Songs of the Infatuated Muezzin to words by Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz op. 42 (1918)

Allah, Akbar
O, ukochana ma
Ledwie blask słońca
W południe
O tej godzinie
Odeszłaś w pustynię zachodnią

The last part of the vocal triptych written under the influence of Eastern culture consists of six Songs of the Infatuated Muezzin for voice and piano (1918). In 1934 the composer produced instrumental versions of four songs from this cycle: the first, fourth, fifth and sixth. What they have in common with Songs of the Fairy-tale Princess is the use of coloratura and the similarity of some ornamental phrases. They share with Songs of Hafiz an intensified erotic expression, better conveyed by the French title of the cycle – Le Muézzin passionné. Orientalisation of musical devices is more advanced in Songs of the Muezzin, where the impressions of a journey to North Africa in 1914 are being reflected. “In Tunis we often listened to the song of the muezzins, coming from the minaret at dusk,” reminisced Szymanowski’s companion on that journey, Stefan Spiess. “The holiday of Ramadan, celebrated in Biskra by the Kabyl tribe made a great impression on us. [...] We listened then to the songs and dances performed on folk instruments – the terbuka, zorna, flute, zither, and drums” (S. Spiess 1974, p. 62). However, one should not look for concrete modal borrowings from Arabian music in the melodic contours of Songs of the Muezzin. Szymanowski did not conduct any studies into the music of the East, although he left extensive notes on the subject of Arab history and culture. He wrote absolutely original music, limiting himself only to a few simple stylisation devices. What strikes one above all in Songs of the Muezzin is the functional use of coloratura. The melismas of Infatuated Muezzin, especially in the invocations to Allah, undoubtedly relate to the authentic Arabic chants heard in Tunis, and also probably in Algiers, Biskra and Constantinople. But the vocalisations of the Muezzin have at the same time an expressive significance; they reflect the changeability of voice in affect – passion (in the first song), longing (in the second song), despair (in the sixth song). Szymanowski did not use authentic Eastern modal patterns. He employed the succession of minor and augmented second many times within the framework of the freely used twelve-note scale, treating this phrase as an analogy to microintervals in Arabian music. In the orchestral version of Songs of the Muezzin the stylisation is realized by ostinato rhythmic figures in the percussion parts (timpani, tambourine, triangle) which reproduce the sound of oriental instruments.