Polish orchestra, magnificent conductor with a rich program

The showcase of international orchestras continued on Monday at the Kravis Center with the lesser known but equally excellent NFM Wrocław Philharmonic.

Founded in post-war Poland, the orchestra has changed its name twice and now pays homage to its hall, the National Forum of Music, which opened in beautiful Wrocław, the largest city in historic Silesia, in 2015.

Under the direction of its newly appointed musical director, Giancarlo Guerrero, the ensemble gave a solid performance that sparkled with a myriad of orchestral timbres and precise rhythmic guidance.

The first part of the program featured two Polish composers in works that highlighted the virtuoso abilities of the orchestra. One of the first plays written in 1938, the Symphonic variations by Witold Lutosławski shows the composer’s ease in dressing modern harmonies in a lush orchestration that makes his works acceptable to most (but not all) audiences (along with Krzystof Penderecki, Lutosławski would later bring relief to classical music, offering to musicians and the public an alternative to the cerebral approach of the total serialists and to the nihilist post-cageenne aesthetic).

Under Guerrero, the Wrocław Philharmonic Orchestra demonstrates precision and an infinite tonal palette. Their mastery of rhythm contributed to an infectious performance which, nonetheless, received a mixed reception by the audience.

Acclaimed violinist Janusz Wawrowski joined the orchestra for a memorable performance of Karol Szymanowski’s Violin Concerto No. 1 (Op. 35). Written in 1917, it is a highly atmospheric work that received another superb reading by the orchestra. Wawrowski’s flawless technique and the clear tone of his Stradivarius “Polonia” helped deliver a deeply touching performance.

Too bad the sleeping audience gave the performers another round of lukewarm applause, as they surely would have received a standing ovation in a more cosmopolitan setting.

The second part of the program consisted of Johannes Brahms’ magnificent Symphony No. 1 in C minor (Op. 68). Once again, Wrocław Philharmonic and Guerrero delivered a strong performance in which its individual players, especially the wood players, were highlighted.

The spirited finale of the symphony finally succeeds in waking the audience up and the usual standing ovation prompted the performers to bow to a cheerful version of Antonín Dvořák. Slavic dance, Op. 46, n ° 8.

About Roy B. Westling

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