Maria Szymanowska (1789--1831): Pianist and composer

Date of Completion

January 2001






The dissertation is the first biography of Maria Szymanowska available in English language; it provides analysis of her major piano compositions; a separate section of the dissertation is devoted to the influence of Szymanowska's music on that of Frederic Chopin. ^ Maria Szymanowska was one of the first professional virtuoso pianists of the nineteenth century. As a performing artist, she toured Russia, Germany, Austria, France, Italy, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and England. She developed close personal bonds with leading artistic and intellectual figures of the time, such as Goethe, Mickiewicz, Field, Hummel, and others. During her final years, spent in St. Petersburg, she created at her house one of the most active artistic and intellectual salons of the city. ^ Stylistically, Szymanowska's music belongs to the pre-romantic stile brillant and to Polish Sentimentalism. Her Etudes and Preludes show innovative keyboard writing; the Nocturne in B flat is her most mature piano composition; Szymanowska's Mazurkas represent one of the first attempts at stylization of the dance; Fantasy and Caprice contain an impressive vocabulary of pianistic technique; her polonaises follow the tradition of polonaise-writing created by Michal Kleofas Ogiński. ^ Szymanowska's musical style is parallel to the compositional starting point of Frederic Chopin; many of her compositions had an obvious impact on Chopin's mature musical language. ^ The appendix provides a list of musical materials included in Szymanowska's collection of autographs, dedications, poems, and musical compositions, known as the Sztambuch. ^