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Kazimierz Kord

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Kazimierz Kord (b. 1930 in Pogórze) — conductor and director of many musical institutions in Poland. In his longest post, which he held from 1977 to 2001, he was head of the National Philharmonic in Warsaw.

He began his education at the Secondary Music School in Katowice, after which he left in 1949 on a scholarship to Leningrad, where he studied for five years at the Conservatory in the class of the superb pianist and pedagogue Vladimir Nielsen. Following his return to Poland he enrolled in the State Postsecondary Music School in Cracow, and attended the class of Artur Malawski and Witold Krzemieński. He obtained his first professional conducting experience as a choirmaster at the Warsaw Opera. In 1962 however, he returned to Cracow, where he filled the function of the director of the Municipal Music Theatre, and where in the course of an eight-year period he prepared around 30 ballet and operatic premieres, including Faust by Charles Gounod, which Kord directed with Józef Szajna’s as stage designer.

Thanks to this very performance he was engaged by the Gartnerplatztheater in Munich, where he conducted, among other works, Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades and Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle. Kazimierz Kord’s great achievement in opera was the long-lasting collaboration with the Metropolitan Opera in New York. There, he prepared Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades, Verdi’s Aïda and Macbeth, as well as Mozart’s Così fan tutte, and for the opening of the 1977-1978 season, Musorgsky’s Boris Godunov. In the San Francisco Opera he lead, among other works, Verdi’s Falstaff and Othello. He also remained in constant collaboration with opera theaters in Amsterdam, Munich, Düsseldorf, Copenhagen (with the Royal Danish Theatre), and well as in London (performances in Covent Garden).

In addition, Kazimierz Kord conducted many symphonic ensembles: in Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Dallas, and Cincinnati, where for a time he was first guest conductor. He lead a European tour with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and was a many-time guest conductor in Osaka and Tokyo. In Europe he conducted orchestras in London, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Rome, Leningrad, Moscow, Hamburg, Cologne, Frankfurt. In the 80s he was head of the Sudwestfunk Orchester Baden-Baden.

In Poland, he was head of the Great Symphony Orchestra of the Polish Radio in Katowice for a period of four years, and in 1977 he took over the National Philharmonic Orchestra in Warsaw after Witold Rowicki, ending his work with the Philharmonic in 2001 at its centennial celebrations in Warsaw. Within this period the Orchestra secured its place on the international arena, and under Kazimierz Kord it made over 30 great concert tours to many countries of the world.

Kazimierz Kord’s repertoire included works from different epochs and styles, but it could also be said that his attention concentrated on great musical forms and contemporary compositions which he presented, among others, at the Warsaw Autumn Contemporary Music Festival, at the Donaueschingen Festival, and the Lutosławski Forum. It was Kazimierz Kord who asked Witold Lutosławski for the patronage over the Forum, devoted the most outstanding achievements of contemporary art.

In effect, Witold Lutosławski made a list of a several dozen masterworks, which together created the “twentieth-century canon”. Each season of the Forum consisted of concerts at the Philharmonic, as well as meetings, expositions, seminars, and lectures devoted to contemporary art. The most outstanding creators and theorists took part in the events. Another intention of the organizers was for the festival to become an opportunity for the presentation of young artists’ work. The first Forum took place in 1995, after the death of Witold Lutosławski, and during it Kazimierz Kord conducted the Symphony no. 4 of the Polish composer, at another he lead the Chantefleurs et chantefables (fourth Forum in 1998) with the solo part sung by Olga Pasiecznik, and at the second Forum (1996) Ewa Pobłocka performed the Piano Concerto with Kazimierz Kord as conductor. The latter work found itself also in the program of an evening which graced the anniversary of Chopin’s birth on March 1, 1999. Kazimierz Kord and Ewa Pobłocka recorded the Concerto on a disc issued by CD Accord, which includes two other piano concertos by twentieth-century composers: Andrzej Panufnik and Paweł Szymański.

Witold Lutosławski’s works often appeared under the baton of Kazimierz Kord in the concert programs of the National Philharmonic Orchestra in Warsaw. During the inauguration of the 12th International Chopin Competition on October 1, 1990, Kord directed the Symphony no. 3, while on October 4, 2000 he lead the Concerto for Orchestra, at the inauguration of the 14th Chopin Competition; finally, on November 5, 2001, at an evening adding splendour to the centennial of the Philharmonic’s existence, he conducted the Symphony no. 4. For the end of the concert season in June, 1984, Kazimierz Kord offered a rendition of Lutosławski’s Cello Concerto, with Roman Jabłoński as soloist. On an unforgettable evening in 1999, a concert titled “Yehudi Menuhin in memoriam” resounded with Lutosławski’s Funeral Music, played by the ensemble Sinfonia Varsovia under Kazimierz Kord. The artist returned many times to the Concerto for Orchestra, the Symphonic Variations, Livre pour Orchestre, Mi-parti and the Symphony also beyond Poland’s borders. He prepared a performance of the Symphony No. 3 with the Sudwestfunk Orchester Baden-Baden.

During Witold Lutosławski’s life we also have Kazimierz Kord to thank for the idea of a Lutosławski “Composition Competition”. Initially its organizer was the National Philharmonic, while from 2004 the role was taken over by the Witold Lutosławski Society.

Kazimierz Kord created many recordings for EMI, Philips, Decca, while in Poland he recorded — among others — all of Ludwig van Beethoven’s symphonies on the CD Accord label. The latter firm made a recording of the premiere of Wojciech Kilar’s Missa pro pace, a work which Kazimierz Kord commissioned from the composer on the centennial of Warsaw’s Philharmonic. The artist received numerous awards and distinctions in his home country and abroad.

as / trans. mk