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The Warsaw Voice » Other » February 4, 2010
The Lower Silesia Voice
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No Compromises
February 4, 2010   
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Andrzej Kosendiak, general manager of the Witold Lutosławski Philharmonic in the southwestern city of Wrocław and head of the city's Wratislavia Cantans Festival, talks to Barbara Deręgowska.

You are an artist and manager who has had quite an impact on Wrocław's music scene. When did you start?
I started as an organizer and facilitator on the cultural scene quite early-first when I was still a student and then when I gathered people around me for various artistic activities. I have always been ambitious. I think it is enough to have an idea and be determined to succeed. But it's also crucial to be surrounded by people who are on the same wavelength and have the same priorities.

In fact, I have influenced Wrocław's music scene since the 1980s-as a musician, conductor and a person who has launched many ensembles and festivals.

What have you been working on recently?
First of all, I would like to mention our new concert hall, which will be the largest project of its kind in Polish culture. We have already signed the contract and have all the documentation needed. The project got the best marks at the stage of filing applications. It was included on the culture ministry's list of "indicative projects" and received the highest score. It is the first project of its kind among those submitted by European countries to have been approved by the European Commission. In Poland and this part of Europe as a whole, it is an exceptional project because of its quality-the concert hall will be prestigious and modern. I think only such projects are worth carrying out. The hall is scheduled to open in June 2012.

When I took over as general manager of the philharmonic, I made quite a few changes. First of all, I focused on the musicians, members of the philharmonic orchestra. At present, newly hired musicians who came to Wrocław from across the country account for around a third of the orchestra. We now have a completely different line-up, one that has the highest artistic standards-a leading orchestra in Poland. Its artistic director, Jacek Kaspszyk, is an outstanding conductor specializing in symphonic music. He has reshaped the orchestra. We are not interested in playing in the minor league. Compromises in art have bad consequences and this is why we have decided to make all these changes in the orchestra. We want to have the best musicians and to be sure that we are on the right track. I was guided by the same principle when I chose Paul MacCreesh to become artistic director of Wratislavia Cantans. Paul MacCreesh is the artistic director of the Gabrieli Consort & Players ensemble. He is an exceptional figure-an excellent, world-famous conductor with major successes in his field. Why did they join us? Because they see opportunities here for their artistic development. By doing so, they have given us a very high mark, which encourages us to take up even greater challenges.

Three years ago, we set up a choir that has since won excellent reviews, being the only Polish ensemble to perform at the prestigious BBC Proms festival. We have also developed music education. We believe that children should sing in choirs, so we run the Singing Poland program and operate more than 400 school choirs.

What is the secret behind the success of all these projects?
In a sense, all this is happening by itself. I sometimes call myself an expert on self-propelled projects and self-evident issues. Does anyone want to have bad musicians in a philharmonic hall, a mediocre chamber orchestra, and poor instruments? There is no choice. We want and have to be the best. Of course, this is not easy. I often have to make difficult decisions concerning people, but I always have this overriding goal in mind. The goal is the highest possible artistic quality. We work in order to make sure that people who come to our concerts are not disappointed.

I have to make it clear: I am not a workaholic. I treat work as a challenge. I am like a competitive athlete-I treat my professional life as a task that I have to handle and, most importantly, I have the drive to win. I hate losing. But of course such moments do happen and they are difficult for me to bear. Do I have any free time? I do, but last year it was rare. In the past, I preferred to relax in the mountains, climbing high peaks. Now I am no longer that fit and since I am not interested in medium-sized peaks I prefer to go sea sailing.

Andrzej Kosendiak, 55, married with four children. Graduate of the Music Academy in Wrocław, Faculty of Composition, Conducting and Theory of Music. He earned his Ph.D. in 1999. In 1985, he founded his own ensemble, Collegio di Musica Sacra, which gives concerts in Europe and the United States. They have won many awards at early music festivals.

In 1998, Kosendiak was one of the founders of the Wrocław School of Jazz and Light Music and became its director. In 2000, he became one of the school's owners. In 1990-2000, he was an inspector for artistic schools in Lower Silesia province and in 2000-2001 worked as director of the Department for Programming and Supervising Artistic Schools at the Culture Ministry in Warsaw. From 2002 to 2005, he was a cultural adviser to the mayor of Wrocław and in 2002-2008 worked as an associate professor at the Academy of Music in Wrocław, where he was head of the early music unit. He also founded the Wrocław Baroque Orchestra, the Wrocław Philharmonic Choir and Wrocław Boys' Choir.

Since 2004 he has been managing and coordinating the construction of the National Music Forum building project in Wrocław and has managed the project on behalf of the municipality. In 2005, he became general manager of the Wrocław Philharmonic and the Wratislavia Cantans Festival.
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