Work with no other orchestra has given me so much satisfaction, as conductor and soloist, as my collaboration with Sinfonia Varsovia.
The beginnings of Sinfonia Varsovia can be traced to the activity of the Polish Chamber Orchestra. In April 1984, it invited the legendary violinist Yehudi Menuhin to appear in Poland both as soloist and conductor. To accommodate the planned repertoire the orchestra was expanded by inviting outstanding young talent from all over Poland. The first concerts under Yehudi Menuhin were an overwhelming popular and critical success. The idea of creating a permanent orchestra made up of stringed instruments and a double wind section became a fact. Yehudi Menuhin accepted without any hesitation a proposal of the ensemble’s Managing Director Franciszek Wybrańczyk and signed a contract as the principal guest conductor of what was to become Sinfonia Varsovia. Soon afterwards the orchestra was invited for a concert tour in the United States and Canada. Other invitations followed from Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Austria, Finland, Portugal, Belgium, Holland, Britain, Switzerland and Greece. In recent years, foreign tours have taken the orchestra to Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. Sinfonia Varsovia has performed in such prestigious venues as New York’s Carnegie Hall, Théatre des Champs Elysées in Paris, London’s Barbican Centre, Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, the Musikverein in Vienna, the Suntory Hall in Tokyo and the Herkulessaal in Music, and at festivals in Salzburg, Gstaad (Yehudi Menuhin Festival), Aix-en-Provence, La Roque d’Atherton, Montreux, Schleswig-Holstein, Würzburg, as well as the Pablo Casals Festival and the “Music on the Sea” Festival. The famous “La Folle Journée” Festival, organized by the C.R.E.A. Association in France and its director Rene Martin, occupies a special place in the activity of Sinfonia Varsovia. Held in Nantes, Bilbao, Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro, it has a different theme each year and is a unique project on an international scale. The extensive repertoire of Sinfonia Varsovia spans music from the 18th century to the present. The orchestra has to its credit world and Polish premieres of works by such composers as Krzysztof Penderecki, Witold Lutosławski, Marta Ptaszyńska, Paweł Szymański, Paweł Mykietyn, John Adams, Onute Narbutaite and Krzesimir Dębski. Sinfonia Varsovia has performed with many fine conductors such as Claudio Abbado, Gerd Albrecht, Charles Dutoit, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Hans Graf, Leopold Hager, Jacek Kaspszyk, Kazimierz Kord, Jan Krenz, Emmanuel Krivine, Witold Lutosławski, Paul McCreesh, Jerzy Maksymiuk, Marc Minkowski, Grzegorz Nowak, Krzysztof Penderecki, Michel Plasson, Mstislav Rostropovich, Volker Schmidt-Gertenbach, Jerzy Semkow, Antoni Wit and Bruno Weil. The long list of the world’s most renowned soloists who have performed with Sinfonia Varsovia includes Salvatore Accardo, Piotr Anderszewski, Maurice André, Martha Argerich, Yuri Bashmet, Teresa Berganza, Rafał Blechacz, Alfred Brendel, Jose Carreras, Sarah Chang, Kyung-Wha Chung, Jose Cura, Placido Domingo, Augustin Dumay, Nelson Freire, James Galway, Fou Ts’ong, Sharon Kam, Kiri Te Kanawa, Nigel Kennedy, Gidon Kremer, Alicia de Larrocha, Elisabeth Leonskaya, Christa Ludwig, Radu Lupu, Albrech Mayer, Mischa Maisky, Shlomo Mintz, Olli Mustonen, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Olga Pasichnyk, Murray Perahia, Maria Joao-Pires, Jean Pierre Rampal, Vadim Repin, Katia Ricciarelli, Mstislav Rostropovich, Heinrich Schiff, Henryk Szeryng, Maxim Vengerov, Andreas Vollenweider, Christian Zacharias, Frank-Peter Zimmermann, Tabea Zimmermann and Grigorij Zhislin. The promotion of the most talented Polish musicians of the youngest generation is an important field of the activity of Sinfonia Varsovia. It has worked closely with the conductors Iwona Sowińska, Wojciech Rodek and Krzysztof Urbański; the violinists Agata Szymczewska, Kuba Jakowicz, Mariusz Patyra, Aleksandra Bucholc and Anna Gutowska; the singers Iwona Sobotka and Aleksandra Kurzak and the pianist Beata Bilińska.
Sinfonia Varsovia has made numerous recordings for radio and television, as well as over 200 CDs for foreign and Polish labels (Deutsche Grammophon, Decca, Sony, EMI, Virgin Classics, Naxos, Denon Nippon Columbia, CD Accord, Polskie Nagrania, BeArTon, DUX, Polish Radio), many of which have received prestigious awards (the Grand Prix du Disque, the Diapason d’Or and the “Fryderyk” Award of the Polish recording industry). The orchestra’s most successful recordings include “Polish Symphonic Music of the 19th Century” (CD Accord/Polish Radio, “Martha Argerich – live in the Grand Theatre – National Opera (CD Accord), Henryk Mikołaj Górecki’s Third Symphony (Naive), Mozart’s Piano Concertos with Piotr Anderszewski (Virgin), “The Romantic Clarinet” with the famous clarinettist Sharon Kam (Edel Classics) and several BeArTon CDs with Karol Szymanowski’s works conducted by Jerzy Maksymiuk, an all-Górecki album (two “Fryderyk” Awards in 2003), works by Lutosławski and Szymanowski recorded in the SACD hybrid version under Maksymiuk’s baton. Most recently the orchestra recorded two CDs with music by Bach and Handel for Deutsche Grammophon (with the German oboist Albrecht Mayer), which proved both artistic and commercial success. The discography also includes the complete symphonies of Beethoven and Schubert recorded in 1996 for IMG Records under Lord Yehudi Menuhin to mark his 80th birthday. In 1997 Krzysztof Penderecki, who had been associated with the orchestra for many years, became its Music Director, and in July 2003, its Artistic Director. They have made many tours together, often performing his compositions, such as Sinfonietta per archi, Sinfonietta No. 2, Flute Concerto, Viola Concerto (also in versions for cello and clarinet), Stabat Mater, De Profundis, Credo, and Seven Gates of Jerusalem. Under Krzysztof Penderecki Sinfonia Varsovia has recorded several CDs, including an all-Penderecki album. In 2004 Janusz Marynowski, a long-time member of the orchestra, became its Managing Director, and in June 2008 the post of Music Director was assumed by the famous French conductor, Marc Minkowski. Sinfonia Varsovia performs regularly at major music festivals, including “Chopin and his Europe” in Warsaw, the Ludwig van Beethoven Easter Festival, Wratislavia Cantans, Warsaw Autumn and the Polish Radio Music Festival. In 2001, Sinfonia Varsovia’s then Managing Director, the late Franciszek Wybrańczyk, launched an annual festival “Sinfonia Varsovia for its City”. It includes several concerts of the staple symphonic and vocal-instrumental repertoire performed under the baton of leading conductors and with top calibre soloists, held in concert halls and churches and offered to city residents free-of-charge.