In 1930, a major nation-wide economic conflict between the Polish Stage Artist Association and the authorities shook the foundations of opera theatres (not only in Poznań) to such an extent, that their very existence was in danger. In Poznań, a group of outstanding musicians associated with the-then most influential medium, the “Kurier Poznański”, and its cultural section editor, the unforgettable Witold Noskowski, took advantage of the situation and launched a vigorous campaign aimed at establishment in Poznań of permanent cycles of symphonic concerts performed by the orchestra of the opera (expected to be soon laid off). Officially conceived by the “Kurier”, the idea was put forward and developed by professors of the Poznań conservatory, composers and musicologists who collaborated with the newspaper as much with their thought as with their pens. The most active were Tadeusz Kassern, Stanisław Wiechowicz, and in particular Tadeusz Szeligowski, who used his Paris and composer-union connections to instigate “bold” letters on the matter written to the Mayor of Poznań “from outside”.
The dream did come true: the first concert by Orkiestra Symfoniczna Stołecznego Miasta Poznania [Symphony Orchestra of the Capital Town of Poznań] was given on 14 October 1931! Although this was the official name, unofficially (and even, on a number of occasions, on the bill) the name “Filharmonia Poznańska” was still in use.
Concert agencies, in particular this run by Wacław Rozmarynowicz (cellist with the orchestra), offered administrative-production assistance. Artistic management was entrusted to Zygmunt Latoszewski, doctor of musicology, conductor and journalist, who was also associated with the Noskowski’s group. The range of activities of this near-institution was broad and included the so-called “grand” concerts (held every other Wednesday) with “great” conductors and soloists, regular concerts (Sundays) featuring lesser names, and concerts for school children (held on Thursdays, and complete with lectures). In total, as Noskowski summed up in the “Kurier” of 12 November, in the first four weeks, ten concerts with six programmes were held (the “youth” concerts were repeated)! Impressive work, indeed. Let us quote Karol Szymanowski’s opinion voiced after the final rehearsal of Symphony No. 4, and published by Noskowski on the day of its premiere performance (Kurier Poznański, 9 Oct. 1932): I am genuinely and heartily glad that I was able to chose Poznań for its opening performance. I did it deliberately, intentionally, to express my respect to the institution of symphonic concerts at the Wielki Theatre, which was founded at the town’s expense.( …) Polish art can only develop when its works are (…) so performed, as this in Poznań: with reverence and enthusiasm.
Although the name differed, the present Poznań Philharmonic can proudly derive its tradition from the Orkiestra Symfoniczna Stołecznego Miasta Poznania. Immediately after the end of World War 2, Poznań revealed major aspirations. Although against a sea of ruins and rubble these appeared completely abstract, they were not ungrounded. Former inhabitants of the town displaced by the Germans began returning in their numbers; among them the most valuable personages, whose enthusiasm for the reconstruction of the town was immense. At the same time, the new geopolitical reality gave Poznań a singular potential: like a magnet, it attracted outstanding personalities of science and culture from other regions of the country, who identified themselves with their new “homeland”, and thus significantly contributed to its creative potential.
It was as early as June 2, 1945, that the opera season opened, and two months later the Poznań Opera organized the first symphonic concert (conductor: Zdzisław Jahnke); by October, as many as seven such concerts had been held. These stimulated further undertakings. In May 1946, the Towarzystwo Filharmonii [Philharmonic Society] was founded, and the adjective “Robotniczej” [Workers'] – how else! – added to its name. Composition of the presidium and the board held concrete promises. The bodies grouped representatives of intellectual and cultural elites, incl. Stefan Błachowski, Vice-Chancellor of Poznań University, art historians: Zdzisław Kępiński and Kazimierz Michałowski, writers: Stanisław Hebanowski and Wacław Kubacki, musicians and musicologists: Adolf Chybiński, Zdzisław Jahnke, Zygmunt Latoszewski, Zygmunt Lisicki, Stefan B. Poradowski, Zygmunt Sitowski. At the foundation meeting, Z. Kępiński was elected chairman; a little later the post was assumed by Deputy Minister of Culture, Jerzy Grosicki. One must also mention the very active Kotzur brothers: Witold (violinist) and Gerhard (pianist); ideologically and organizationally associated with the workers’ party, they acted as a kind of catalyst, making operation of the board easier.
The Society began to put its intentions to life, i.e. to establish a philharmonic institution with its own symphony orchestra. Provisional management was appointed (with Gerhard Kotzur acting as Director, and Wacław Rozmarynowicz as manager in charge of administration) and organization of a series of concerts decreed. Initially, these were to be held with the opera orchestra, and under the name of the “Towarzystwo Filharmonii Robotniczej”. The first concert was a red-letter day for Poznań: held on 28 December 1946, the hall of the Cegielski (still!) Works was filled to capacity. Raul Koczalski played Chopin’s Concerto in E minor with orchestra conducted by Zygmunt Latoszewski.
Simultaneously, consultations continued to grant stabilisation to the philharmonic institution, and, first of all, to enlist an appropriate conductor-artistic director who would secure this stabilisation. The chosen person was Stanisław Wisłocki; tracked down in Copenhagen, an invitation was telegraphed to him to conduct a concert (still with the opera orchestra) on 16 June 1947. An agreement with the artist followed, which concerned, however, only the post of the first conductor (although with a mission to found an orchestra). Wisłocki recommended Tadeusz Szeligowski to be appointed Director and Artistic Manager. A relevant proposal was promptly despatched to Lublin, where Szeligowski lived after his expulsion from Vilnius.
The offer was accepted, and on 1 July 1947 Tadeusz Szeligowski assumed the post of Director and Artistic Manager of the Philharmonic; not “Workers’ ” anymore, but “Poznań”, since at this very moment the popular name was granted official status, confirmed with relevant documents and signatures. However, for a few moths to come it was still the Workers’ Philharmonic Society that lent its name to the concerts by the orchestra of the Poznań Philharmonic. Also, the “Opening of the 1947/1948 Symphonic Season” (29 Oct., with the Czech Philharmonic conducted by Rafael Kubelik) was organised by this Society. In the programme for the new season, chairman Jerzy Grosicki presented “Our tasks and objectives” and made an appeal to the town’s inhabitants to treat the Poznań Philharmonic a common asset. It was only at the concert on 12 January 1948 that independence of the new institution was confirmed in the form of official acknowledgement of recognition and assistance granted by the authorities and the Society.
Nonetheless, the Philharmonic did not begin to count their first season as of the above mentioned “Czech” inauguration, but the day of their 1st concert (10 November 1947). Conducted by Stanisław Wisłocki, it featured soloist, Raul Koczalski, and orchestra of forty-six “own” instrumentalists – so many were found in the four summer and autumn months. Search methods and types varied; writes Stanisław Wisłocki (“Życie jednego muzyka” Oficyna RYTM, Warsaw, 2000): We publicised a competition for orchestra musicians in the press, but at the same time gathered information about musicians scattered throughout the Poznań province. Tadeusz Szeligowski and I toured larger and smaller towns of the province, and almost to the beat of the drum in central squares, we informed the inhabitants about the goal of our arrival. This way we found in Pniewy an exquisite violinist Ireneusz Bogajewicz, who sold fabric at a mercer’s. In a different locality, we managed to find traces of an outstanding trumpet player, in still another – a clarinet player. The fruit of our journeys was not bad at all, but insufficient to put together an orchestra. We hoped the competition would solve the problem. (…) We hired a substantial number of musicians, and complemented the group with instrumentalists of the former Chamber Orchestra of Warsaw: with the flutist Aleksander Peresada, and double-bass players Halor and Wojtkiewicz.(…)
Thus assembled, while performing larger scores the ensemble was backed with musicians of the opera orchestra, until all vacancies were filled with candidates who gradually kept applying more or less until the end of the first season. Indeed, the first!
There are certain ambiguities concerning numbering the seasons. The first problem is less important, and has already been closed, but requires a recollection. It concerns the Workers’ Philharmonic and its concerts in years 1946-1947 (with the opera orchestra, yet unequivocally referred to as the orchestra of the Poznań Philharmonic): these constituted a season! And just like the above mentioned June concert with Wisłocki ended the1946/1947 season, the Czech Philharmonic (in October) opened the subsequent, 1947/1948, season. Yet, the 10 November concert was labelled first in the new (first or second?) season. Bearing in mind what happened during the months of building the institution, it appears legitimate to consider the date of the November concert the proper inauguration of the first season of the Poznań Philharmonic. Local patriots, who identify importance of their institution with its history and the number of seasons, might find such a solution unsatisfactory. May a solution to problem no. 2 be a consolation prize for them; to be precise, Wojciech Nentwig, the present director of the Poznań Philharmonic, found a mistake once made in the numbering of the philharmonic seasons which diminished their number! In all probability, it all started with the Anniversary Album published in December 1957 to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Philharmonic. On the cover, the dates “1947-1957″ were printed. A simple calculation shows that these do not cover a period of ten, but of eleven years. Although at the end of the Album the “Programme of the Decade” was printed with a note that it contained works performed between November 1947 and July 1957, i.e. indeed, in ten seasons. However, artistic seasons do not correspond to calendar years, and the age of a philharmonic is counted in seasons. This lack of precision in the first anniversary information made subsequent authors of philharmonic publications follow the same path, i.e. mix years with seasons and “rejuvenate” the Poznań Philharmonic; its Silver Jubilee was announced in the 1972/1973 season, and the Golden Jubilee in 1997/1998, and so it went until the past season, which according to this method of calculation was 58th. And so, a very unique situation happened: the history of the Poznan Philharmonic shall be deprived, nominally speaking, of its 59th season, as on correction of calculations, the 2006/2007 season is its SIXTIETH.