THE ORCHESTRA AT HOME

TEXT: MARCIN MOŃKA, PHOTOS: MARIUSZ GRUSZKA

KATOWICE 20.6.2016

ARCHITECTURE TRAVEL

“Silesia is my America.” This sentence was repeatedly uttered by eminent composer Wojciech Kilar, a “Silesian from Lviv” whose bond with Katowice (Poland) lasted nearly all his life. Today, coming to the capital of the Upper Silesian agglomeration to a concert of the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra (NOSPR), one can feel that “Kilar’s America” really exists. Guided by the great composer’s spirit, we arrive at the square named after him, where all paths lead to building number 1 – the Silesian Mecca of music.
The newly opened NOSPR building has already been named one of the most beautiful and the most functional in Europe and beyond. It perfectly fits the city’s cultural axis as it neighbours on the Silesian Museum and the International Conference Centre which is currently being constructed.

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The joy
I remember a concert by NOSPR conducted by Krzesimir Dębski nearly a decade ago. It was a morning of the New Year’s Day and the atmosphere was less formal than usual during such concerts. The valued composer so explained the acronym naming the ensemble: Our orchestra brings you joy [Polish: Nasza Orkiestra Sprawi Państwu Radość].

The orchestra from Katowice has done it for several dozen years. Its sound has educated generations of music fans and other people alike. Going to its concerts has never been a grim duty, but an activity making your social position more noble and, first of all, a chance for a fuller life. No language is more universal than the world of sounds, anyway.

This trend is slowly coming back today: the concerts by NOSPR are now listened to by crowds and the orchestra knows how to open up to an entirely new audience. When Radzimir Dębski, Krzesimir’s son, was to appear there in concert at the beginning of March, the tickets to that event were sold out in a few days. On stage, Jimek (Radzimir’s artistic pseudonym) was supported not only by orchestra members, but, among others, by Joka, known for performing in hip hop band Kaliber 44.



When I meet orchestra members to talk about their work in the new building, they say a lot about perfect spaces, comfort and appreciation on behalf of the listeners. The latter have always been there, but the current situation is beginning to resemble the atmosphere known from cultural events not directly associated with orchestra concert halls. “It has become a new trend, a nice, positive snobbishness, to come to our concerts,” admits Jowita Kokosza, head of NOSPR’s promotion department. Indeed, when we come to one of the concerts covered by season tickets, the hall is full. When the concert ends, people do not rush down the stairs to get their coats back from the cloakroom and quickly head for home, but instead celebrate their stay in the new space. Most people coming to listen to works by Shostakovich, Stravinsky, Wagner or Brahms still remember the previous concert hall in the Katowice Cultural Centre (CKK) at Plac Sejmu Śląskiego [the Silesian Parliament Square]. However, many new listeners have appeared, not only from Upper Silesia and the neighbouring region of Zagłębie (though they prevail), but also from Little Poland, Lower Silesia and many other regions. “The orchestra’s reputation is such that it is worth travelling several hundred kilometres to listen to it live,” says one music fan, who has come to the concert from Warsaw.

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However, it is not only the orchestra’s live sound that attracts people to the building at the Wojciech Kilar Square 1. It is also the place, which had become a topic of conversations, guesses and reflections long before it was opened.

Today we already know that this is one of the best concert spaces in the world. Eminent pianist Krystian Zimerman, who played in the orchestra’s new seat during the inaugural concert, admitted that the hall was in the world’s absolute top. It was not plain politeness – the Zabrze-born virtuoso is usually able to express his opinions clearly, precisely and, first and foremost, in no uncertain terms.

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The tradition
Listening to music live makes us better: its therapeutic properties have been known for ages. Making music is even more special, though: you will often hear in Silesia that nobody has yet invented a better way of establishing good relations than playing musical instruments together.

Music-making families are many in Silesia. The initial passion for music sometimes changes into deep fascination and then there is no doubt about what you should pursue in life. After years of intense practice and rehearsals you finally join the orchestra. “There was virtually no other way for me than playing in the orchestra,” admits Barbara Szefer–Trocha, a violinist bound to NOSPR for over 30 years. She comes from a musical family: her father was, among others, a choir manager, while mum taught music. “I owe everything to my parents, who would find the will to take me to the music school every day and practise with me in their free time,” she adds. Today she plays in the famous Katowice orchestra with her daughter Karolina Wawrzynowicz. “I wanted her to inherit my love for music and I guess I have succeeded,” she smiles. She can remember very well her first days in the orchestra and conversations about the new seat, which had been heard in Katowice for several dozen years. “The fact that we are here is a clear proof that dreams come true,” the violinist concludes.

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The orchestra at home
When you look back and learn the orchestra’s history, you will see that this is actually its first real home. True, its oldest times, i.e. the 1930s in Warsaw, the post-war period and the subsequent re-establishment in Katowice as the Polish Radio Great Symphony Orchestra (WOSPR) were magnificent periods in terms of music, but were all shadowed by temporariness.

The current NOSPR seat, created by Konior Studio, amazes the visitors from the first moment. It has two impressive concert halls, with 1,800 and 300 seats. There are actually over 100 various rooms there which serve the musicians and people working for the orchestra. “We had known that it would be our home already before we moved in,” admits Wincenty Krawczyk, a violist. This sense of community provided by co-existence and work in a real home makes the music take an entirely new dimension, too. It is not only “the best of the sound” by the Katowice-based ensemble, but also a hard-to-grasp “spirit of musical experience” hanging in the air within the building, whose form refers to Silesian forms and colours. And on top of that, the musicians you can meet there are simply joyful.

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The invitation
NOSPR does not currently play only big symphonic concerts with world’s renowned conductors. It also organizes many smaller events, equally important as the performance of “The Symphony of a Thousand” by Gustav Mahler or Richard Strauss’s works.
The new seat has opened its doors also for other ensembles from the region, such as the Silesian String Quartet, the New Music Orchestra or the Katowice City Singers’ Ensemble, which give regular concerts in the new halls.

There is one more invaluable issue, though, so dear to all the people bound to NOSPR, beginning from its manager Joanna Wnuk–Nazarowa. It is the concern for musical education and feeding the sensitivity to the world of sounds – the eternal beauty of the world created in concert halls. That is why even those smallest things supporting musical education are so important. In Silesia, however, they have known it for ages: new concert halls, always full of life, not only make dreams come true, but also create a natural environment for people who have loved music unconditionally and are able to share this love with others.

www.nospr.org.pl

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