One of Poland's leading conductors of his generation.
Studies: Czyż, Penderecki, Boulanger and Law
A graduate of Kraków's State Higher School of Music in conducting under Henryk Czyż and composition under Krzysztof Penderecki, later a student of Nadia Boulanger in Paris. Meanwhile, in 1969 he graduated from Faculty of Law at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. When Antoni Wit completed his studies, Witold Rowicki retained him as an assistant at the National Philharmonic. In subsequent years, Wit went on to conduct the Poznań Philharmonic and to work closely with Warsaw's Grand Theatre.
From von Karajan’s Contest to Philharmonic Halls
In 1971, he placed second in the Herbert von Karajan International Conducting Contest in West Berlin. In 1974 he became artistic director of the Pomeranian Philharmonic (through 1977), and later assumed the position of director of the Orchestra and Choir of Polish Radio and Television in Kraków (1977-83).
In 1983 he became the managing and artistic director of the Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra in Katowice, a position he would retain for 17 years. Between 1987 and 1992 he was simultaneously the artistic director, and later a guest conductor, of the Orquesta Filarmónica de Gran Canaria. On January 1, 2002, he became the managing and artistic director of the National Philharmonic in Warsaw which he held until 2013. In 2010, he conducted the inauguration concert for the 2010/2011 Concert Season and the National Philharmonic, ushering in the 16th edition of the International Chopin Competition. In 2013, he became the artistic director of Orquestra Sinfonica de Navarra.
Antoni Wit worked as a professor at the Conducting Faculty at the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music in Warsaw from 1998 to 2014. He often chairs the juries of music contests, such as in Cadaques and Katowice.
Antoni Wit built his position as a leading conductor of his generation thanks to his collaborations with the most important Polish and international orchestras. Among his many engagements, his 17-year long leadership of the National Symphonic of the Polish Radio in Katowice stands out – between 1983 and 2001 he was its managing and artistic director. During this period, he performed almost 600 times with his ensemble, went on numerous international tours and recorded around 100 albums, including those most significant ones – complete orchestral works of Witold Lutosławski (for Naxos Recording Label).
I am more than happy with what I achieved here – said Antoni Wit – the great attendance at our concerts is the best proof of it; at the moment we have more requests for one year subscriptions than seats in our concert hall. Moreover: the huge amount of albums recorded, invitations from international and domestic festivals, and the satisfaction of composers who entrusted their pieces to us or even dedicated it to us. Finally, I cherish the fact that people talk about the friendly atmosphere that we manage to maintain – inside the orchestra and in the office. These are the reasons for my immense satisfaction.
Conductor of Polish Contemporary Music
Being a director of radio orchestras for 23 years now – said Antoni Wit in a talk with Silesia monthly in 2000 – it became my day-to-day work to perform Polish contemporary classical music. Because I perform it much more often than other conductors I feel strongly for this field but I never treated it as a professional duty. I always thought that it is the mission of Polish radio orchestras to promote Polish works of both living and late composers. This is why this music is so important in what I do. When I receive the score for a piece composed by a contemporary Polish composer who I know and appreciate I always feel happy even before I open it and see if the composition pleases me. It is because I already know that I will devote my time to something important and useful.
Antoni Wit performed a vast number of world previews of compositions by Jan Oleszkiewicz (Concerto Grosso), Krzysztof Penderecki (Te Deum, Lacrimosa, Agnus Dei), Bronisław Kazimierz Przybylski (A Varsovie), Wojciech Kilar (Victoria, Angelus, Chorale Prelude, September Symphony, Sinfonie de motu), Aleksander Lasoń (Mountains), Krzysztof Meyer (Carillon, Concerto for Clarinette), Jacek Domagała (Choralis), Stanisław Krupowicz (Fin de siècle), Paweł Szymański (Piano Concerto), Włodzimierz Kotoński (Symphony No. 1), Eugeniusz Knapik (La libertà chiama la libertà, Up into the Silence), Tadeusz Wielecki (Id), Andrzej Dziadek (Impression), Maciej Jabłoński (Symphony No. 4).
Although symphonic music remains a domain of Wit's activity, he achieved major successes in the field of opera, such as preparing premieres of The Barber of Seville by Gioacchino Rossini, La Traviata and Masquerade by Giuseppe Verdi for Wielki Theatre - National Opera in Warsaw, as well as Aida (Verdi) and Consul (Gian Carlo Menotti) for the opera theatre in Malmö and Stanisław Moniuszko’s Halka for theatres in Tokyo and Trieste.
He has recorded more than 200 albums for labels such as EMI, CBS, Decca, Camerata Tokyo, NVC Arts, Pony Canyon, EBS Recordings, Naxos, and Polskie Nagrania. He is one of only a few artists worldwide whose albums have sold more than 5 million copies.
Awards and Distinctions
Antoni Wit has been nominated for seven Grammy awards - for recording works by Penderecki (Saint Lucas’ Passion) - 2004, Polish Requiem - 2005, Seven Gates of Jerusalem - 2007) and Stabat Mater by Karol Szymanowski (2008). He received a Grammy award in 2013 for his recording of Penderecki’s Fonogrammi, Horn Concerto, Partita, The Awakening of Jacob and Anaklasis on Naxos. In 1983, he received the Diapason d'Or and Grand Prix du Disque de la Nouvelle Académie for registration of the complete piano concertos of Sergei Prokofiev. In 2002 in Cannes he received the Classical Award (Midem Classique 2002) for recording Symphony Turangalîla by Olivier Messiaen, and in 2004 he was given the Classical Internet Award for Penderecki’s Saint Lucas’ Passion. In 2005 he received the Records Academy Award (Record Geijutsu) for Polish Requiem by Penderecki.
He has been honoured with the Polish Phonographic Academy's ‘Fryderyk’ Awards several times: in 2002 for Witold Lutosławski: Mi-parti, Krzysztof Meyer: Msza, Krzysztof Penderecki: Concerto Grosso for Three Cellos and Orchestra (CD Accord) in the Best Polish Music Recording category; in 2005 for Lutosławski: Concerto for Orchestra; Concerto for Cello and Orchestra (DUX) in the category of Best Album – Contemporary Classical Music as well as for 15th Fryderyk Chopin’s International Piano Contest / The Chronicle of the Contest – Rafał Blechacz (DUX / TIFC) in the Best Album – Orchestral Music category.
On the commission of Naxos record label, he made recordings of the complete orchestral and oratory works of Karol Szymanowski. Albums from this series received a Gramophone Editor’s Choice award as well as a BBC Music Magazine Editor’s Choice award and an honorary distinction from web portal Classics Today.
1980 - Silver Cross of Merit and President of Kraków
1982 - Polish Composers’ Union Award and Special Award of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
1983 and 1987 - Chairman of Television and Radio Committee Award, in
1984 and 1996 – Orfeo award at the Warsaw Autumn Festival.
1985 - ‘Merited Cultural Activist’ Order and
- Knight’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta .
1998 - Diamond Baton from Polish Radio Board
2000 - Commander’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta
2002 – Gold Medal of Artur Rubinstein Foundation
2006 – Officer’s Cross of Merit for Republic of Italy
2015 - French Légion d'Honneur.
Antoni Wit has conducted in many major traditional and contemporary music institutions. He has performed with the Berliner Philharmoniker, Philharmonia Orchestra London, Staatskapelle Dresden, Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra del Teatro Verdi (Trieste), RAI (Roma, Milano, Torino), La Fenice Orchestra (Venezia), Teatro di Genova, Teatro Comunale di Bologna, RSO Berlin, WDR Köln, SDR Stuttgart, NDR Hamburg, Orchester der Beethovenhalle (Bonn), Dresdner Philharmonie, Tampere Philharmonic, Tivoli Symfoniorkester (Kopenhaga), Malmö Symfoni Orkester, Radio Filharmonisch Orkest (Hilversum), Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra London, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, The London Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra Philharmonique de Strasbourg, Opéra de Marseille, Zagreb Philharmonic, Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia (Roma), Orquestra Ciutat de Barcelona, Orquesta Nacional de España, Orquesta Sinfónica del Principado de Asturias, Orquesta Sinfónica de Bilbao, Istanbul State Symphony Orchestra, Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, Kyoto Symphony Orchestra, Tonkünstlerorchester in Wien, Orchestre National de Belgique, Orquesta Nacional de México, Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, Bergen Philharmonic, Radio Symfonie de Asturias, Orquesta Sinfónica de Tenerife, Kansai Philharmonic (Osaka), Bamberger Symphoniker, National Symphony Orchestra (Dublin), Budapest Festival Orchestra, Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal, Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg, MDR - Sinfonieorchester Leipzig.
Author: Małgorzata Kosińska, Polish Music Information Centre, Polish Composers‘ Union, February 2002, update: October 2009, April 2014 (fl), translated by W.O., 23.04.2014
Source: Polish Music Information Center, Polish Composers' Association, February 2002. Updated April 2014.