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Warsaw Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra

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Warsaw Philharmonic gave its first concert on 5th November 1901 in the Philharmonic’s newly built concert hall.

The Orchestra was conducted by Emil Młynarski – co-founder, first music director and resident conductor of the Philharmonic, while the solo part was played by Ignacy Jan Paderewski.

Already before World War I and between the world wars, the Philharmonic became a key centre of musical life in Poland and one of Europe’s major musical institutions.

In the early years after World War II, the orchestra’s concerts were held in theatres and sport halls. On 21st February 1955, the Philharmonic moved to a new seat (which replaced the one destroyed by German air raids) and was granted the status of the National Philharmonic. Under its new director Witold Rowicki, it regained the reputation of Poland’s leading symphony orchestra. In 1955-58 the position of artistic director was held by Bohdan Wodiczko, then again by Rowicki, and from 1977 – by Kazimierz Kord. Between January 2002 and August 2013, Antoni Wit was both the Philharmonic’s managing and artistic director. As of 1st September 2013, Wojciech Nowak has been named Warsaw Philharmonic’s director, and Jacek Kaspszyk has taken over the artistic direction of the Philharmonic.

Today Warsaw Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra enjoys worldwide popularity and acclaim. It has made nearly 140 concert tours on five continents, appearing in all of the world’s major concert halls. It also regularly performs during the International F. Chopin Piano Competitions in Warsaw and the ‘Warsaw Autumn’ Festival, records for the Polish Radio and state television (TVP) as well as Polish and foreign record labels and film companies. The Orchestra has frequently been awarded prestigious record prizes, including the Grammy in 2013 (and six Grammy nominations) for their recordings of Penderecki’s and Szymanowski’s large-scale vocal-instrumental works, Diapason d’Or, ICMA, Gramophone Award, Record Geijutsu, Classical Internet Award, Cannes Classical Award, and the Fryderyk Award of the Polish Phonographic Academy.

Witold Lutosławski’s first encounter with the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra was in the role of a listener. On the jubilee of the institution, he wrote: "My thoughts wander back to all the most important moments I was able to experience in the hall at Jasna Street, realizing that they brought a richness into my life, and taught me to compose better than I would have, even if I had studied at the best music academy", later reminiscing about a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth, which he listened to "at the age of no more than seven", Szymanowski’s Symphony no. 3 ‘Song of the Earth’: "[it] introduced me to a totally new, magical world, the existence of which I had hardly imagined before", and the intense experieces with appearances by Josef Hofman, Walter Gieseking, Vladimir Horowitz, Bronisław Huberman, Paul Kochański, Bruno Walter, Ernest Ansermet, and Otto Klemperer.

Lutosławski’s first orchestral compositions were played before the war by the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, as it was then called. On May 28, 1933, Lutosławski’s ballet music to the drama Haroun al Rashid was performed under the baton of Józef Ozimiński, while five years later, in 1938, Tadeusz Wilczak lead the premiere of the composer’s diploma piece – the Lacrimosa for soprano, choir, and orchestra. In the post-war years, a number of Witold Lutosławski’s works also become tied with the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra, such as the world-premiered Concerto for Orchestra, written for the orchestra on a commission by Witold Rowicki. The complete version of Jeux vénitiens was also first presented by the orchestra at the Warsaw Autumn festival (September 16, 1961).

In addition, the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra has on its account a long series of world premieres in Poland of Lutosławski’s key works, e.g. the Piano Concerto with Krystian Zimerman, under the baton of Witold Lutosławski (September 22, 1988). The latter’s final conducting appearance in Poland occurred on September 25, 1993, where he led the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra at the Warsaw Autumn. The performed compositions were: Symphonies nos. 1 and 4, Les espaces du sommeil, and Chain III. This concert, and many others with Witold Lutosławski’s music performed by the orchestra, were recorded and issued on records.

During the Year of Lutosławski, the orchestra performed the majority of the Polish composer’s symphonic works. Jacek Kaspszyk led the Symphonies nos. 3 and 4, Antoni Wit – Symphony no. 3, and Stanisław Skrowaczewski – Symphony no. 1. Also appearing with the orchestra were prominent soloists: Anne-Sophie Mutter in Chain II and Partita, Ian Bostridge in Paroles tissées, and Krystian Zimerman in the Piano Concerto.

At the closing concert of the Year of Lutosławski in the National Philharmonic on January 25, 2014, the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra received the Year of Lutosławski Medal for its outstanding contribution in the dissemination of the composer’s heritage.