Warsaw Phil On Warner Classics

The first concert played by the Warsaw National Philharmonic in its hall, newly-reconstructed after war-time destruction, was given on February 21, 1955. The recording of this historic concert—now digitally re-mastered by Grammy Award winning sound engineers Aleksander Nagórko and Andrzej Sasin—has been released on the Warner Classics label under the title Warsaw Philharmonic Archives: The 1st Concert 1955. This CD is the first in Warner’s new series “Warsaw Philharmonic Archives,” in which re-mastered recordings of some of the most important concerts given by the orchestra since 1955 will be made available.

Although the CD was officially released on February 23, 2015, early copies of it were available on February 20 and 21 during the National Philharmonic’s 60th Anniversary of the First Concert in the New Building event. This concert featured guest conductor Nicholas Collon and piano soloist Ingrid Jacoby in a program of Mozart repertoire.

According to the external service of Polish Radio:

The CD features works by Polish composers Stanisław Moniuszko (the concert overture ‘The Fable’), Karol Szymanowski (Violin Concerto, with the then 26 year-old Wanda Wiłkomirska as the soloist) and Witold Lutosławski (Concerto for Orchestra), conducted by Witold Rowicki.

It also includes the Polish national anthem and speeches by the then minister of culture Włodzimierz Sokorski and prominent writer Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, who then served as President of the Chopin Society (the historic concert was also the inauguration of the 5th Chopin International Piano Competition).

The history of the Warsaw Philharmonic goes back to 5 November 1901. The inaugural concert was conducted by Emil Młynarski, its first Music Director, and featured Ignacy Jan Paderewski as the soloist. Within a relatively short time, the Warsaw Philharmonic achieved high artistic standards and became the most important institution of promoting musical culture in Poland.

It also played an active role in the European music circuit. Its reputation was enhanced by guest performances by the world’s most renowned musicians of the early 20th century and the inter-war period, including Sergey Rachmaninov, Claudio Arrau, Eduard Grieg, Sergey Prokofiev, Vladimir Horowitz, Artur Rubinstein, Bronisław Huberman, Pablo Sarasate, Otto Klemperer, Igor Stravinsky, Richard Strauss, Maurice Ravel and Artur Rodziński.

Soon after the outbreak of the Second World War, the Warsaw Philharmonic Hall was bombed and towards the end of the hostilities it was reduced to rubble. During the first post-war decade, the orchestra performed in the city’s theatres and sports halls.

Under Witold Rowicki the ensemble regained its position of Poland’s leading symphony orchestra. In 1955–58 it was led by Bohdan Wodiczko. In 1958 Rowicki resumed work with the orchestra and remained its Artistic Director until 1977 when the post of Artistic Director was taken over by Kazimierz Kord. In 2013, after the long tenure of Antoni Wit (2002-2013), Jacek Kaspszyk became the orchestra’s Music Director.

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Included with this first release are two booklets devoted to the Philharmonic. Entitled “Yesterday and Today,” they contain discussions of the event and biographies of Witold Rowicki and Wanda Wiłkomirska, provided by the eminent musicologist Stanisław Dybowski, as well as selected contemporary reviews and numerous archival photos. A short commemoration given by Wiłkomirska is also included, evoking the unique atmosphere of that special concert played in her recently rebuilt hometown.

[Sources: thenews.pl, warnermusic.pl, polmic.pl, filharmonia.pl]