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The Warsaw Voice » Other » June 11, 2008
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Tuning up For New Era
June 11, 2008   
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Janusz Marynowski, general director of the Sinfonia Varsovia, a leading Polish chamber orchestra, talks to Marcin Mierzejewski.

What are the Sinfonia Varsovia's concert plans this season?
We are getting ready for a tour of Europe with violinist Nigel Kennedy as soloist. The program features compositions by Mozart and Beethoven. The last concert, to be given in Frankfurt June 4, will be a special part of the tour because it will mark the world premiere of a concerto for violin, jazz quintet and orchestra, composed by Kennedy. Later, we will be intensively preparing for our first concert under the orchestra's new musical director, Marc Minkowski. The concert will take place at Warsaw's Wielki Theater June 20.

We will be playing a lot of concerts during the summer. First, in July, we are going on a tour of France with Xavier de Maistre, the first harp of the Vienna Philharmonic, as soloist. In the second half of July, we are going on a tour with Albrecht Mayer, the first oboe of the Berlin Philharmonic. In August, we will take part in the wonderful Chopin and His Europe festival in Warsaw.

How did you start working with Minkowski?
Thefirst contact between the orchestra and maestro Minkowski occurred around half a year ago when we were preparing for a concert under his baton at the Sacrum Profanum festival in Cracow. After the first rehearsals I asked him whether he would like to work with the orchestra on a regular basis. After the concert in Cracow he himself returned to the topic and asked me whether I could meet him and his agent in Paris in two days' time. Of course, I did not hesitate and changed all my plans to be able to go there. We immediately agreed on the general conditions of our joint work. We arranged with maestro Minkowski that he would take up the post of the orchestra's musical director for five years. At the same time, we are very happy that Krzysztof Penderecki is still our artistic director.

Do you think Minkowski's decision was influenced by the fact that his family has Polish roots, something that he often mentions himself?
I suppose that if he were to choose from among three equally good orchestras and one of them was from Poland this factor could have played a role. But I think that an artist of his stature would never have made such a decision guided exclusively by family sentiment.

Does the new musical director mean a revolution for the orchestra?
Yes, one can say this is a revolutionary change. First of all, the orchestra will have more regular members. We have received permission from the Warsaw city authorities to increase the number of permanent posts. This change will be made especially to suit our new conductor so that we can play the repertoire we agreed on with him. It has been clear since the beginning that we will not be playing Baroque music together to avoid "a conflict of interest," as maestro Minkowski is famous for his interpretations of Baroque music with his French ensemble Les Musiciens de Louvre. So far Minkowski has not been associated with larger symphony ensembles and 19th- and 20th-century works. He will have an opportunity to find fulfillment in this area of music working with our orchestra.

We are going to start with a program made up of Moniuszko's works, Brahms' Symphony no. 4, and contemporary French symphonic music. I would say it is a dream repertoire for our orchestra. Later, we would also like to tackle Debussy, Ravel, Stravinsky and Shostakovich.

Why Minkowski? What made you offer the post of the orchestra's musical director to him rather than some other conductor?
I knew Marc Minkowski from audio and video recordings and I was always convinced he was one of those conductors who are very honest with the orchestra and music. I had also received some information about how he worked from Poles playing in his orchestra in France. They told me he conducted rehearsals until he achieved the expected musical result, which was the most important to him. I think this enthusiasm and sincerity of expression were the most important factors behind my decision. Plus his attitude to the orchestra and the interaction between him and the orchestra during their first meeting. By the way, the program they played on this occasion was very difficult.

The orchestra will play its first concert under Minkowski as musical director in June. What happens next? How are you going to work with a conductor who lives in France?
We will play the first concert in June, the second one in September, and another one in December. We have agreed to play in Warsaw as often as possible because Sinfonia Varsovia is a Warsaw-based orchestra. This is quite a new thing as well. So far we have never given such a series of concerts in our own city. This is connected with some favorable decisions made by the municipal authorities, decisions that will make it easier for us to stage a series of concerts.

Of course, Warsaw is not the only city where we are going to play. The orchestra will give its first foreign concert under the baton of maestro Minkowski Dec. 22 at the Chatelet Theater in Paris. The concert its important because it will mark the end of the French presidency of the European Union. Next year, we are also going to play several concerts in Warsaw. We are also thinking of a great tour of Europe but it will take place no earlier than 2010.

So far the Sinfonia Varsovia has never worked with a single conductor. Don't you think that this is quite unusual for a symphony orchestra?
You are right, this is quite unusual. But it's not that this situation will change radically now and that Marc Minkowski will be conducting all our concerts. His earlier commitments would not allow him to do so. Besides, it is not our intention to give up work with other conductors, though, obviously, our preferences-in planning foreign tours, for instance-will change.

What are your recording plans?
We are preparing to record Chopin's piano concertos with Japanese pianist Michie Koyama for Sony. We will make a recording with cellist Daniel Liebkind for a German record company. We are also in talks with Deutsche Gramophon and Decca about further recordings. One can say we are always active in this field, having over 200 recordings to our credit so far. I only regret that many of these recordings are still more easily available abroad than in Poland.

Janusz Marynowski, 42, general director of the Sinfonia Varsovia since 2004, earlier double-bass player at the Sinfonia Varsovia and assistant to Franciszek Wybrańczyk, the orchestra's founder and first conductor.

Marc Minkowski, 45, French conductor, since 1982 head of Les Musiciens de Louvre, an orchestral group with whom he has become famous as an interpreter of Baroque and Classical repertoire played on period instruments; in June he will take over as musical director of the Sinfonia Varsovia.
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