Wanda Wiłkomirska, the great Polish violinist associated for decades with the Warsaw Philharmonic died on May 1. She was 89 years old.
Born on 11 January 1929, Wiłkomirska came from a large musical family—her brother Kazimierz was a cellist and sister Maria was a pianist, and they often performed chamber music as the Wiłkomirski Trio. Wanda Wiłkomirska studied with Eugenia Umińska and Tadeusz Wroński in Warsaw as well as Henryk Szeryng, who tutored her in Paris. She was a prizewinner at violin competitions in Geneva, Leipzig and Poznań, and was a Warsaw Philharmonic soloist for twenty-seven years, beginning on 21 February 1955 when she inaugurated the opening of the newly rebuilt Warsaw Philharmonic Hall after World War II. Wiłkomirska performed with dozens of leading conductors, but was especially close to Witold Rowicki and Stanisław Wisłocki, two longtime artistic directors and conductors of the Warsaw orchestra, with whom she toured the world. Known for her unforgettable performances of Karol Szymanowski’s repertoire, Wiłkomirska gave over three thousand concerts in over fifty countries throughout her stellar career. She was the first violinist to perform a solo recital in the newly opened Sydney Opera House.
Her wonderful character and personal charm were felt by audiences and, especially, by her many students, for whom she was always their most beloved professor. Wiłkomirska emigrated from Poland in 1982 during the difficult period of martial law and first settled in Germany before emigrating to Australia in 1993. Always happy to teach, she was on faculty at the Sydney Conservatory of Music and the Australian Academy of Music, and served as a jury member on a number of international competitions. She returned to Poland in 1990 to perform Panufnik’s Violin Concerto and made occasional visits to her native country after the Communist government was replaced in 1989 with a democratically elected one.
Wiłkomirska left a huge legacy of recordings made for such labels as Polskie Nagrania, Deutsche Gramophon, EMI, Hungaroton, Musical Heritage Society and Connoisseur Society. She played a 1734 Guarneri violin.