KAROL SZYMANOWSKI, Polish composer, born (d: 1937); In his autobiography, My Life and Loves, pianist Arthur Rubinstein speaks of his friendship with the important Polish composer, Karol Szymanowski, who was Gay. Rubinstein speaks of a wealthy friend and admirer who had invited the composer several times to visit Italy. “After his return,” the pianist writes, “he raved about Sicily, especially Taormina. “There,” he said, “I saw a few young men bathing who could be models for Antinous. I couldn’t take my eyes off them.” Rubenstein doesn’t mention that Szymanowski had been visiting the isle of Wilhelm von Gloeden, and one wonders, in fact, and whether the German photographer was Szymanowski’s wealthy friend. New recordings have marked a recent reawakening of interest in Szymanowski’s music, which is all to the good.
Szymanowski) was born to a wealthy land-owning family of the Polish gentry in Tymoszowka, then in the Russian empire, now in present-day Ukraine. He studied music privately with his father before going to Gustav Neuhaus’ Elizavetgrad School of Music from 1892. From 1901 he attended the State Conservatory in Warsaw, of which he was later director from 1926 until retiring in 1930. Musical opportunities in Russian-occupied Poland being quite limited at the time, he travelled widely throughout Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and the US.. These travels, especially those to the Mediterranean area, provided much inspiration to the composer and aesthete.
During these trips he also wrote poetry and his novel Efebos, parts of which were subsequently lost in a fire in 1939. He explored religious and homosexual themes in the novel and it was translated by him into Russian and given as a gift in 1919 to his partner Boris Kochno. Szymanowski maintained a long correspondence with pianist Jan Smeterlin, who was a significant champion of his piano works. Their correspondence was published by Allegro Press in 1969.