Orchestra history, like a symphony
The Szczecin orchestra's fortunes resemble Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5: contrasting themes, an atmosphere of conflict, the suffering of individuals, a few dead end streets and gigantic triumph – a sunny C Major chord. This history dates back to post-war times, when musical life in Szczecin was full of enthusiasm, and an atmosphere of great reconstruction and spontaneity. There were several ensembles performing at various venues. Szczecin dwellers owe the beginnings of the symphony orchestra to the work of professionals and enthusiasts, professional musicians and amateurs. It was they who on November 23, 1945, performed works by Rachmaninov, Rubinstein and Tchaikovsky at a concert that took place ... at the Baltic Cinema. The next phases of symphonic music development are reminiscent of the rings of a young tree. This "cinematic" ensemble was accompanied by instrumental formations from the army and rail, and then strengthened by a 12-person radio orchestra. In 1947 the next musical ensemble to start in the city was the Polish Musicians’ Association Symphony Orchestra (like the contrasting theme in Beethoven's symphony). The need to regulate this dispersed musical activity slowly grew. With the help of collectivising tendencies of those times, the Workers’ Music Association (RTM) was established in 1948, with that year considered the official start of the state orchestra in Szczecin. Felicjan Lasota became the first director and conductor of the RTM Orchestra.
At that time, the Konzerthaus reconstruction in Małopolska Street was under intense discussion, the well preserved façade encouraging restoration. The dream of this location for a future philharmonic returned in the press of the 1950s. In 1960, a new concept was introduced, to put a theater room in the Konzerthaus building. Ultimately, the dream of reconstruction and artistic development of this place began in 1963, when a tender for demolition was announced. Immediately there was a parking lot created in this square.
In the meantime the ministry established the State Philharmonic in Szczecin. Musicians and administrators settled down, and as it later turned out, not at all temporarily in the left wing of the National City Council (today the City Hall building). At the new place and under the watchful eye of the city authorities, those who were in charge of the artistic development of the institution were: Józef Wilkomirski (1955-1971), Stefan Marczyk (1971-1990), Jarosław Lipke (1990-1994), Józef Radwan (1994-1996), Jerzy Salwarowski (1996-2003), Zygmunt Rychert (2003-2009) and Mykola Diadiura (2009-2012). For more than three decades (1951-1986) the Philharmonic also played under the baton of Walerian Pawłowski.
The list of soloists who guest-starred with the Szczecin Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra is testament to the institution being a place of resonance of fame for both Polish and foreign artists. These included: Krystian Zimerman, Rafał Blechacz, Emmanuel Ax, Halina Czerny-Stefańska, Lidia Grychtołówna, Witold Małcużyński, Piotr Paleczny, Ewa Pobłocka, Adam Makowicz, Konstanty Andrzej Kulka, Kaja Danczowska, Bartłomiej Nizioł, Stefania Toczyska, Ewa Podleś, Urszula Kryger, Wiesław Ochman, Andrzej Hiolski, Edward Auer, Zakhar Bron, Eugen Indjic, Kevin Kenner, Natalia Gutman, Maurizio Pollini and Ivan Monighetti. The conductor’s podium has seen such great artists as i.a.: Witold Rowicki, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Antoni Wit, Krzysztof Penderecki, Tomasz Bugaj, Jerzy Katlewicz, Marek Pijarowski, Tadeusz Strugała, Karol Teutsch, Andrzej Markowski, Kazimierz Kord and Jerzy Maksymiuk.
Within a few decades the orchestra had been invited to travel by many excellent musical venues. They have performed at the Warsaw Philharmonic and on stages in Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Germany, Sweden, Bulgaria, as well as in Italy, the Netherlands and France.
In 1995, the Szczecin orchestra took part in the 50th anniversary celebrations of Polish Radio Szczecin, and during the jubilee concert, Janusz Stalmierski's "Symphony of four dreams" was recorded. Four years later, in 1999, the philharmonic musicians celebrated their own anniversary: the 50th anniversary of the Szczecin Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra.
At the beginning of the new millennium the Szczecin Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra together with the NOSPR orchestra, released a CD entitled "Brahms, Prokofiev – Piano Concertos", which in 2002 was nominated for a Fryderyk Award for album of the year in orchestra music (conductor: Jerzy Salwarowski). In 2005 they played in exceptional circumstances: the Symphony Orchestra together with the Castle Opera Orchestra and the Szczecin choirs performed "Polish Requiem" by Krzysztof Penderecki in the Szczecin Shipyard. The concert itself commemorating the victims of December 1970 was conducted by the composer himself.
In 2012, Dorota Serwa assumed the position of the managing director of the Philharmonic for the next 11 years. She entrusted the direction of the orchestra to Michał Dworzyński (2012/2013) and, in the subsequent artistic seasons, to Ewa Strusińska (2013/2014 and 2014/2015) and Rune Bergmann (2016/2017 – 2023/2024). From the outset of Dorota Serwa’s tenure as managing director, the topic of the location of the Symphony Orchestra in Malopolska Street returned. It was to be the former location of the Konzerthaus. In this way, history had made a full circle. People returned to the interrupted symphony of history ...
In August 2014, the musicians moved into their very modern architectural premises. The inaugural concert of the first artistic season in the impressive “Sun Hall” was performed by the Symphony Orchestra under the baton of maestro Jacek Kaspszyk on September 5, 2014. This was the first event in the inaugural cycle – ƒorte. ƒortissimo. ƒilharmonia.
2018 will mark 70 years from the founding of the Workers’ Music Association. In continuing the rich musical tradition of Szczecin, the current artistic director of the philharmonic, the Norwegian conductor with the world reputation Rune Bergmann, will introduce music lovers to this year's jubilee year. Today the orchestra is an ensemble consisting of 90 exquisite musicians. One of the advantages of their concerts is undoubtedly the great acoustics of the golden Symphony Hall in Małopolska Street. This architecturally beautiful building, awarded many a time in prestigious architectural competitions, became an impulse to the ensemble for dynamic artistic development. In the 2016/17 artistic season, many well-known artists performed together with the orchestra: i.a. Gábor Boldoczki, Tabea Zimmermann, Christian Tetzlaff, Francesco Tristano, Terence Blanchard and Matthew Herbert. While on the conductor’s podium we have seen such personalities as Jerzy Maksymiuk, Eugene Tzigane, Łukasz Borowicz, José Luis Gomez and Ainārs Rubikis. On the occasion of the 140th anniversary of the Philharmonic Patron’s birthday – Mieczysław Karłowicz, the orchestra recorded and produced, with Bartłomiej Nizioł as soloist, an album which was nominated for a Polish Music Industry “Fryderyk” Award for album of the year in symphonic and concert music.
This is not the end of the story of the orchestra, which in addition to Beethoven’s “Fifth” will go on to play many more symphonies ...
Developed on the basis of archival materials of the Szczecin Philharmonic and the book by Mikołaj Szczęsny "Szczecin Philharmonic Musicians 1948-1998" (Szczecin 1999).