arol was born on the family estate in Tymoszowka  South Ukraine (3 October 1882) into a traditional,
Polish noble family. The home of the Szymanowskis was a well-known
centre – an oasis - of music culture in that part of the Ukraine.
Playing, singing, composing, opera performances, performing works
by great musicians,… which created a very musical climate in Tymoszowka.
So it was natural that the family, which included several leading
musicians, gave him great support in his musical development. A happy
childhood was interrupted by a serious accident. He injured one of
his legs which immobilised him for some years, influenced his physical
growth, and the development of his personality. Karol, who was adored
by his parents, an older brother and three sisters. was however, isolated
from friends of his own age. A normal, public education was impossible
because of his health. His musical education started at an early
age, at home, where he was taught first by his father, Stanislaw,
and later by his cousins, Gustaw Neuhaus and Feliks Blumenfeld. 
in 1900, at age 18
After leaving the Elisawetgrad Real Gymnasium having passed his
final exams as an external student, he took private lessons in Warsaw
from Marek Zwirski (in harmony) and Zygmunt Noskowski (in counterpoint).
However, Szymanowski was an autodidact in composition. His first
orchestral works were written in secret, because Noskowski was against
teaching composition for an orchestra at an early stage in musical
education. Karol's early works show an admiration for Chopin and
influences from Scriabin’s music. This early period is very lyrical
but also marked by sentimental sadness with a tendency to
In the period 1905-1908 Szymanowski lived mainly in
Berlin, Leipzig and Vienna (1908 –1913) where he continued
his “self-education” – mainly in German music, which was then dominant
in Europe. 1912 saw his music performed with great success in Berlin,
Leipzig, and Vienna. In Vienna his life style can best be described
as “royal” - expensive parties, and clothes, being “seen” in society.
During this period (1905 – 1913) he began to feel “liberated” in
relation to his own erotic feelings and began to express them in
his music. Joy appeared in Karol’s music from the end of the Warsaw
period, replacing the sadness which had dominated his earlier compositions.
The ecstasy would be present, together with the earlier lyricism,
during the whole of his creative life.
The neo-romantic period in Karol's creative life, represented by
the 2nd Symphony B Flat‑major op. 19 (1910)
or the Concert Overture E‑major op. 12 (1905),
is perhaps indirectly influenced by the works of Wagner, but the
most obvious influence is Richard Strauss and Max Reger.
The extensive development of a sense of harmonic relations initiated
at that time in Szymanowski’s music, became much more characteristic
of the next period. His search for musical methods of expressing
himself would never lead far from earlier, neo-romantic feeling
of tonality as it would, for example, in Anton Webern's music.
In 1911 Karol visited Sicily with its remains of the
ancient Greek world together with his friend Stefan Spiess, but
in 1914 they made a much more significant journey to North Africa
(Algiers, Tunis). This journey changed Karol's life and his music
completely. It began his fascination with the culture of the "golden
orient" and gave him a strong urge to understand himself and
his situation as a gay man. He had also an opportunity to visit
Paris and London and to get to know modern French music by such
composers as Debussy and Ravel, who influenced his own style of
music. Szymanowski's music seems close to the impressionist trend
of that time. His narcissistic personality warmed to French culture
and his sexual orientation was now more clearly reflected in his
He led the way in some musical ideas, for example in his violin
works (Myths - three poems for violin and piano op. 30
(1915) , Violin
Concerto No. 1,op. 35 (1917)), which were written
in cooperation with his friend, Pawel Kochanski, one of the greatest
violinists of the time.
Karol was 30 years old. His mother and three sisters seemed
to be the only important women in his life. When asked about marriage
plans he answered that he would probably never marry, because his
mother was his first and last love. Love, remained the subject of
all his vocal works from that period and his music expressed an
erotic sensuality, - without the earlier restrictions of neo-romantic
concepts of texture, melody, form, harmony and timbre. The passion
in Szymanowski's music although highly ecstatic, never rises to
the level of a dramatically impulsive or exalted affection. Nevertheless,
his music is unrivalled as a lyric song of a soul in love.
Homosexuality becomes visible in his works through ancient themes
(Myths), and the choice of implicitly homosexual texts (Opera:
King Roger op. 46) or texts from the homosexual tradition
used in vocal works (3rd Symphony op. 27 (1916)
or Love Songs of Hafiz op. 24 (1910) and op. 26
(1914)). His music in this period (and also later) extends from
the lyricism of love to ecstasy - both an evident expression of
intensive sexual feelings. The 3rd Symphony "Song of the
Night" for tenor solo, choir (or without choir) and orchestra
is based on a poem from the XIII-century Persian poet Mewlana Jalal‑ad‑din. The great mystic poetry of Rumi
is of characterised by love, where God is almost equivocal with
the lover of the poet . In the Islamic mystic tradition, the intensity
of the fire of love burning in the soul of a poet, is a measure
of his greatness.
The tenor solo in the Third Symphony sings:
Oh, do not sleep my friend, through this night
Such quiet, others sleep,
I and God, alone together in this night!
What a roar! Joy arises,
truth with gleaming wing is shining in this
If I slumbered until sunrise,
I should never, never see this night again!.
From 1914 to 1917 Karol lived mostly in Tymoszowka,
isolated from Western Europe, but he undertook many journeys related
to his life in music visiting Kiev, Moscow, St. Petersburg
and Odessa. Until 1917 the life of the Szymanowski family was “as
usual” - summers in Tymoszowka, winters in Kiev. The war had little
influence on their life, but they could not journey abroad.. After
1917 the Szymanowskis estate in Tymoszowka was laid waste  - which made the family poor. The
composer moved to the capital of the newly independent Poland, Warsaw,
and stayed there from the end of 1919 to early 1920 along with
members of his family. First he looked after his mother and sisters
but he then started to travel widely in Europe, also visiting America
In the nineteen-twenties the influence of Polish folk music, especially
the music of the Podhale region (in the Carpathian mountains) became
very important to Szymanowski. This new direction seems to be related
to the new of freedom of Poland, since the national idea in music
was no longer “suppressed” after 123 years. The folk rhythms and
tonal modes become evident in Karol's music, but he seldom quotes
folk melodies. His music is rather an impression, proof of a very
personal perception of the folk music or sound vision inspired by
it. His music uses also “sound pictures”, hence the mountain wind
can be heard in the Symphony‑Concertante No. 4 op. 60
(1932)  one of his most impressive works. Due to his
health problems Szymanowski spent much time in the Podhale in the
late period of his life. It was also a fashion in artistic circles
to stay at Zakopane – in the Podhale region, then
one of Poland’s artistic centres. The culture of this region dominated
his music to such a degree that his excellent mazurkas have
a Masurian rhythm, but not a Masurian, Podhale tonal colour as in
the most famous mazurka op. 50 nb. 1 
Religious feelings were always important in the life
of Szymanowski. The dilemma, related to the pathos and religious
elements in his vocal compositions and to the Catholic attitude
to homosexuality during his youth, were later mitigated by the Dionysian
 perception of
Christianity, which enjoyed some popularity in Europe. Finally he
found some interesting, personal and helpful
of folk religious-sentiment. These changes in his thinking and feelings
were reflected in Szymanowski's music in the succeeding periods
of his creativity. Stabat Mater for solos, choir and orchestra
op. 53 (1926) is his greatest religious work. Listening
to this music we feel ourselves, not in an official church ceremony,
but as if participating in a deeply religious folk ritual in a highland
village chapel and we unite with the Holy Mary Virgin in her pain
related to the suffering of her son on the cross . The premiere
of Stabat Mater in Warsaw (1928) was his first great triumph
Karol was very ambitious, with a strong need of fame, but despite
this, his approach to his own career, was neither especially active
nor systematic. Very intelligent and with great personal charm,
he gathered around himself a large community of friends, musicians,
artists who shared his ideas, admired his talent and were devoted
The public activity of the composer is well-documented due to intense,
dramatic debates and intrigues; on the place of modern music in
culture and social life which was being conducted in the press.
Szymanowski involved himself in an attempt to reform higher musical
education. But in 1932 he resigned from the position of the Rector
of the State Academy of Music in Warsaw after the dismissal of four
professors who were friends and adherents of Szymanowski. 
Szymanowski defended the independence of artistic expression as
being almost equivalent to the personal freedom of the artist. This
struggle seems to reflect his situation as a homosexual fighting
for his own individuality against the oppressive social environment,
- feelings which are clearly indicated in his writings. The need
for independence, for building and protecting his own identity and
the need for contact with accepting people with open hearts and
minds, are clear in the life decisions and public activity of Karol:
the decision to be a composer and the decision to use modernity
to express his feelings in his works.
When in the 1980s the communist regime in Poland allowed the composer
Roman Palester to visit the country, he testified clearly (in a
broadcast on Polish Radio) to the importance of Szymanowski's personal
significance to the identity of Polish contemporary music in general.
According to Palester, Szymanowski was not only a teacher of his
generation of composers, he was also a great master for them. His
home was open for his friends and they could come there at any time.
They could do anything they wished there, one exception: they couldn't
use the cologne water of the “master”.
Karol Szymanowski is relatively unknown in the world, despite being
one of the most important composers of the first half of the XX-century.
His diaries prove that he was open both for promoting his own career
and for helping the careers of his friends. He also had quite good
connections in the European contemporary music community.
The performance of music composed for the Ballets Russ
was an important factor in the career of many modern composers at
the beginning of the XX-century. The commission of music by Serge
Diagilev, the chief of the Ballets Russ, of a ballet by Szymanowski
was expected in the music community. But unfortunately Boris Kochno
was the personal secretary and close friend of Serge Diagilev. 
Earlier, during a stay in Elisawetgrad (1919) Szymanowski had been
deeply in love with Kochno. Artur Rubinstein, a great pianist, and
friend of Karol describes in his memoirs the last meeting of Szymanowski
and Kochno - in Paris - when Kochno was already a friend of Diagilev.
The difficult situation led to a marked cooling in Diagilev's relation
The Second World War, followed by communism with the anti-cultural
effects of socialist realism was destructive of the fame and reputation
of composers in Central Europe. The state of war 
in Poland was another unfortunate event for Karol's music. The year
1982 had been declared the International Year of Karol Szymanowski
by UNESCO. But international promotion of his music was dependent
on Poland’s activity and that collapsed.
Szymanowski’s music was also not easy to approach for listeners
at the beginning of the XXth century, because its modernity was
conceived as dissonant. Now, after decades of changes in the world’s
music culture, listeners are more open to strongly sensual harmony.
People have less trouble in understanding the beauty of this music
which belongs to the classics of the European music tradition.
The gay literary writings of Szymanowski were created for himself
and for his friends because he wanted to express his tormented dilemmas
and thoughts, and to share some his personally experienced solutions
with his friends. Most of these writings which were stored in the
Warsaw house of Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz, were burned in 1939. Only
fragments of Szymanowski’s most important literary work, the large,
legendary novel Efebos, survived, including one crucial chapter
entitled Symposion, translated into Russian in 1919 by Karol
for Boris Kochno. It survived thanks to Kochno along with four equally
explicit gay poems which were published thanks to the efforts of
the reliable investigator of the Karol’s creativity Madame Teresa
Chylinska. The novel was written mostly between 1917 and 1919, and
so absorbed his creativity that it caused a two years gap in composition.
According to Iwaszkiewicz, who knew the whole novel, the main conflict
is between sublimated and openly hedonistic attitudes to life -
probably representing the dilemma of the composer – who is “split”
into two persons. At the end there was a reconciliation of the two
heroes (and the attitudes represented by them) which could be assumed
to be a “not quite platonic” solution. The gay writings of Szymanowski
are the most important source of knowledge about the private opinions
and feelings of their author.
From 1932 onward his illness caused ever more problems
despite the support of his friends. In 1934 he stated there was
one thing in his life he didn't regret - he had loved many (...).
Szymanowski died in 29 March 1936 in Switzerland (near Lausanne)
as a result of cancer of the larynx caused probably by heavy smoking.
He was buried (except for his heart) in Krakow in the crypt of a
monastery - where meritorious Poles from the field of culture are
laid to rest - after fitting funeral ceremonies which expressed
the great respect of the music community and Polish Nation. It had
been planned to intern his heart in the Holy Cross Church in Warsaw
near the heart of Chopin but the war prevented this and the heart
was burnt during the Warsaw Uprising in 1944.
He is admired in Poland as a composer of genius, the first master
and Father of Polish contemporary music and a great personality
of gay culture.
L. K.i and
Colin de la Motte‑Sherman
 The Blumenfelds
originated from Bavaria. The Neuhauses came from the Rhineland.
Both are famous musical families. Feliks Blumenfeld had a leading
position in Russian music (pianist, composer, conductor of the
Imperial Opera in St.‑Petersburg, 1897-1912, then professor
in Moscow Conservatory). Zygmunt, brother of Felix was a singer
and composer. The Neuhauses were excellent pianists. The Taubes.
- the family of Karol’s mother Anna – was also musically talented.
The four musical families the Szymanowskis, the Blumenfelds, the
Neuhauses and the Taubes had close relations.
 Rumi: Jalal
ad‑Din Mohammad, called Mewlana (what means “our master”)
- the greatest mystic poet of Persia and perhaps of the World,
who influenced widely all the Muslim culture. After his death
his disciples organised the Sufi Maulvi Order called in the West
“the Whirling Dervishes”.
 “During the Bolshevik revolution
the manor houses of Tymoszowka, was razed to the ground. The Szymanowskis
were in Kiev at that time but they never regained the social position
of the ‘Tymoszowka days’.(…)” after B. M. Maciejewski “Karol
Szymanowski; His Life and Music”, Poets’ and Painters’ Press,
 The concept
of a secret connection between Christ and Dionysos; idea of a
Russian poet Wiaczeslaw Iwanow next creatively compiled by Karol
with ideas of Tadeusz Micinski, Walter Pater, Nietzsche, Zielinski,
 Karol was in
the mountain at the time got to know about it from press. Then
he resigned as rector. The Academy of Music was dissolved and
then re-established. The intrigue against Rector Szymanowski was
conducted in the press and at a high government level. The dissolution
of the Academy was the major disgrace in Polish music between
the two World Wars. His resignation as rector was however good
for Karol’s health and creativity
 Kochno was
also later also a director of the ballet of Monte Carlo, and editor
of a documents related to the artistic activity of Diagilev,…
1981- July1983, but in many aspects continued up to 1989. The
“State of War” led to the collapse of public life in Poland.
The International Festival of the Contemporary Music (every year
in Warsaw) was suspended.