Six songs to words by Tadeusz Miciński op. 20 (1909)

Na księżycu czarnym
Święty Franciszek
Pachną mi dziwnie twoje złote włosy
W mym sercu
Z mauretańskich śpiewów
Na pustej trzcinie

The next cycle of songs for voice and piano to words by Miciński (1909) was also written to poems from the collection W mroku gwiazd [In the gloom of the stars]. This time the choice of texts was a more complicated affair. It involved not only poems such as Kain [Cain] (songs 1, 3 and 6), the prose poem Stygmaty św. Franciszka [The Stigmata of St Francis (song 2), Noce polarne [Polar Nights] (song 4), Orland szalony [Orlando furioso] (song 5), but also various fragments and selected verses from Miciński’s poetical works. In this way Szymanowski formed the text of the vocal cycle whose lyrical hero – the symbolic bard with the “shattered harp of dreams” – is presented among the scenery of fantastic visions and imaginings.
The 18-bar song Na księżycu wiszę czarnym [On the dark moon], which opens the cycle, stands out as one of the most compact and expressively clearest of Szymanowski’s vocal works. The intensification of musical expression, discernible in the concentric distribution of the dynamics (pp-p-mf-f-ff-p-pp-ppp), is parallelled by limited technical devices, reduced to the development of the two basic components of the work: descending melodic lines, and the syncopated ostinato figure of the accompaniment, emphasising the D flat or C sharp (bars 1-4, 9-10, 14) doubled in the octave, and A flat (bars 15-18). Repetition as the principle of reduction is particularly discernible in the shaping of the melody, built of single phrase, mainly descending by steps, employed six times for the six lines of Miciński’s text. The dark, mysterious colouring of the song is in places lightened or darkened by enharmonic or chromatic-enharmonic change of chord or by alterations of the third.
In the remaining parts of cycle op. 20, Szymanowski did not subjugate the technical devices so rigorously to the sound interpretation of the poem. He limited himself to a “subtle co-vibration”, in which the text and the music are in a free semantic relationship, closer or more distant, depending on the artistic needs and possibilities. Hence the greater variety of expressive shades in these songs, although they are dominated by one mood, one tone, for example, that of nave simplicity (Święty Franciszek mówi [St Francis speaks]), exotic landscape associations (Z mauretańskich śpiewnych sal [From the singing halls of Mauritania]), or the mood of torpidity carried by the last song (Na pustej trzcinie [On a hollow reed]), reminiscent of the first part of the cycle in its timbral climate and persistently repeated rhythmic formula.