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Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra in Washington

December 18, 2008

The Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, which gave a memorable Strathmore Hall concert on Friday night, might be the most listened-to orchestra you have never heard of. The orchestra—formed at the turn of the 20th century, emerging through war and recovery to become Poland's most elite group—is a favorite with the budget recording label Naxos. Producers love the low fees. Buyers eagerly accept the lesser-known in exchange for subterranean prices. The result: huge sales with millions of Philharmonic recordings filling collections.

As the evening of two Tchaikovsky chestnuts (made new) and a piece by Polish composer Wojciech Kilar (played resplendently) demonstrated, the Warsaw gives no ground to more starry European orchestras in terms of quality. The music making is smooth and natural, emerging with a burnished elegance. Longtime Artistic Director Antoni Wit, looking very much the part of the patrician maestro with gray hair and noble bearing, has preserved an Old World sound. Silky strings, earthy woodwinds and molten brass link to the past.

huge sales with millions of Philharmonic recordings filling collections

The orchestra is unparalleled in the scores of Polish contemporary composers who make up the "Polish Renaissance." Kilar's "Orawa" is a folk dance refracted through the lens of musical minimalism. The orchestra brought poise and accent to the contrasts between the churning small instrument groups and pulsing, larger orchestral outbursts.

The group also drew on warm ensemble and responsiveness in the crowd-pleasing Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1. Valentina Lisitsa from Ukraine was the fine soloist in an account that was, thanks to precise balances and the soloist's use of a mellow-toned Bosendorfer piano, more somber and carefully wrought than steely and thunderous. Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony paid a debt to Mozart in its open textures, while presaging Mahler with its power and pathos.

- Daniel Ginsberg, The Washington Post, 24 November 2008

Naxos Recordings from the Warsaw Philharmonic’s Washington concert conducted by Antoni Wit include:

Piano Concerto No 1

Symphony No 6


Antoni Wit Biography & Discography

Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra Biography & Discography

Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra Biography & Discography

Wojciech Kilar Biography & Discography

Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky Biography & Discography


Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group