Chór Filharmonii Narodowej / The Choir of the National Philharmonic was formed in 1952 and Zbigniew Soja was appointed its director. The group made its first public appearance in May of 1953, conducted on that occasion by Witold Rowicki.
Subsequent musical directors of the choir included Roman Kuklewicz (1955-1971), Jozef Bok (1971-1974) and Antoni Szaliński (1974-1978). Henryk Wojnarowski was appointed choirmaster in 1978 and continues to occupy this position to this day.
The choir's vast repertoire encompasses over one hundred oratorios and a cappella works of various styles and eras - from the Middle Ages to contemporary times. The group mainly participates in the symphonic concerts and oratorios performed by the National Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra and additionally gives a cappella performances on its home stage. The choir appears at the National Philharmonic many times each season and regularly participates in the Międzynarodowy Festiwal Muzyki Współczesnej "Warszawska Jesień" / "Warsaw Autumn" International Contemporary Music Festival.
Polish works, especially those of Krzysztof Penderecki, occupy an especially important place in the choir's repertoire. The ensemble performs all of Penderecki's oratorios and works for a cappella choir, including his Polskie Requiem / Polish Requiem, Pasja wg św. Łukasza / Passion According to St. Luke, Te Deum, Jutrznia / Utrenja, Psalmy Dawida / Psalms of David, Dies irae, Veni Creator, Pieśń Cherubinów / Song of the Cherubs, Siedem bram Jerozolimy / Seven Gates of Jerusalem and Credo. Its repertoire also includes Penderecki's operatic work Raj Utracony / Paradise Lost.
The Choir performs on the stage of the National Philharmonic and presents elements of its repertoire in other cities, accompanied by local orchestras. This allows it to mount performances of great oratorios and cantatas in cities that do not possess their own professional choirs. The Choir also appears regularly at the "Wratislavia Cantans" Festival.
The Choir of the National Philharmonic is also very active on the international arena. Its successes on Europe's most important stages extend back to 1984. The group has performed with such renowned orchestras as the Munich Philharmonic, the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Rias Orchestra, the Bamberger Symphoniker, the Israel Philharmonic, the Symphony Orchestra of Jerusalem, the Symphony Orchestra of the Santa Cecilia Academy in Rome, the Orchestra of the Brussels Opera, the Palermo Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestra of Milan's La Scala.
One of the most important events in the choir's history involved its participation in performances of Franco Donatoni's opera Atem at Milan's La Scala. These first appearances by the choir on this operatic stage (1985) proved such a success that the choir was invited to perform once again at La Scala in 1989 (Weber's Oberon) and in 1990 (Beethoven's Fidelio). In 1986-1987 the choir featured in operatic productions at Venice's Teatro La Fenice (Stravinsky's Żywot rozpustnika / the Rake's Progress and Mozart's The Magic Flute) and participated in yet other opera performances in Paris in 1989 (Beethoven's Fidelio), in Palermo in 1992 and 1993 (Szymanowski's Król Roger / King Roger, Stravinsky's King Oedipus and Honnegger's Antigone) and in Pesaro in 1994 (Rossini's The Italian Girl in Algiers).
In 1988 and 1990, the Choir of the National Philharmonic appeared at the Vatican in celebration of anniversaries of the papacy of Pope John Paul II and numerous stations around Europe televised its concerts on these occasions.
The Choir of the National Philharmonic has performed under the direction of such Polish and foreign masters of the baton as Bohdan Wodiczko, Witold Rowicki, Jerzy Semkow, Kazimierz Kord, Jan Krenz, Stanisław Wisłocki, Jerzy Maksymiuk, Krzysztof Penderecki, Stanisław Skrowaczewski, Leopold Stokowski, Gary Bertini, Lorin Maazel, Seiji Ozawa, Igor Strawiński, Sergiu Comissiona and Giuseppe Sinopoli.
The Choir of the National Philharmonic has thus far given concerts in Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Greece, Spain, Spain, Iceland, Israel, Germany, Switzerland, Turkey, the Soviet Union and Italy.
At present, the choir is made up of one hundred singers.
Source: Polish Music Information Center, Polish Composers' Union, January 2002.