Warsaw Philharmonic Choir
The Warsaw Philharmonic Choir was founded in 1953 under Zbigniew Soja. Later chorus masters have included Roman Kuklewicz (1955-1971), Józef Bok (1971-1974), Antoni Szaliński (1974-1978), and Henryk Wojnarowski (1978-2016), and since January 2017, the post has been held by Bartosz Michałowski.
The choir’s performances focus around symphonic and oratorio concerts with the Warsaw Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, as well as a capella performances in the Warsaw Philharmonic Hall. Each season, the Choir stages numerous concerts here, and also appears regularly at the Warsaw Autumn International Festival of Contemporary Music and the Wratislavia Cantans Festival.
The Warsaw Philharmonic Choir has also performed extensively abroad, in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Spain, Iceland, Israel, Germany, Russia, Switzerland, Turkey, Lithuania, Latvia, France, and Italy. In May 2015, it also toured Great Britain with
the Warsaw Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra. The Choir has been frequently invited to perform in concerts with such outstanding orchestras as the Berlin and Munich Philharmonic, the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, the RIAS Orchestra, the Bamberger Symphoniker, the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem Symphony Orchestras, the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia Symphony Orchestra in Rome, the Brussels Opera Orchestra, the Palermo Symphony Orchestra, and the La Scala Orchestra in Milan.
This first appearance on an opera stage brought further invitations to opera houses: re-invitation to La Scala (Weber’s Oberon, 1989; Beethoven’s Fidelio 1990), La Fenice in Venice (Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress, 1986, and Mozart’s The Magic Flute, 1987), Paris (Beethoven’s Fidelio, 1989); Palermo (Szymanowski’s King Roger, 1992; Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex, 1993; and Honegger’s Antigone, 1993), and Pesaro (Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri, 1994). In 1988, 1990 and 2001, the Choir sang in gala concerts organized for Pope John Paul II in the Vatican.
The choir has been conducted by such outstanding Polish and international masters of the baton as Moshe Atzmon, Gary Bertini, Sergiu Comissiona, Henryk Czyż, Charles Dutoit, Vladimir Fedoseyev, Sir Charles Groves, Jacek Kaspszyk, Kazimierz Kord, Jan Krenz, Helmut Koch, Witold Lutosławski, Lorin Maazel, Jerzy Maksymiuk, Igor Markevitch, Andrzej Markowski, Kurt Masur, Zubin Mehta, Grzegorz Nowak, Seiji Ozawa, Krzysztof Penderecki, Zoltán Pescó, Sir Simon Rattle, Helmuth Rilling, Wolfgang Renert, Ludomir Romansky, Witold Rowicki, Hans Martin Schneit, Jerzy Semkow, David Shallon, Giuseppe Sinopoli, Stanisław Skrowaczewski, Leopold Stokowski, Igor Stravinsky, Tadeusz Strugała, Stanisław Wisłocki, Antoni Wit, and Bohdan Wodiczko.
The choir’s wide repertoire comprises over 400 oratorios and a cappella works, ranging from the Middle Ages to contemporary pieces. A particular place in the choir’s repertoire is occupied by Polish music, especially pieces by Krzysztof Penderecki. The ensemble has performed and recorded all of his oratorios and a cappella works.
In February 2017, the Choir received the most prestigious award of the phonographic industry, a Grammy, in the “Best Choral Performance” category, for the first CD in the Penderecki Conducts Penderecki series (featuring Dies Illa, Psalms of David, Hymn to St. Danill and Hymn to St. Adalbert).
The Choir had been nominated for Grammy six times before this occasion – five times for its recordings of Krzysztof Penderecki’s works, i.e. St Luke Passion (two nominations: in 1991, directed by the composer, and in 2004, directed by Antoni Wit), Polish Requiem (2005), Symphony No. 7 “Seven Gates of Jerusalem” (2007), and Utrenja (2009), and also for an album featuring Karol Szymanowski’s Stabat Mater, Veni Creator, Litany to Virgin Mary, Demeter, Penthesilea (2008). The album with Polish Requiem also received the Record Academy Award 2005 (from the Japanese magazine Record Geijutsu).
In April 2009, the Choir’s album Stanisław Moniuszko – Masses Vol. 1 received a Fryderyk award, in the “Album of the Year – Choral and Oratorio Music” category, whilst Vol. 2 was honoured with a Golden Orpheus – Arturo Toscanini Award from the French L’Académie du Disque Lyrique, in the category “Best Phonographic Initiative” in May 2010. The latter was given in recognition of its promotion of Stanisław Moniuszko’s oeuvre.
These two CDs are the world’s only recording of Moniuszko’s complete masses. In March 2011, the Choir received a Fryderyk award of the Polish Phonographic Academy for its 1989 CD recording of Roman Maciejewski’s Requiem, which was reissued with a new graphic layout in 2010 to mark the 100th anniversary of the composer’s birth. The year 2018 brought him another Fryderyk Award in the Album of the Year – Choral Music category, for the monograph album Karol Szymanowski. December 2014 saw the release of a DVD with Christmas carols, followed by a CD featuring the same repertoire in 2015.
The Choir’s discography also comprises Handel’s Messiah, Israel in Egypt and Juda Maccabaeus, Mozart’s Requiem, Beethoven’s Fidelio and Symphony No. 9, Verdi’s Requiem, Berlioz’s La Damnation de Faust, Bruckner’s Te Deum, Elsner’s Passion, Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, Moniuszko’s Litanies of Ostra Brama, Maklakiewicz’s Four Masses, Schumann’s Scenes from Goethe’s Faust, Bellini’s Norma, Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman, Kilar’s Missa pro pace, Brahm’s Ein Deutsches Requiem, Dvořák’s Requiem, and Weinberg’s Symphony No. 8 “Polish Flowers”.