Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra
Artistic Director: Jacek Kasprzyk
Warsaw Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra
The National Orchestra of Poland
The first concert of Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra took place on November 5, 1901 in the newly built Philharmonic Hall. This inaugural concert was conducted by Emil Młynarski, co-founder, first music director and principal conductor of the Philharmonic. The soloist was the world-famous pianist, composer and future statesman Ignacy Jan Paderewski. The program of this historic concert included Paderewski’s Piano Concerto in A minor and works by other Polish composers: Chopin, Moniuszko, Noskowski, Stojowski and Żeleński.
In its early years, the Orchestra relatively quickly achieved a high level of professionalism, attracting outstanding soloists and conductors from all over the world. Before World War I
and in the inter-war period, Warsaw Philharmonic was the main centre of musical activity in Poland and also one of the major musical institutions in Europe. Almost all the outstanding conductors and soloists of the day performed in Warsaw with the city’s Philharmonic Orchestra, including Claudio Arrau, Edvard Grieg, Arthur Honegger, Vladimir Horowitz, Bronisław Huberman, Wilhelm Kempff, Otto Klemperer, Sergey Prokofiev, Sergey Rachmaninov, Maurice Ravel, Artur Rodziński, Artur Rubinstein, Pablo Sarasate, Richard Strauss, Igor Stravinsky.
In the first years after the war, Olgierd Straszyński and Andrzej Panufnik were among the conductors of Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra. In August 1950, Witold Rowicki was appointed director and principal conductor. He took it upon himself to organize a new ensemble. Despite the lack of its own hall (performances were organized in e.g. sports halls and theatres) and difficult working conditions, the Orchestra, due to Rowicki’s effort, became a leading Polish ensemble.
On 21st February 1955, the new Philharmonic Hall in Jasna St. was re-opened on the site of its previous seat, destroyed by German air raids. On that day, Warsaw Philharmonic was granted the status of the National Philharmonic of Poland. This represented the status which the Philharmonic had achieved in Poland as the leading institution of its kind in the country.
From 1955 until 1958 Bohdan Wodiczko,an outstanding musician and enthusiast of modern music conducted the Orchestra. Arnold Rezler and Stanisław Skrowaczewski also worked with the Orchestra. It was a good period for the Philharmonic: the orchestra was enlarged, the hall gained an organ, and performances of modern music achieved great success leading to the establishment of the First International Festival of Contemporary Music, known as the “Warsaw Autumn”. With time, it became one of the world’s most important festivals of its kind.
In 1958 Witold Rowicki was again appointed artistic director and principal conductor of the Philharmonic, a post he held until 1977. Stanisław Wisłocki and Andrzej Markowski also worked with the Orchestra at that time as permanent guest conductors. It was under Rowicki’s direction that foreign tours and appearances in prestigious halls worldwide became a staple of the orchestra’s activity.
Kazimierz Kord was appointed artistic director and conductor of Warsaw Philharmonic on 1st July 1977. From the beginning of his work with the orchestra, he focused on extending the repertoire. Owing to his efforts, the Philharmonic programmes began to include, apart from symphonic music, also the opera and other great vocal-instrumental forms, as well as many contemporary compositions. The Philharmonic introduced a new concert cycle: ‘Warsaw Philharmonic Presents’, recorded live and released under the Polskie Nagrania record label, as well as concerts of undergraduates from Warsaw’s Academy of Music. Together with Witold Lutosławski, Kazimierz Kord worked out the idea of short (several-day-long) festivals of contemporary music conceived as a meeting place for various disciplines of art. The first such festival was held already after the composer’s death and was named ‘The Lutosławski Forum’ in his honour. It continues to be organised (first annually, then as a biennial) until today.
In 1979-90, the post of deputy artistic director and conductor of Warsaw Philharmonic was held by Tadeusz Strugała.
Antoni Wit was the managing and artistic director of Warsaw Philharmonic in 2002-13. He continued his predecessor’s work on the repertoire, further increasing the presence of Polish music, frequently in the interpretations of foreign artists, as well as introducing concert performances of famous operas. He also initiated the composer-in-residence programme. Every year, one composer’s works feature in the repertoire, and the artist collaborates on programming contemporary music concerts. During Antoni Wit’s tenure, the Philharmonic significantly extended its discography. The Warsaw Philharmonic ensembles recorded under his baton more than 50 CDs, including nearly 40 for Naxos. These recordings have won numerous awards, including the prestigious Grammy Award in 2012. They focus primarily on the music of Polish composers: Karłowicz, Szymanowski, Lutosławski, Penderecki, Górecki, and Kilar.
As of the 2013-14 concert season, the post of Warsaw Philharmonic director has been taken over by Wojciech Nowak, who previously worked for 16 years as Warsaw Philharmonic’s deputy managing and artistic director. Jacek Kaspszyk (bio – page…) fills the position of artistic director, responsible for building the ensembles, developing the repertoire and selecting guest artists.
The Warsaw Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra has made nearly 140 concert tours on five continents, appearing in all of the world’s major concert halls to great audience and critical acclaim. It is praised by reviewers for its excellent, charismatic performances. It has played at major international festivals in, among others, Vienna, Berlin, Prague, Bergen, Lucerne, Montreux, Moscow, Brussels, Florence, Bordeaux and Athens, the festival ‘La folle Journée’ in Nantes, Bilbao, Lisbon and Tokyo. It also regularly performs during the International F. Chopin Piano Competitions in Warsaw, the ‘Warsaw Autumn” Festival of Contemporary Music, the International Festival ‘Chopin and His Europe’ and the Ludvig van Beethoven Easter Festival. It records for the Polish Radio and state television (TVP) as well as Polish and foreign record labels and film companies.
Apart from outstanding Polish artists, the Warsaw Philharmonic has hosted many eminent artists from all over the world, among them: Hermann Abendroth, Martha Argerich, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Kathleen Battle, Joshua Bell, Teresa Berganza, Gary Bertini, Herbert Blomstedt, Alfred Brendel, Aram Chaczaturian, Charles Dutoit, Philippe Entremont, Vladimir Fedoseyev, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Philippe Herreweghe, Robert Holl, Marek Janowski, Nigel Kennedy, Evgeny Kissin, Gidon Kremer, Lang Lang, Felicity Lott, Radu Lupu, Lorin Maazel, Mischa Maisky, Igor Markevitch, Kurt Masur, Yehudi Menuhin, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, Midori, Marc Minkowski, Shlomo Mintz, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Kent Nagano, Dawid i Igor Ojstrachowie, Murray Perahia, Maurizio Pollini, Światosław Richter, Helmuth Rilling, Mścisław Rostropowicz, Gienadij Rożdiestwieński, Artur Rubinstein, Jordi Savall, András Schiff, Isaac Stern, Leopold Stokowski, Igor Strawiński, Henryk Szeryng, Arcadi Volodos.