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ounds of merıca rom Opole to egas

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I u S Z P r Z y G O D a

M a r

:P H O T O G R A P H Y

The Opole Philharmonic at home, in their local concert hall

Opole, in Southern Poland; population (at the last count) just shy of 126,000. It’s a modest-sized city, complete with a zoo, a university and, since 1952, an orchestra.

If the Opole Philharmonic Orchestra hasn’t yet entered your consciousness, all that looks set to change, especially for music lovers Stateside. For Columbia Artists Management Inc (CAMI), no less – one of the most powerful agents in America – is bringing the orchestra over to the US for a three-month, 46-concert tour covering 19 states, from California to Florida to Massachussets. The stats alone are enough to make you tired.

The orchestra will be following in the footsteps of the Warsaw

A little-known but rising Polish orchestra has received a surprise invitation for a huge US tour and, as Harriet Smith finds, it’s ready to go

Philharmonic, with which CAMI undertook substantial North American tours in 2004 and 2008. But that’s an ensemble with a far higher international profile. So what led CAMI to Opole? The answer remains obscure: the orchestra’s chief conductor, Bogusπaw Dawidow, simply recalls getting an email out of the blue from Andrew S Grossman, one of CAMI’s senior vice presidents, back in 2008, saying he’d like to organise a tour for Dawidow and his orchestra. “I didn’t answer: I was so stunned.” CAMI waited a fortnight, then phoned him. Dawidow promised to answer the following day. And so the tour became a reality. Was Dawidow’s hesitation born of doubt? “No, more that it was something I’d dreamt about as a teenager, when I used to take the dog for walks along the beach where I lived, singing as I went, imagining what it would be like to be a conductor, touring to the States… I could hardly believe it was now becoming a reality. But of course there was also a vast amount to do: 46 concerts is huge.” The orchestra is not new to touring, having been to China twice, but the scale of this one is unprecedented for these young players. And sitting in on their rehearsals, hearing them work on Liszt’s Mazeppa and Richard Strauss’s Don Juan, two things were striking: the quiet control with which Dawidow – slightly built and dapper – exerts his will over the musicians, never raising his voice. The other is the youth of the players, all but two of them native Poles. “We’ve got a Russian oboe player and one of the concertmasters is Ukrainian – very young, enormously talented.” One of the concertmasters: admittedly it’s common enough to find an orchestra with two, but the Opole Philharmonic has no fewer than four, three men and one woman (like the Vienna Phil, an orchestra Dawidow knows well from several formative months spent observing Bernstein’s rehearsals).

GRAMOPHONE february 2011 I

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