Oratorio Music Concert Filharmonia Narodowa

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Oratorio Music Concert
Tania Miller, photo: Todd Rosenberg

A twist of fate inextricably linked Karłowicz’s last, unfinished symphonic poem with his own tragic death in an avalanche at the foot of Mały Kościelec in 1909. It was the manuscript for Episode at a Masquerade that was found on the composer’s desk in his Lutnia villa in Zakopane shortly after the dramatic incident. The work was completed and orchestrated by Karłowicz’s close friend Grzegorz Fitelberg, a fervent advocate of the young composer’s outstanding talent. This composition, couched in the scheme of a sonata allegro, displays the composer’s wonderful musical imagination, mastery of development work and perfect deployment of a large orchestra.

Carl Orff’s cantata Carmina Burana, from 1936, is sometimes described as the most ‘overused’ work in the history of music. It is impossible to count the contexts (mainly in film and advertising) into which this exceptionally suggestive and characteristic composition has been woven. So how did Orff’s setting of poetry by thirteenth-century goliards come to be so inspiring and appealing? Well, the large performance apparatus, with a mighty chorus and expanded percussion, the archaicisms and motoric rhythms, as well as the texts, at times close in style to morality plays, laden with sarcastic, iconoclastic humour and eroticism that is far from subtle, have all contributed to the enduring success – unprecedented in the history of music – of Orff’s work.
 

Urszula Ciołkiewicz-Latek

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Warsaw Philharmonic Choir

The Warsaw Philharmonic Choir was founded in 1953 under Zbigniew Soja. Later chorus masters have included Roman Kuklewicz (1955–1971), Jozef 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 on symphonic and oratorio concerts with the Warsaw Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, as well as a cappella 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, ‘Wratislavia Cantans’ International Festival, ‘Eufonie’ International Music Festival of Central and Eastern Europe and Ludwig van Beethoven Easter 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 Berliner Philharmoniker, Münchner Philharmoniker, Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, RIAS-Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Bamberger Symphoniker, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem symphony orchestras, Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, Orchestre Symphonique de la Monnaie, Orchestra Sinfonica Siciliana in Palermo and Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala in Milan.

The Choir’s first appearance on an opera stage brought further invitations to opera houses: La Scala (Weber’s Oberon, 1989; Beethoven’s Fidelio, 1990), La Fenice in Venice (Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress, 1986; Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, 1987), Paris (Beethoven’s Fidelio, 1989); Palermo (Szymanowski’s King Roger, 1992; Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex, 1993; Honegger’s Antigone, 1993), and Pesaro (Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri, 1994). In 1988, 1990 and 2001, the Choir sang in gala concerts organised for Pope John Paul II at the Vatican.

The Choir has been conducted by such outstanding Polish and international masters of the baton and composers as Moshe Atzmon, Gary Bertini, Andrzej Boreyko, Sergiu Comissiona, Henryk Czyż, Charles Dutoit, Vladimir Fedoseyev, Sir Charles Groves, Jacek Kaspszyk, Kazimierz Kord, Helmut Koch, Ton Koopman, Jan Krenz, Witold Lutosławski, Lorin Maazel, Jerzy Maksymiuk, Igor Markevitch, Andrzej Markowski, Kurt Masur, Zubin Mehta, Grzegorz Nowak, Seiji Ozawa, Krzysztof Penderecki, Zoltan Pesko, Sir Simon Rattle, Wolfgang Rennert, Helmuth Rilling, Ljubomir Romansky, Witold Rowicki, Hanns-Martin Schneidt, 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 several hundred oratorios and a cappella works, ranging from the Middle Ages to contemporary pieces. A special 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 Daniil and Hymn to St Adalbert). The Choir had been nominated for a Grammy six times before: five times for its recordings of Krzysztof Penderecki’s works, i.e. St Luke Passion (two nominations: in 1991, conducted by the composer, and in 2004, conducted by Antoni Wit), Polish Requiem (2005), Symphony No. 7 ‘Seven Gates of Jerusalem’ (2007) and Utrenja (2009), and also for a Karol Szymanowski album featuring, among others, Stabat Mater, Demeter and Veni Creator (2008). The album with the 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 received a Fryderyk Award, in the ‘Album of the Year – Choral and Oratorio Music’ category, whilst the second volume was honoured with a Golden Orpheus – Arturo Toscanini Award from the French Academie 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 for its 1989 CD recording of Roman Maciejewski’s Requiem. Missa pro defunctis, which was reissued with a new graphic layout in 2010 to mark the centenary of the composer’s birth. The ensemble was awarded two more Fryderyks for Karol Szymanowski recordings: in 2018 for an album featuring Litany to the Virgin Mary, Stabat Mater and Symphony No. 3 ‘Song of the Night’ (with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Jacek Kaspszyk), and in 2020 for the opera Hagith (with the Polish Radio Orchestra in Warsaw and Michał Klauza). In 2018, the Choir featured in a recording of a vast collection called 100 for 100: Musical Decades of Freedom, released by PWM, featuring 100 works by Polish composers from the years 1918–2019. The ensemble recorded pieces by Padlewski, Łuciuk and Twardowski, and the CD set also included its earlier recordings of Szymanowski’s works (the collection as a whole was singled out for yet another Fryderyk Award in 2020).

The Choir’s discography also comprises Christmas carols (DVD and CD), as well as Handel’s Messiah, Israel in Egypt and Juda Maccabaeus, Mozart’s Requiem, Beethoven’s Fidelio and Symphony No. 9, Verdi’s Requiem, Rossini’s Petite messe solennelle, 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 Masses, Schumann’s Scenes from Goethe’s Faust, Bellini’s Norma, Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer, Kilar’s Missa pro pace, Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem, Dvořák’s Requiem, Kancheli’s Libera me and Weinberg’s Symphony No. 8 ‘Polish Flowers’.