Managing and Artistic Director: Antoni Wit
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 January 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.
On 1st July 1977, Kazimierz Kord was appointed artistic director and principal conductor of the Warsaw Philharmonic and he directed the Orchestra till the end of the centenary celebrations in 2001. From the beginning of his work with the Orchestra, he emphasised broadening the range of repertoire. As a result, alongside symphonies, also oratorios and operatic works were included in the concert programmes for the following artistic seasons.
In 1979-90, the post of conductor in Warsaw Philharmonic was held by Tadeusz Strugała.
Since January 2002, Antoni Wit has been General and Artistic Director of Warsaw Philharmonic, Maestro Kazimierz Kord holds the position of Honorary Director.
Today both the Warsaw Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra and Choir enjoy world-wide popularity and recognition. The orchestra has made over 130 tours on five continents. It has performed in all the major concert halls, winning applause from the audiences and critics for their charismatic music making. It has taken part in many international festivals – in Vienna, Berlin, Prague, Bergen, Lucerne, Montreux, Moscow, Brussels, Florence, Bordeaux and Athens, Nantes (“La Folle Journee”), Bilbao, Lisbon and Tokyo. The Orchestra regularly participates in the International F. Chopin Piano Competitions and the Warsaw Autumn Festivals. It also records for the Polish Radio and Television, Polish and international record companies, and the film industry.
The recording achievements of the Warsaw Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra under the button of Antoni Wit have frequently been rewarded with prestigious record awards. Among others, the Orchestra won the Fryderyk 2002 Record Academy Award for “The Most Outstanding Polish Music Recording” for its album with works by Lutosławski, Meyer and Penderecki (CD Accord). In June 2003 the Orchestra recorded Chopin’s complete works for piano and orchestra with Kun Woo Paik (for Decca), and in September 2003 – the world premiere of Wojciech Kilar’s September Symphony.
The recording of Krzysztof Penderecki’s, St Luke Passion made in 2002 for NAXOS and performed by the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir conducted by Antoni Wit, received the Classical Internet Award and was nominated for the American Grammy in 2004. The CD recording of Penderecki’s Polish Requiem by the same orchestral and choral forces (on NAXOS) won another nomination in 2005, as well as the Record Academy Award 2005 (of the Japanese music magazine Record Geijutsu). In June 2005, Warsaw Philharmonic recorded Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 under the same label, winning the highest critical acclaim. Two other recordings by Warsaw Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra under Wit received three “Fryderyk” Awards in 2005 (Chopin with Rafał Blechacz and Lutosławski with Rafał Kwiatkowski). 2007 brought another Grammy nomination, for a Seven Gates of Jerusalem by Penderecki.
In 2007-08, the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir conducted by Antoni Wit has recorded the complete orchestral and vocal-instrumental works by Szymanowski for NAXOS. These recordings won favourable reviews and title Editor’s Choice of popular music magazines and websites (Gramophone, BBC Music, ClassicsToday). The CD with Stabat Mater was also nominated for the Grammy in 2008 and the CDs with Symphonies No. 1 and No. 4 and with Penderecki’s Utrenja in 2009.
In 2012 the recording of Pendereckis’s Viola Concerto and Cello Concerto (soloist: Grigori Zhislin and Tatjana Vassilieva won prestigious international music award ICMA.
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, Charles Dutoit, Philippe Entremont, Vladimir Fedoseyev, Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos, Philippe Herreweghe, Robert Holl, Marek Janowski, Nigel Kennedy, Aram Khachaturian, Evgeny Kissin, Gidon Kremer, Lang Lang, Felicity Lott, Radu Lupu, Lorin Maazel, Misha Maisky, Igor Markevitch, Kurt Masur, Yehudi Menuhin, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, Midori, Marc Minkowski, Shlomo Mintz, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Kent Nagano, David and Igor Oistrakh, Murray Perahia, Maurizio Pollini, Svyatoslav Richter, Helmuth Rilling, Mstislav Rostropovich, Artur Rubinstein, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Jordi Savall, Andras Schiff, Isaac Stern, Henryk Szeryng, Leopold Stokowski, Igor Stravinsky, Arcadi Volodos and many others.