The Warsaw Philharmonic Choir was founded in 1953 under Zbigniew Soja. Later choirmasters have included Roman Kuklewicz (1955–1971), Józef Bok (1971–1974), Antoni Szaliński (1974–1978), and Henryk Wojnarowski (1978–2016). Since January 2017, the post has been held by Bartosz Michałowski.
The Choir’s activity focuses around symphonic and vocal-instrumental concerts with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as a cappella performances at Warsaw Philharmonic. Each season, the Choir gives numerous concerts here, as well as appearing regularly at the Warsaw Autumn Festival and Wratislavia Cantans. The Warsaw Philharmonic Choir has also performed extensively in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Spain, Iceland, Israel, Germany, Russia, Switzerland, Turkey, Lithuania, Latvia, France, Italy, and Great Britain. The Choir has been frequently invited to appear in concert with orchestras such as the Berlin Philharmonic, Munich Philharmonic, Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, RIAS-Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Bamberger Symphoniker, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem Symphony Orchestras, Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, Orchestre Symphonique de la Monnaie, Orchestra Sinfonica Siciliana in Palermo, and Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala in Milan.
The Choir’s first appearance on the operatic stage – in Franco Donatoni’s opera Atem at the Teatro alla Scala in 1985 – brought further invitations to opera houses: re-invitations to La Scala (Weber’s Oberon, 1989; Beethoven’s Fidelio, 1990), La Fenice in Venice (Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress, 1986, and Mozart’s The Magic Flute, 1987), Paris (Beethoven’s Fidelio, 1989); Palermo (Szymanowski’s King Roger, 1992; Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex, 1993; and Honegger’s Antigone, 1993), as well as Pesaro (Rossini’s L’italiana in Algeri, 1994).
The Choir has been conducted by outstanding Polish and international masters of the baton and composers including Moshe Atzmon, Sergiu Comissiona, Henryk Czyż, Charles Dutoit, Vladimir Fedoseyev, Charles Groves, Jacek Kaspszyk, Kazimierz Kord, Jan Krenz, Witold Lutosławski, Lorin Maazel, Jerzy Maksymiuk, Igor Markevitch, Andrzej Markowski, Kurt Masur, Zubin Mehta, Grzegorz Nowak, Seiji Ozawa, Krzysztof Penderecki, Simon Rattle, Helmuth Rilling, Witold Rowicki, Jerzy Semkow, Giuseppe Sinopoli, Stanisław Skrowaczewski, Leopold Stokowski, Igor Stravinsky, Tadeusz Strugała, Stanisław Wisłocki, Antoni Wit, and Bohdan Wodiczko.
The Choir’s vast repertoire comprises more than 400 vocal-instrumental and unaccompanied works, ranging from medieval to contemporary music. A special place in the Choir’s repertoire is occupied by Polish music, in particular that of Krzysztof Penderecki; the Choir has performed and recorded all of his vocal-instrumental and unaccompanied works. Its albums have received numerous Grammy nominations, as well as a Grammy for the Best Choral Performance for the first CD in the series Penderecki Conducts Penderecki. Their recording of A Polish Requiem received the 2005 Record Academy Award of the Japanese magazine Record Geijutsu. In April 2009, the Choir’s album Stanisław Moniuszko – Masses Vol. 1 won the Fryderyk Award as Album of the Year – Choral and Vocal-Instrumental Music category, whereas Vol. 2 was awarded the Golden Orpheus – Arturo Toscanini Award of the Académie du Disque Lyrique as the Best Phonographic Initiative in 2010. In 2011 the Choir received another Fryderyk Award for its 1989 CD recording of Roman Maciejewski’s Requiem. Missa pro defunctis, and in 2018 – for an all-Szymanowski album.