During the 19th century, Kraków welcomed virtuoso composers such as Karol Lipiński, Franz Liszt, Johannes Brahms, Henryk Wieniawski and Ignacy Jan Paderewski, as well as acclaimed prima donnas Angelika Catalani, Marcelina Sembrich-Kochańska, and, in the early 20th century, the great Ada Sari. To add to the tradition, the collection of the Jagiellonian Library includes manuscripts of scores by Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, Chopin and Szymanowski.
The Kraków Philharmonic, founded in 1945, was the first music institution created in post-war Poland. The concert hall has welcomed performers including Artur Rubinstein, Ida Haendel, Światosław Richter, Dawid Ojstrach, Yehudi Menuhin, Mstislav Rostropovich, Zubin Mehta, Garrick Ohlsson and Yo-Yo Ma. The Philharmonic has also had the honour to work with leading conductors such as Stanisław Skrowaczewski, Henryk Czyż, Gabriel Chmura, Tadeusz Strugała and Jerzy Maksymiuk. The Philharmonic Choir performs historic world premieres, such as compositions by Krzysztof Penderecki. The Cracovian institution, located at a recently renovated historic site, hosts concerts and a wide range of educational events. It has been presenting popular concerts for kids and young people for over forty years, and more recently it has also been hosting workshops for mums and toddlers, based on the theories of Prof. E.E. Gordon. The Philharmonic serves as Kraków’s versatile home of music.
Another Cracovian institution is the Sinfonietta Cracovia Orchestra of the Royal Capital City of Kraków, founded in 1994 and led by the charismatic conductor Jurek Dybał. The ensemble is acclaimed for their interpretations of 19th and 20th century music, numerous world premieres and recordings of film music. The orchestra has also released albums of music by its informal patron Maestro Penderecki. Since 2015, the ensemble has also hosted the annual Sinfonietta Festival dedicated to contemporary music. The cycles of concerts and workshops for kids run by the orchestra’s indispensable violinist Danuta Augustyn are eternally popular. Founded in 1989, the Krakow International Festival of Composers under the direction of Marcel Chyrzyński focuses on contemporary Polish music.
The Kraków Opera, founded in 1954, based at a distinctive modern venue at 48 Lubicz Street, presents opera, operetta and ballet performances prepared by artists such as Michał Znaniecki, Laco Adamik and Jerzy Stuhr. The institution also hosts the annual Kraków Opera Summer Festival featuring premieres and special events such as concerts at Wawel Castle.
And there is plenty more on offer for fans of the sound of the human voice, with the previously mentioned annual Opera Rara Festival. Kraków is also a city of choirs, with numerous professional and amateur vocal ensembles. The Polish Radio Choir, founded in 1948, performs world premieres of Polish music, attends festivals all over the globe and hosts its own concerts.
Music fans with their finger on the pulse keep a close eye on the ICE Classic cycle. Concerts held at the Krzysztof Penderecki Auditorium Hall of the ICE Kraków Congress Centre have so far welcomed artists such as Aleksandra Kurzak, Edita Gruberová, Diana Damrau, Elīna Garanča, Philippe Jaroussky, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Isabelle Faust, Ivo Pogorelić and Piotr Anderszewski. Conductors who have appeared at ICE Kraków include Kent Nagano leading the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, Sir Simon Rattle with the London Symphony Orchestra and Philippe Herreweghe performing with the Orchestre des Champs-Elysées.
Many Cracovians simply cannot imagine summer holidays without classical music. July resounds with the Festival of Polish Music, directed by Paweł Orski and juxtaposing compositions by Polish composers with European music. The festival’s forte are artists, including those at the threshold of their international careers, and an ambitious programme featuring performances of forgotten Polish operas and sacral works by composers such as Prince Józef Michał Poniatowski, Józef Elsner, Karol Kurpiński and Józef Kozłowski. The Wawel at Dusk Festival also resounds with Polish music performed by pianists from home and abroad, while the Music in Old Cracow Festival, starting on 15 August every summer, features world-famous instrumentalists, vocalists and conductors. As at other summertime music events, performances are held at concert halls, churches and synagogues, courtyards and university halls throughout the city.