Four songs to words by Tadeusz Miciński op. 11 (1904-1905)

The poet belonging to the “Young Poland” movement who had the greatest influence on Szymanowski was Tadeusz Miciński. The sheer number of works provides evidence of this: two cycles of songs to poems from the collection W mroku gwiazd [In the Gloom of the Stars], music to the drama Kniaź Patiomkin [Prince Potemkin] as well as orchestral works inspired by the introduction to the poem Witeź Włast [The Knight Vlast] (Overture in E minor), by the poem Noc majowa [A Night in May] (Violin Concerto No. 1), a translation of the text from the collection Wtórny dywan [A Secondary Carpet] by Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi (Symphony No. 3). The composer “absorbed with admiration” the volume of Miciński’s poems published in 1902. “Through the prism of the fantastic which fills these poems, Szymanowski was introduced to a world of art which had different colours from those he had seen so far. In the kaleidoscope of stars and seas, people and spirits, angels and dragons, Indian pagodas and Gothic cathedrals, harps and nightingales, in which the young composer immersed himself, what happened was a filtering of compositional ideas, and Szymanowski’s artistic aims were finally stripped of the humdrum and of academicism. [...] It was a deep spiritual experience, – an event which was decisive and fundamental to the development of Szymanowski’s artistic career, apparent even in the works from the war period which came later”. (Z. Jachimecki 1927, p. 15).
For the Cztery pieśni [Four Songs] op. 11 for voice and piano (1904-05), Szymanowski chose four consecutive poems out of the long poem Korsarz [The Corsair] and composed of them a vocal cycle ordered in two parts. He juxtaposed the songs in pairs, taking into account similarities of tempo and texture, but he differentiated them in respect of expression and sound colour into a “dark” framing (songs 1 and 4) and “light” middle parts of the cycle (songs 2 and 3). In the first two songs, Tak jestem smętny [I am so sad] and W zaczarowanym lesie [In an Enchanted Forest], “the composer, who has no realistic programmatic aims apart from creating mysterious, deeply melancholic moods, has refined the techniques of vocal melodics and accompaniment to the outermost boundaries of chromatic and enharmonic devices” (Z. Jachimecki 1927, p. 16). In the piano part of song 2 (W zaczarowanym lesie) Szymanowski again uses the figure of chromatically descending parallel major thirds, which he had already used in a similar lyrical situation as the base of musical construction in song No. 4 to words by Tetmajer op. 2 (Czasem, gdy długo na pół sennie marzę) [Sometimes, when half-dreaming). Two further songs op. 11, Nade mną leci w szafir morza [Flying above me into the azure sea] and Rycz burzo [Roar, o storm!], have been described as “enrapturing in their rhythmic fluidity and dash; they represent perfect types of total musical alliance: voice and accompaniment ” (Z. Jachimecki 1927, p. 16). This is the common feature of all the songs in op. 11.