The Silesian Philharmonic began its artistic activities in 1945. Upper Silesia, the avant garde of technical progress of Europe, by then had not been able to boast of a music institution of a similar rank. In the adapted walls of a former concert hall, on 26 May 1945 under the baton of Jan Niwiński and Faustyn Kulczycki, the first concert of the symphonic orchestra was held, with the participation of a group of Polish musicians who had survived the maelstrom of war. For the Silesian community, so culturally diversified, often displaced, prey to destructive conflicts, a place offering wonderful experience expressed in the universal language of music was established and operates until today.
During the first years the function of the artistic director was held by Anatol Zarubin and Witold Krzemieniecki, and in the period 1949-54 by Stanisław Skrowaczewski. But the credit for the full swing and success in the development of this institution and its present rank goes to Grzegorz Fitelberg’s student, Karol Stryja, who held the function of the director of the Silesian Philharmonic and its artistic manager for many years.
Karol Stryja was born and raised in a large family of a craftsman in Cieszyn Silesia. The family equipped him with the love for music, the protestant ethos of work, patriotism, respect for people and the awareness how important promotion of culture is for the social identity. Musician, social worker, teacher, soldier – in his environment he appeared to be uncommonly gifted and active.
Demanding a lot from himself, he managed to infect his colleagues and successors with his uncompromising attitude towards tasks to be completed. His persistence and consistency brought measurable effects: only after a bit more than a decade the Silesian Philharmonic had a symphonic orchestra with one hundred musicians, a choir with sixty singers, and since 1981 a chamber music orchestra. He conscientiously implemented his vision of establishing a comprehensive institution, successfully playing great symphonic oeuvres, as well as chamber, choral and opera music.
The Silesian Philharmonic has invited numerous distinguished Polish and foreign artists and ensembles. The presentation of winners of consecutive competitions: the F. Chopin Piano Competition and the H. Wieniawski Violin Competition, has become a tradition. The Philharmonic have participated and still regularly participates in various festivals in Poland and abroad, it has their tours in cities of Poland, Europe and the whole world.
A special role for the promotion of composers deriving from the region has been played by the presence of the symphonic orchestra in consecutive editions of the “Warsaw Autumn”, where the first performances of the music by these composers have been presented. This valuable experience has built durable bonds of the Philharmonic with numerous composers, e.g. Henryk Mikołaj Górecki, Wojciech Kilar or Bolesław Szabelski, whose successes and worldwide fame have brought joy and pride to the Philharmonic. In November 2011 the Silesian Philharmonic assumed a name of Henryk Mikołaj Górecki.
The Silesian Philharmonic organises its own festivals and competitions, with the most prestigious and appreciated in the world the Grzegorz Fitelberg International Competition for Conductors. Its tenth edition was held in 2017.
Since 2008, under the leadership of Orchestre de Picardie (Amiens, France), the Silesian Philharmonic has cooperated with several European orchestras within the scheme of the Project „An Orchestra Network for Europe – ONE step further”. Since 2013, together with the Pro Bono Musicae Association, it has been implementing a project “Europe at the Gates”, the first project in the history of the EU Human Capital Operational Programme focusing on a masterly music education for students of schools of music of the 2nd degree in the Province of Silesia.
Excellent relations and extensive cooperation of the management and musicians of the Philharmonic with the Academy of Music in Katowice – this is the guarantee of high professional qualifications of employees and young graduates from the Academy, for whom the stage of the Silesian Philharmonic is traditionally a place of their diploma concerts. The Silesian Philharmonic implements its didactic vision by e.g. cycles of educational concerts and programmes directed to children and teenagers in the region.
Each artistic season comprises nearly 200 concerts with the participation of our ensembles in Poland and abroad and nearly 1000 musical programmes for pre-school and school children. The comprehensive repertoire played by the three ensembles of the Silesian Philharmonic, comprising the music of nearly all epochs, will satisfy each music lover.
Among Polish music institutions, the Silesian Philharmonic occupies the highest position after the National Philharmonic in terms of the rank and number of phonographic publications, recorded in our own studio and with prestigious publishers.
The opening of the reconstructed seat offers the opportunity to operate with a greater momentum. The challenge of extending the facility and its implementation was undertaken by Grażyna Szymborska, Director General of the Silesian Philharmonic in the years 2011-2014.
The constant care for the improvement and sharpening the vision of the development of this institution is provided by Mirosław Jacek Błaszczyk, a long-term artistic manager of the Philharmonic, and its director at present. He is Karol Stryja’s student, graduate from the Academy of Music in Katowice, its lecturer, and since 2012 – professor of the musical science.
The Silesian Philharmonic constitutes an integral element of the cultural strategy and policy of the region, significantly contributing to its social development. Today its proudly contributes to the creation of a multicultural space of common Europe.