St Petersburg, Concert Hall

Sinfonia Varsovia

Nikita Borisoglebsky (violin)
Maxim Rysanov (viola)

Conductor: Krzysztof Penderecki

Sergei Prokofiev
Symphony No 1 in D Major, Classical, Op. 25

Krzysztof Penderecki
Violin and Viola Concerto

Antonín Dvořák
Symphony No 7 in D Minor, Op. 70

With the financial support of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland



About the Concert

Prokofiev’s interest in the orchestral compositions of the Viennese classics – first and foremost Haydn – emerged when he was a student at the St Petersburg Conservatoire in the conducting class of Nikolai Cherepnin. Prokofiev wrote that “It seemed to me that if Haydn had lived to the present day he would have retained his style of composition and accepted some of the new things that are going on. I wanted to compose just such a symphony – a symphony in the classical style.” This idea came to fruition several years later.
The orchestral format chosen by Prokofiev for the symphony matches that of the Viennese classics – a dual formation of winds (without aspectual instruments and trombones), kettle drums and string section. The sequence of the movements, their form and their drama also generally follow the model typical of a classical Viennese symphony. Only the traditional minuet or scherzo (the 3rd movement) is replaced with a gavotte – a genre which later came to be Prokofiev’s “calling card”. The musical language, however, without any doubt whatsoever makes this symphony belong to 20th century music. The unexpected and vivid modulations and shifts into remote tonalities, the use of instruments in extreme virtuoso form and the ironic interpretation of the musical material are all features of Prokofiev’s style which by that time had become fully developed. Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony is not a direct stylisation influenced by Haydn but rather an experience of rethinking, a look back from the 20th century at his legacy. This approach heralded the movement in music that came to be known as neo-classicism.

The Double Concerto was written by Krzysztof Penderecki to mark two centuries of the Wiener Musikverein in 2012. The choice of violin and viola as solo instruments reminds us of Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante. Penderecki was given the idea for such a combination of soloists by Julian Rachlin – a musician who has appeared to great acclaim as a violinist and violist. Both soloists in the concerto are equal, and the composer himself commented in one interview that the viola part is even more complicated to perform than that of the violin.
The concerto has several sections that are performed without interruption. The initial dialogue of the violin and the viola is interlaced with a demonic dance in the rhythm of a tarantella. Following the dramatic culmination there comes the passacaglia – variations on a repeated bass theme. In the final bars of the concerto the soloists perform one and the same melody which gradually dissolves into silence.

The Seventh Symphony opens the triad of Antonín Dvořák’s last symphonies. Although this work does not enjoy the popularity of the subsequent Eighth and Ninth Symphonies it is undoubtedly one of the greatest achievements of Czech and European classical music.
In the summer of 1884 Dvořák was elected as an honorary member of the London Philharmonic Society. To mark the occasion he was offered the chance to conduct his new symphony in London. By that time the British capital had already seen successful performances of the composer’s Sixth Symphony and his oratorio Stabat Mater. It comes as no surprise that Dvořák accepted the invitation eagerly: for him it represented a brilliant opportunity to declare himself a European and not just a Czech composer.
The Seventh Symphony is justifiably considered the most dramatic of all of Dvořák’s symphonies. The whole character of the work is set by the tense main theme of the first movement, which introduces low strings against a restrained general tone. The lyrical secondary theme can be heard in the woodwinds and brings partial tranquillity. In the development the dramatic conflict unfolds, and at the end of the movement the tension dies out. The second movement begins as a lighter chorale, though here, too, there are perturbed motifs. In the third movement Dvořák turns to the rhythmic forms of Bohemian folk dance – the furiant. The finale is dominated by unsteady and anxious intonations and it is only in the final bars that the major key comes in – though this does not actually relieve the tension.
Vladimir Khavrov

About the performers

“... Work with no other orchestra has ever given me as much satisfaction as my work as a soloist and conductor for the Sinfonia Varsovia Orchestra.”
Yehudi Menuhin

“... they are wonderful, they are one of the best orchestras, not only in Poland. First class.”
Martha Argerich

In April 1984 Waldemar Dąbrowski, Director of the Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz Studio Centre for the Arts in Warsaw, and Franciszek Wybrańczyk, director of the then Polish Chamber Orchestra invited the legendary violinist Sir Yehudi Menuhin to perform in Poland as a soloist and conductor. To match the exigencies of the planned repertoire, the orchestra increased the number of its members, inviting renowned musicians from all over Poland to perform together. The ensemble’s initial concerts under the direction of Yehudi Menuhin were enthusiastically applauded by audiences and praised by critics, while Sir Menuhin himself did not hesitate to accept Waldemar Dąbrowski and Franciszek Wybrańczyk’s proposal to become the first guest conductor of the newly established symphony orchestra known as Sinfonia Varsovia.
The Sinfonia Varsovia Orchestra was soon invited to perform concerts in the United States and Canada, with more invitations to follow – from many countries of Europa and Asia. The Sinfonia Varsovia has performed at the world’s most prestigious concert halls, including New York’s Carnegie Hall, the Théâtre des Champs Élysées in Paris, the Barbican Centre in London, Vienna’s Musikverein, the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, Suntory Hall in Tokyo and the Herkulessaal in Munich.
Krzysztof Penderecki became the orchestra’s Musical Director in 1997 and its Artistic Director in July 2003, a position he still holds, often also working together with the ensemble as its conductor. The musicians perform together in Poland and abroad, playing many works by the composer.
Of special note is the Franciszek Wybrańczyk and Sinfonia Varsovia “To Its City” Festival. This unique project was initiated in 2001 by Franciszek Wybrańczyk, the founder and long-standing director of the orchestra. Each year in early autumn the orchestra performs free concerts in various parts of the capital.
In 2004, Wybrańczyk handed over the duties as the director of the Sinfonia Varsovia to Janusz Marynowski – his assistant and a long-serving musician in the orchestra.
From 2008-2012 the post of the orchestra’s musical director was held by the world-famous French conductor Marc Minkowski.
The celebrated La Folle Journée music festival holds a special slot in the orchestra’s performing calendar each season. The Sinfonia Varsovia regularly takes part in major music events in Poland and is a regular guest at the Chopin and His Europe festival, the Ludwig van Beethoven Easter Festival, the Warsaw Autumn festival and the Chain festival, devoted to Witold Lutosławski.
In 2010 the Sinfonia Varsovia orchestra organised the La Folle Journée - Chopin Open Festival in Warsaw for the first time. The subsequent series Les Titans (2011), Russia (2012), Music of France and Spain (2013) and Music of America (2014) met with great enthusiasm from Polish audiences.
The orchestra’s repertoire is exceptionally extensive, ranging from 18th century works to contemporary compositions. The orchestra has played Polish and world premieres of works by, among others, John Adams, Krzesimir Dębski, Jan Andrzej Paweł Kaczmarek, Witold Lutosławski, Paweł Mykietyn, Onute Narbutaite, Krzysztof Penderecki, Marta Ptaszyńska, Marcin Stańczyk and Paweł Szymański. In January 2011 the Sinfonia Varsovia Orchestra presented the first performance of Krzysztof Penderecki’s A Sea of Dreams Did Breathe on Me...
The orchestra boasts a discography of more than two hundred and sixty albums, recorded for famous international labels including Decca, Denon Nippon Columbia, Deutsche Grammophon, EMI, Naïve, Naxos, Sony and Virgin Classics. Many of these recordings have received prestigious music awards, including the Diapason d’Or, the Diapason découverte, the Grand Prix du Disque and, on more than one occasion, the Polish Fryderyk award. The orchestra’s artistic endeavours are supported by the Sinfonia Varsovia Foundation. Established in 2000 by Franciszek Wybrańczyk.
In 2014 the Sinfonia Varsovia Orchestra celebrated the 30th anniversary.
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