “lies in the total (only now) mastery of the song form [...], which, after all, cannot be said about op.17, where there is more music [than] good songs “. Whereas Bunte Lieder are – according to Szymanowski – “decisive and unambiguous in expression, and not at all similar to each other in character, which is helped by the texts being enormously varied ” (K. Szymanowski Korespondencja 1982, p. 248).
The thematic variety and clarity of these songs in comparison to op. 17 is striking. In contrast to the thick harmonic entanglements and textural complications in Szymanowski’s earlier songs, where, according to his critics, one could point to “masterly leading of small expressive themes” and “ultramodern joy of modulation” (K. Szymanowski Korespondencja 1982, pp. 326 and 328), songs op. 22 are a visible indication of a new attitude, which inclined the composer to reduce the use of technical devices to some extent. The themes are sketched more widely and are more regular, the harmonic planes are also more extensive, and their variability corresponds with more active harmonies. There is also greater rhythmic elasticity of sound layers, a comfortable tessitura of the vocal part, and a “handiness” of piano part texture. One also notes a greater emotional distance and restraint of musical expression, with elements of irony and grotesque. A precursor to the theme of “dancing Hafiz” (op. 24 No. 4, op. 26 No. 3) is Einsiedel from Bunte Lieder (op. 22 No. 1), and the song An kleine Mädchen (op. 22 No. 3) may be regarded as a forerunner of Rymy dziecięce [Children's Rhymes] op. 49 {link}. In a brief scene from the story contained here, the broken phrases “Ein Prinz – ein Fisch – ein blonder Hirt – ein Nixlein, das im Walde irrt – und was die Frösche munkeln – ein dummer Bär” are accompanied by a series of sound figures, which in Children’s Rhymes form a whole catalogue of onomatopoeic effects. However, in this case too, they are not so emphatic as to go beyond interpreting the text in terms of its musical correlate. Szymanowski always preferred the principle of musical metaphor, and sound colouring of the poetic image, to imitation in the literal meaning of that word.