Sinfonia Varsovia has been an ambassador of Polish musical culture since its inception. Its foreign travels include thousands of meetings with conductors, composers, soloists, and finally—audiences. For over 30 years, the Orchestra has been a regular guest on foreign and domestic stages, providing listeners with an unforgettable musical experience.
The ensemble was founded in April 1984 as a result of the enlargement of the Polish Chamber Orchestra (PCO). The impulse to expand the ensemble was provided by the arrival of the legendary violinist Yehudi Menuhin at the invitation of Waldemar Dąbrowski, then General Director of the Witkiewicz Art Center Studio in Warsaw, and Franciszek Wybrańczyk, the director of the PCO. The first joint concerts quickly won the appreciation of the audience and Menuhin took over as the first guest conductor. “Working with no other Orchestra gave me as much satisfaction as my work, as soloist and conductor, with the Sinfonia Varsovia Orchestra,” he said in interviews.
Soon after Sinfonia Varsovia began its world tour, performing in the world’s most prestigious concert halls such as Carnegie Hall, Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Barbican Centre, Vienna’s Musikverein, Buenos Aires’ Teatro Colón, Tokyo’s Suntory Hall, and Munich’s Herkulessaal. The Orchestra has established artistic friendships with the most eminent conductors: Valery Gergiev, Witold Lutosławski, Lorin Maazel, Jerzy Maksymiuk, Yehudi Menuhin and Krzysztof Penderecki, as well as soloists including Piotr Anderszewski, Gidon Kremer, Mstislav Rostropovich, Martha Argerich, and Anne-Sophie Mutter. Many of these relationships continue to this day.
Sinfonia Varsovia has played over 4,000 concerts all over the world and made over 300 records, including for Decca, Deutsche Grammophon, Naxos, Sony, and Warner. Its recorded repertoire includes works from the 18th century to the present day. A special place in the Orchestra’s concert program is dedicated to the works of Polish composers, including Fryderyk Chopin, Krzysztof Penderecki, Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Witold Lutosławski, Henryk Mikołaj Górecki, and Wojciech Kilar. The Orchestra has premiered numerous works, including those by John Adams, Krzesimir Dębski, Jan A. P. Kaczmarek, Witold Lutosławski, Paweł Mykietyn, Onutė Narbutaitė, Krzysztof Penderecki, Marta Ptaszyńska, Marcin Stańczyk, and Paweł Szymański.
Sinfonia Varsovia includes five chamber ensembles: Polish Chamber Orchestra, Sinfonia Varsovia String Quintet, Sinfonia Varsovia Brass, Sinfonia Varsovia Wind Quintet, and the youngest: Sinfonia Varsovia Camerata.
Krzysztof Penderecki, Poland’s great contemporary composer, served as the Orchestra’s musical director from 1997, and as its artistic director from 2003 to 2020. In 2008–12, the music director of Sinfonia Varsovia was Marc Minkowski. In 2004 Franciszek Wybrańczyk transferred the duties of Sinfonia Varsovia’s director to the ensemble’s long-time musician Janusz Marynowski, who still holds this position.
Since 1 January 2008 Sinfonia Varsovia is a local government cultural institution based at 272 Grochowska St, financed by the City of Warsaw. As part of its activities, the institution holds a number of educational events and concerts, both for the youngest listeners and older audiences. For babies and children up to the age of 5, the Smykofonie series takes place every month on Grochowska St, organized in cooperation with the Music is for Everyone Foundation. For slightly older children (over 6 years of age) and whole families, we have Matinées, a series of Sunday feature concerts. The summer season includes chamber and symphonic concerts and dances, as well as exhibitions and workshops in the Concert Pavilion at the Orchestra’s headquarters. The programme includes music of different styles and from different epochs. In addition, Sinfonia Varsovia is the organiser of two festivals: La Folle Journée, held every last weekend of September at the Grand Theatre – Polish National Opera and the Franciszek Wybrańczyk Sinfonia Varsovia to Its City Festival, which, in addition to concerts at the Orchestra’s headquarters, takes place in select locations in Warsaw.
In 2012, the Sinfonia Varsovia Academy, a project for students and graduates of music colleges, was created and is still successfully continued today. A series of workshops conducted by concertmasters and Orchestra leaders is aimed at preparing young art adepts to play in the Orchestra. The Academy also offers group classes in dietetics, psychology, and physiotherapy.
Work is underway to open a new, unique space on the musical and cultural map of Warsaw. This ambitious task is being carried out by Sinfonia Varsovia thanks to the financial support of the capital city of Warsaw as a part of the Integrated Revitalization Program of the Capital City of Warsaw. The project includes remodelling the five historic buildings at 272 Grochowska St and building a new, 1850-seat concert hall. The construction was preceded by an international architectural design competition won by the Graz-based Atelier Tomas Pucher in 2010. The new location is scheduled to open in 2026.