Her works

Maria Szymanowska composed over a hundred pieces for piano (for 2, 3 and 4 hands), about thirty songs (for 1 and 2 voices) and a few chamber music works (for piano with violin or flute, for piano with cello).

Most of them were published during her lifetime by prestigious houses such as Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig, Hanry in Paris or Ricordi in Milan. Some have still remained in the form of manuscripts, scattered in various archives around the world.

She composed for what she appreciated the most and knew the best: the piano and the voice. She probably took advantage of some advice from experienced composers whom she regularly frequented (Elsner, Kurpinski, Lessel, Dussek, Tomášek, Hummel, Field, Cherubini, Rossini ...), but she never received any formal training in this way.

She excels in the short forms (preludes, etudes, dances) and the variations which clearly demonstrate her great inventiveness in the field of musical motifs and sound colors that she always sought to enrich, in the same way as her own technique and the instrument of pianoforte itself were constantly evolving.

Despite a certain fidelity to the forms of artistic expression used in this time, the works of Maria Szymanowska reflect a musician continually searching for a new language. Her poetic and often vocal style prefigures the romantic ballad, the poem without words and the melodrama.

It would be simplistic and historically unjustified to focus on her works and her career as composer with the same criterions as for her male counterparts: everything she accomplished in her short life is an exceptional undertaking in a world where only men were allowed to envisage a career as a professional composer.

Unlike other women authors who until the beginning of the twentieth century preferred to take a masculine pseudonym, Maria Szymanowska always signed her works with her own name, beginning with ‘Maria Wolowska’, her maiden name. Her correspondence with the publishers in various countries shows their greatest respect and interest towards this Polish lady.

It was certainly not easy for her to combine her career as a professional musician and her role as a divorced mother who was financially responsible for her three children as well as for the siblings traveling with her on all European tours. Even though she could be assisted in certain daily tasks - according to the usages of this epoch and to her own necessities - the management of her professional life was directed by herself.

Her musical works are therefore the ones of an extremely talented and determined woman who - in the mass of her daily duties - is sometimes just able to make some sketches, ‘pastels’ corresponding to her creative ideas, which she doesn’t always have the time to turn into a definitive version… Obviously, it is to the performer now to continue the process of creation that she has begun: her works leave a field of freedom and unlimited confidence to musicians who are tired of a certain ‘routine’ in their repertory and of certain ‘canons’ of interpretation.
                                                                                                                        Elisabeth Zapolska Chapelle