2021/2022 Jubilee Concert Season Closing Concert Filharmonia Narodowa

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2021/2022 Jubilee Concert Season Closing Concert
Andrzej Boreyko, fot. Michał Zagórny

The genesis of this monumental composition, which was to become a milestone in its author’s career, lies in a poem written by John Henry Newman, an extraordinary figure in the spiritual life of 19th-century Britain. He was an Anglican clergyman who, influenced by his readings, reflections and travels to Italy, converted to Catholicism and became a cardinal of the Church, an ardent apostle and later a saint. Newman described the moment of death of an old man bearing the symbolic name of Gerontius, surrounded by fellow worshippers in prayer, and later the subsequent journey of his soul towards God. Edward Elgar was fascinated by Newman’s work, and thus enthusiastically embraced the challenge of setting it to music with the great Birmingham Triennial Music Festival of 1900 in mind – one of the most important musical events, the tradition of which went back to the 18th century. The long-awaited premiere was not a success, and even Hans Richter, one of the most prominent conductors of his time, was unable to help – the enormous difficulty of the piece exceeded the capabilities of amateur choirs; however, subsequent performances brought the work success and recognition, including in Germany, and later also in the USA and other countries. Interestingly, in many churches in England, performances planned by church choirs were initially hindered by the work’s strongly Catholic message and its commentary on the idea of purgatory, an idea alien to the Reformed faiths; however, with time these objections lost their significance. The rich musical fabric of the two-movement work (the author himself suggested that it should not be called an oratorio) exploits the whole expressive potential of the eschatological text and its harrowing visions of death, the journey of the soul and the judgement. A special function is performed by the choir, which takes on the roles of the protagonist’s friends and companions on his final journey, demons and angels, and souls in purgatory. The Dream of Gerontius remained immensely popular until the First World War, after which – like many of Elgar’s compositions – it almost sank into oblivion, although not in his homeland, where it was one of his most frequently revived works and a favourite of ambitious choirs.

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Bartosz Michałowski

Director of the Warsaw Philharmonic Choir since 2017.

Bartosz Michałowski graduated with distinction in choral conducting from the Academy of Music in Poznań. In the years 1998–2005, he was assistant to Professor Stefan Stuligrosz and conductor of the Boys’ and Men’s Choir of the Poznań Philharmonic (known as the Poznań Nightingales), with which he has performed extensively in Germany, France, Spain, Belgium, Sweden, Austria, Russia and Japan.

He won first prize in the 9th Polish National Choral Conductors Competition in Poznań, as well as a special prize for his diligent work on voice production with choirs. In 2015, he won the Orphée d‘Or of the Académie du Disque Lyrique in Paris, and was nominated for a Fryderyk Award. In 2020, he received a Fryderyk Award for a recording of Karol Szymanowski’s opera Hagith (with the Warsaw Philharmonic Choir). He also received two nominations for the International Classical Music Awards 2022.

Bartosz Michałowski is the founder, Artistic Director and conductor of the Poznań Chamber Choir – one of the best Polish ensembles of its kind. He is likewise the founder and Director of the ‘Opus 966’ Polish Composition Competition, and devised the ‘Pisz Muzykę – to proste!’ (‘Write music – it’s easy!’) composing workshops for children and youngsters. He also co-produced the ‘Obrazogranie’ project at the National Museum in Poznań.

As the Director of the Warsaw Philharmonic Choir, he has conducted – both in the Warsaw Philharmonic concert hall itself and in external venues – Szymanowski’s Kurpian Songs, masses by Kodály and Gretchaninov, Rossini’s Petite messe solennelle, Mozart’s Coronation Mass and Requiem, and oratorios: Paulus by Mendelssohn and Messiah by Handel. He prepared the ensemble for the first ever performance of Anton Rubinstein’s sacred opera Moses (cond. Michail Jurowski) and has also helped prepare a dozen vocal-instrumental concerts of the Warsaw Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra, during which he has collaborated with such eminent conductors as Ton Koopman, Christoph König, Matthew Halls, Martin Haselböck, Jacek Kaspszyk and  Krzysztof Penderecki.

He has been invited to participate in renowned festivals including the SchleswigHolstein Musik Festival and Ludwig van Beethoven Easter Festival, and has collaborated regularly with renowned institutions and orchestras. He has numerous first performances to his credit.

In addition to gaining experience as a conductor, Bartosz Michałowski has spent many years working on enhancing his skills and knowledge in the field of voice production, completing masterclasses with Poppy Holden (Great Britain), Christian Elsner (Germany) and Józef Frakstein (Poland). Bartosz Michałowski holds a PhD from the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music.

 

[2022]