Honorary Committee

Jadwiga Czartoryska

Krystian Zimerman

Daniel Barenboim

Paul Van Nevel

Jean Tubery

Alain Duault

Paweł Łukaszewski

Jacek Kaspszyk


  JesienAndrzej Markowski conducts the ORTF Orchestra at the Warsaw Autumn

Andrzej Markowski (1924 – 1986)

Founder and initiator of the Wratislavia Cantans (‘Singing Wrocław’) International Festival of Oratorio and Cantata Music. Artistic director of the Festival in 1966-77.

Born on 22nd August 1924 in Lublin; died on 30th October 1986 in Warsaw. He studied composition in Lublin (1939-41) and piano in Warsaw (1943-44). He continued his studies in the Trinity College of Music in London (composition with Alec Rowley, 1946-47) and in Warsaw’s State Higher School of Music (composition with Piotr Rytel and Tadeusz Szeligowski, conducting with Witold Rowicki, 1947-55). In 1955-59 he was a conductor at the Silesian Philharmonic in Katowice, and in 1959-64 – artistic director and principal conductor of Cracow Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1959 he founded a chamber orchestra in Cracow, and later organised a concert cycle entitled ‘Musica Antiqua et Nova’, as well as the Cracow Spring of Young Musicians, where many compositions by Krzysztof Penderecki, Grażyna Bacewicz and others were premiered. With his Chamber Orchestra ‘Filarmonica di Cracovia’ he toured Italy, Belgium and the United States. He greatly contributed to the promotion of Polish music both at home and abroad. He conducted orchestras in Berlin, Milan’s La Scala, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels, as well as Paris, Barcelona, Madrid, Cologne, Florence, Leipzig, Dresden, Montreux, Frankfurt, Teheran, Beirut, Melbourne, Moscow, Copenhagen, Oslo, Darmstadt, Buenos Aires, and Mexico. He gained recognition and fame as a pioneering interpreter of early music, conducting Polish premieres of such works as Monteverdi’s Vespro della Beata Vergine and Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda, Handel’s Messiah and Judas Maccabaeus, but also Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande.

In 1965 he accepted the post of director of Wrocław Philharmonic, which he managed to install in its own new building. In 1966 he founded the Wratislavia Cantans Festival of Oratorio and Cantata Music, of which he was the artistic director in 1966-76. He also simultaneously directed the Festival of Polish Contemporary Music in Wrocław and the Festival of Organ and Harpsichord Music. In 1979, together with Warsaw Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, he toured the Far and Near East. In 1971-77 he was a conductor and deputy artistic director of Warsaw Philharmonic. In the 1970s he made a tour of England with the WOSPR (Great Orchestra of the Polish Radio) and (twice) – a tour of Japan with Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra. He also gained renown as an eminent interpreter of Baroque and contemporary music. He repeatedly conducted concerts at the Biennale di Venezia and the Sacra Musicale Umbria festival in Perugia. He performed with such world famous artists as: Artur Rubinstein, David Oistrakh, Isaac Stern, Maurizio Pollini, Henryk Szeryng, Krystian Zimerman, Stefan Askenase, Julius Katchen and Vlado Perlemutter. He promoted contemporary music in Poland and abroad, conducting, among others, more than 25 concerts of the Warsaw Autumn festival. He was also a member of that Festival’s Repertoire Committee in 1971-81. At the Warsaw Autumn, he presented world and Polish premieres of compositions by Krzysztof Penderecki, Henryk Mikołaj Górecki, Kazimierz Serocki, Tomasz Sikorski, Kazimierz Sikorski, Bolesław Szabelski, Witold Szalonek, Paweł Szymański, György Ligeti, Pierre Boulez, Hans Werner Henze, Charles Ives, Iannis Xenakis, Luigi Nono and Bruno Maderna. He also won tremendous renown with his music for more than 35 short and feature films, including such Polish classics as Andrzej Wajda’s A Generation, The Ashes and Roly Poly, Jerzy Hoffman’s Colonel Wołodyjowski, as well as experimental films by Andrzej Munk, Walerian Borowczyk, Jan Lenica and Tadeusz Makarczyński. He inspired Andrzej Wajda’s film The Orchestra Conductor. He also wrote theatre music. In 1965, he received the Minister of Culture and Art Award, 2nd Class, and in 1974 – State Award, 1st Class for his outstanding artistic creations at the Warsaw Autumn festival. He was twice granted the Orpheus Critics’ Award (1968, 1971) and (also twice) – the annual Award of the Polish Composers’ Union (1969, 1971). In 1974 his LP recording of Krzysztof Penderecki’s Utrenja won the Grand Prix du Disque of the Académie Charles Cros in France. From 1970, he held the post of conductor in Groningen Philharmonic, and from 1982 – the post of artistic director in Łódź Philharmonic.

Andrzej Markowski – Invocatio

Literary contents, the architecture of poetic verse, the interplay of phonetic qualities and ‘programmes’ founded on historical and religious narrative or tales of life and manners – have attracted and inspired composers of all times. The vocal-instrumental form, which focuses essentially on music and singing supported by the spoken word, but unrestrained by stage movement and action – still continue to fascinate both composers and the audiences of to- day.

Composers have endowed the genre with such force of expression that regardless of the kind of commission made by the now forgotten patron, dedication or the relevance of the declared programme – new values all the time continue to emerge and justify the performance of this music, described in the score as works: for choir and orchestra – per Coro-Soli e Strumenti – for voices and instruments – für Chor – Sprechstimme und Orchester – pour Grande Orchestre er Choeur.

We now rediscover the wealth of invention and the mastery of Monteverdi, Pérotin, Vivaldi, Szymanowski, Janáček and Webern. Without any religious, nationalist or racial bias, we absorb the monumental works of Bach and Handel as well as recently discovered and researched African ritual forms of vocal-instrumental music, Byzantine chant and works inspired by folklore. The synthesis of word and music in Luigi Nono’s vocal-instrumental works, Witold Lutosławski’s Symphonic Poems, Penderecki’s Passion and the works of Stravinsky we experience as a deep expression of humanistic values. During our festivals, performers should also reach for little known or as yet unperformed works by Polish composers.

It happens here in Wrocław, where the actus oratoricus takes place and where the cantatae of all epochs and styles can be heard.

“Invocatio” in Polish

“Invocatio in French”


About the festival

Wratislavia Cantans is a musical feast in which the main part is played by the human voice. Irrespective of the place, time and culture in which the music was written, the voice – as the most perfect of musical instruments, fascinating and inspiring, has always occupied a special place in artists’ work.  That is why the International Festival Wratislavia Cantans attracts the attention of music lovers from Poland and abroad, and every year in the first weeks of September Wrocław and Lower Silesia become a European capital of culture – the European capital of vocal art. The event is strongly rooted in history, but it also inspires composers to write new works, commissioned annually by the Festival .

The Festival presents the human voice in different forms and genres, and in various performance contexts – from vocal recitals and consort performances to choral and large-scale vocal-instrumental works involving dozens of singers.  The festival is intended to present works in all musical styles, created in various music centres in all epochs of history.

Wratislavia Cantans is a synonym of the highest quality with respect to both performances and organisation. Every year, concerts featuring world-famous stars of classical music attract thousands of music lovers to the beautiful historical interiors of Wrocław and Lower Silesia. Wratislavia Cantans has hosted such superb soloists and conductors as Philippe Herreweghe, Andreas Scholl, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Paul McCreesh, Ton Koopman, and Gustav Leonhardt, as well as numerous ensembles, including:  Collegium Vocale Gent, Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, Gabrieli Consort and Players, Il Giardino Armonico, and The English Baroque Soloists.

Wratislavia Cantans is a member of the European Festivals Association (EFA), whose seat is in Ghent, Belgium

Andrzej Markowski – founder of the festival

He was the creator of the festival and its artistic director between 1966 and 1977.  He studied composition in the Trinity College of Music in London and composition and conducting at the State Higher School of Music in Warsaw. He was a conductor at Poznan Philharmonic and the Silesian Philharmonic. At the age of 35 he was offered the position of artistic director at Cracow Philharmonic, where he staged works never previously performed in Poland, such as Monteverdi’s Il Vespro or Handel’s Messiah.  In 1965 he accepted the directorship of Wrocław Philharmonic and helped move the orchestra into its own new quarters. He initiated the Festival of Polish Contemporary Music and the Festival of Organ and Harpsichord Music in Wroclaw. The Canticum Canticorum choir was also created with his help and encouragement.  In 1971–1977 Andrzej Markowski was the conductor and deputy artistic director of Warsaw Philharmonic. In 1978 he took the post of conductor at the Philharmonic in Groningen, Holland. From 1982 he was the artistic director of Łódź Philharmonic. Maestro Markowski’s interests focused not only on large-scale vocal-instrumental forms, but included a wide spectrum of 19th-century music. He also promoted contemporary music on many concert stages in Poland and abroad. He performed 25 times at the Warsaw Autumn festival and was a member of its Repertoire Committee (1971–1981). He conducted many world and Polish premieres of works by Krzysztof Penderecki, Henryk Mikolaj Górecki, Kazimierz Serocki, Paweł Szymański, György Ligeti, Pierre Boulez, Jans Werner Hanze, Charles Ives, Iannis Xenakis, Luigi Nono and Bruno Maderna.  He performed with world-famous musicians, including Artur Rubinstein, David Oistrakh, Isaac Stern, Maurizio Pollini, Henryk Szeryng, Krystian Zimerman, Stefan Askenase, Julian Katchen, and Vlado Perlemuter.  He conducted in 28 countries, leading such orchestras as the Berliner Filharmoniker, the La Scala in Milan, Teatro Communale in Buenos Aires, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, ORTF in Paris, as well as orchestras in Rome, Madrid, Stockholm, Brussels, Oslo, Baden-Baden, Hamburg, Cologne, and Munich. In the 1960s he toured the United States with Cracow Chamber Orchestra; in the 1970s – England with the WOSPR orchestra and Japan twice with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra. He conducted many times at the Biennale di Venezia and in Perugia during the Sacra Musicale Umbria. In 1979 he toured the Middle and Far East with Warsaw Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra. He is the recipient of many awards, including the Award of the Polish Minister of Culture and Art, the Award of the Polish Composers’ Union, and the critics’ award – the Orpheus (twice, in 1968 and 1971). In 1974 Andrzej Markowski received the Grand Prix du Disque Charles Cros for his recording of Penderecki’s Jutrznia (Utrenya). He died in 1986.

Ewa Kofin about Markowski’s Wratislavia

The idea of creating a festival dedicated to choral and vocal-instrumental music was not born in Wrocław. It was ‘brought’ here by Andrzej Markowski when he took up the post of Director of Wrocław Philharmonic on 1st November 1965. He immediately got down to work and just 10 months later – inaugurated the first festival. He gave it two telling names: ‘Wratislavia Cantans’ and the subheading – Wrocław Festival of Oratorio and Cantata Music. The festival was thus clearly dedicated to vocal music, with particular emphasis on large-scale vocal-instrumental works.

Considering the fact that in those days Poland was officially an atheist country, this was a truly daring concept. After all, oratorio and cantatas are mainly religious music, and, what is more, intended for performance in churches, which of course at that time drew enormous audiences to the concerts. In those days there were no other contexts in which one could hear Bach’s Passion, Handel’s Messiah or Palestrina’s Mass, as music of these genres was not part of standard philharmonic repertoire in Poland or indeed of Polskie Nagrania (the state record company with monopoly on the market). ‘Incredible as it may seem, all the oratorios and cantatas of the 4th Wratislavia Cantans Festival were performed in our city for the first time. Consequently, one could say that the Festival was a momentous series of Wrocław premieres,reported ‘Słowo Polskie’ on 3rd September 1969.

Interestingly, Markowski did not adhere to the principle that in Catholic churches only Catholic music should be heard. ‘At the very least’ he opened the churches to Protestant and Russian Orthodox music, not to mention secular works. One could say that already in those days he brought to the Church the spirit of ecumenism.

Vocal-instrumental music is primarily early music, and this magnificent chapter of its history was almost a complete novelty to Wrocław’s music-lovers, as the staple philharmonic and operatic repertoire was then founded on Classicism and Romanticism, and the fashion for early music had not yet arrived. The appearance in Wrocław of the ‘Capella Bydgostiensis Pro Musica Antica’ already caused a sensation, to say nothing of e.g. Ensemble Polyphonique de L’ORTF from Paris.

Early music is drawn to places of heritage, so Markowski not only filled the churches with music, but also brought it to the Town Hall’s Knights’ Chamber, the University’s Leopoldinum Hall, the Museum of Architecture, and the National Museum, thus staging festival events in Wrocław’s most beautiful and historic venues.

It is worth remembering, however, that Markowski came to Wroclaw as a star of the Warsaw Autumn Festival – as the most famous Polish conductor of contemporary music. His biography featured 35 premieres of Polish and 15 of foreign works. So it came as no surprise that already during the second festival he presented us with the greatest event of that time – St. Luke Passion by Krzysztof Penderecki, as well as several other outstanding new music compositions from around the world such as e.g. Arnold Schonberg’s Pierrot Lunaire, Oliver Messiaen’s Cinq rechants, Luigi Nono’s La fabbrica illuminate or John Cage’s Flower.

During his 12-year tenure as Director of Wratislavia, Andrzej Markowski garnered much critical acclaim for the festival:

‘It is an event that has no equivalent on our continent’ – claimed ‘Poglądy’ on 31st October 1973.

‘I consider Wratislavia Cantans to be the most magnificent festival in Poland. I am honoured to be able to participate in it and confirm that it has been most successful all these years, said the phenomenal Polish singer Krystyna Szostek-Radkowa in her interview for ‘Słowo Polskie’ on 5th September 1971.

Public acceptance of all these novelties was universal. ‘A packed, voracious, expectant crowd hoping that someone would part with their ticket or thus a possibility of entering the hall would present itself…’ – reported the editor of the workers’ daily ‘Gazeta Robotnicza’ on 7th September 1974.

Andrzej Markowski and Krzysztof Penderecki before a performance of Utrenja in Altenberg Cathedral, Germany 1970 Krzysztof Penderecki with Małgorzata Markowska Małgorzata Markowska talking to Henryk Mikołaj Górecki before a concert in Washington