Magazine article Gramophone

Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra: Our Monthly Series Telling the Story Behind an Orchestra

Magazine article Gramophone

Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra: Our Monthly Series Telling the Story Behind an Orchestra

Article excerpt

Founded 1901

Home Philharmonic Hall, Warsaw

Chief Conductor Jacek Kaspszyk (2013-present)

Founding Chief Conductor Emil Szymon Mlynarski

The Warsaw Philharmonic at once embodies Poland's longstanding tradition for expatriation and its old-world resistance of globalisation. It has been exporting its wares for decades as one of the world's busiest touring and recording orchestras, yet at the time of its last visit to the BBC Proms in 2013 there were only two non-Poles among its ranks. Like its home country, it has a tradition of looking outwards and fostering inwards, for better or for worse. It has developed the flexibility expected of a modern symphony orchestra but little of the indistinct homogeneity, and can still raise eyebrows with its big, broad and often dark-tinted sound.

Like its current Chief Conductor Jacek Kaspszyk, the orchestra's founder Emil MIynarski had extensive international experience (much of it from Britain) and ensured that the likes of Rachmaninov, Prokofiev, Strauss and even Grieg would work with his ensemble. But in a turbulent century, and with Warsaw flattened during the Second World War, the orchestra's modern roots effectively date from 1955 when it moved into the new Philharmonic Hall and was given the title (in Polish) 'National'.

That proved more than a title, as the orchestra became the supreme champion of contemporary Polish music. It established the Warsaw Autumn Festival as a platform for new voices, and in 1958 Witold Rowicki began a transformative second tenure as Chief Conductor, staying for 19 years and initiating many of the touring and recording activities that would make the ensemble's international reputation. …

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