An orchestra on the road
Before there was a genuine and solid building for the Philharmonic in Szczecin, the orchestra musicians had played and practised in a variety of weird places. The first concerts took place in the old Bałtyk cinema, the State Clothing Plant and a tram depot. The first attempts to share the seat with the National Council of the City (today it is the City Hall building) invariably ended up with giving up the “concert hall” for the purposes of meetings of national importance. It was not until the official establishment of the State Philharmonic in Szczecin that the situation of the musicians became somewhat better. It happened on 15 December 1953, mainly thanks to the efforts of the then manager, Janusz Cegiełła.
The Philharmonic gets its audience
Appointed by the minister and located in the left wing of the building belonging to city authorities, the Philharmonic could finally start to develop. The number of musicians grew to 82, a Blüthner grand piano was added to the collection of instruments and in 1957 the concert hall underwent general renovation. The walls were lined with walnut wood and the most modern – at the time – fluorescent lamps were installed. Just after the renovation, Józef Wiłkomirski became the director and the 1st conductor. He was the longest acting director of the Szczecin Philharmonic. Also at that time, the institution was named after Mieczysław Karłowicz, a prominent composer who lived at the turn of the century.
The Philharmonic kept developing artistically. Concert series organised by the Philharmonic became increasingly popular: Music of the 20th century which presented the works of Sergei Rachmaninoff, Dmitri Shostakovich or Mieczysław Karłowicz and Jazz in Philharmonic which featured Krzysztof Komeda, Jan Ptaszyn Wróblewski and Wojciech Karolak. In 1962 one of the former students of Szczecin’s State School of Music performed a concert in the Meetings with Melody series: Violetta Villas. The public went mad and the Philharmonic was virtually occupied by her devoted fans.
International language of music
The 1960s and 1970s were the time when the institution established many valuable contacts. Szczecin was visited by many prominent soloists from France, Israel, Japan, Argentina, Mexico; among them was also a Polish pianist Witold Małcużyński. But the biggest star of the 1970/1971 artistic season was the Symphony Orchestra of All-Union Radio and Television from Moscow, led by Gennady Rozhdestvensky. Thanks to the cooperation of Stefan Marczyk, the long-time director and 1st conductor, with Jan Szyrocki, the founder of the Academic Choir of the Technical University of Szczecin, the Philharmonic had rich choral repertoire. The 1980s brought the interest in opera music and the audience could listen to Traviata, Macbeth, and Nabucco by Giuseppe Verdi. In 1994 a woman became the director of the Philharmonic for the first time. Among the successes of Jadwiga Igiel-Sak one can count the publication of the Famous Caprices album. The recording made by Szczecin orchestra under the baton of Jerzy Salwarowski and featuring Tatiana Shebanova and Jarosław Drzewicki as soloists was nominated to the Fryderyki Award in 1998 in the Solo Music category.
Philharmonic of the 21st century
At the beginning of the new century, the musicians promoted the institution during a tour in Spain and here at home a Committee for Building the New Philharmonic was created, the head of whom was Jadwiga Igiel-Sak. Renovated in the 1950s, the concert hall had lost its glamour and the number of seats proved inadequate. The construction of the new building was commenced by the then director of the Philharmonic, Andrzej Oryl. The new hall of the Philharmonic, designed by the Catalan architectural studio Barozzi/Veiga, was erected in 2014 in the place where the pre-war Konzerthaus used to be – at the intersection of Małopolska and Matejki streets. Dorota Serwa supervised the relocation of the Philharmonic to the new building, as she assumed the position of director in 2012 and held it until October 2023. The larger space allowed the Philharmonic team to work on new development directions, including less classical ones. The educational offer has also been expanded.
Compiled on the basis of archival materials of the Szczecin Philharmonic and the publication „Filharmonicy szczecińscy 1948-1998” by Mikołaj Szczęsny (Szczecin, 1999).