Bringing Worlds Together

1 October 2022

All our ideas germinate and blossom, say Agata Grabowiecka and Katarzyna Tomala-Jedynak, directors of Sinfonietta Cracovia.

Barbara Skowrońska: You took over as leaders of the ensemble in September. What kind of repertoire can we expect from you? Will the Sinfonietta become a woman?
Agata Grabowiecka:
I recently met a local councillor. She said she can’t quite believe that in Kraków, of all places, two women have taken the reins of such a prestigious orchestra – that it’s a real milestone in the history of our city [laughs].
Katarzyna Tomala-Jedynak: I’m delighted that we are helping to break down stereotypes!

Can we expect revolutionary changes to the programme?
I think it will be more of an evolution than a revolution. We certainly want to expand our repertoire – the literature for string ensembles isn’t as extensive as symphonic or operatic music, so we will be seeking out new scores. In terms of genres, we will be focusing on recent music as well as film music – which, after all, is also new. I don’t want film music to be seen as simple entertainment – it has high artistic value. We will be working with composers who write music for the big screen as well as for concert halls – we want to bring these worlds together.
The classical canon remains very important to us; it’s one of the Sinfonietta’s strengths and we have no intentions of straying away from it. As a great fan of opera, I will also try to smuggle some of this music into our repertoire.
A.G.: I’d like to add that we not only have plans but that we've already been successful: so far every idea Kasia and I have had has germinated and blossomed.

Like the Espresso Concerts?
Exactly! These low-key meetings held at different branches of the National Museum in Krakow have proven extremely popular: tickets sell out quickly, and our musicians get an opportunity to perform solo. We are also preparing something very special together with the National Museum: in October, the Sinfonietta will perform on the roof of the Cloth Hall! We hope the light, classical repertoire will attract tourists and passers-by who happen to be at the Main Market Square.
Our other idea is commissioning new music. In October, ICE Kraków will host a world premiere of a brand new composition by Janek Stokłosa, perhaps best known from his latest album of contemporary songs recorded with Miuosh and the Śląsk folk song and dance ensemble. We asked him to compose something special for the Sinfonietta. It will include variations on folk themes – regional motifs from different parts of Poland reimagined in a contemporary, string form. The programme will include soloists from the pop world, including Sebastian Karpiel-Bułecka on bagpipes.

Let’s get back to film music, which is going to play an important role in the orchestra’s plans.
We want to reach out to new audiences and bring in new fans. Let me give our plans for November as an example. We will hear the acclaimed soloist Radosław Kurek performing one of Mozart’s piano concertos. The special guest will be Patrick Doyle, author of soundtracks of the Harry Potter films and composer of contemporary music – he recently penned a fantasia for piano. We hope people who know his works from the cinema will come along to the concert, and perhaps hear Mozart’s music performed live for the first time in their lives.
But we aren’t focusing on just one group. We will continue the flagship cycle Stars with the Sinfonietta, and we want to launch new projects, such as a cycle of concerts for young people, and Sinfonietta Nova prepared together with Łaźnia Nowa in Nowa Huta featuring contemporary music which will sound perfect in the industrial space of the theatre. The first featured composer will be Adam Bałdych: we will play his Concerto galante which he performed recently with a chamber orchestra in Stuttgart – join us on 24 November. We are also planning a concert with Teoniki Rożynek – she flirts with cinema, but she mainly composes contemporary music. We are still in negotiation with the cellist Hildur Guðnadóttir, winner of an Oscar for the soundtrack to Joker and acclaimed contemporary composer at the same time.

The Sinfonietta has always been much admired for performing works by Krzysztof Penderecki. Will his music remain in the orchestra’s focus, and are you going to be playing music by other Polish composers?
Not just Polish, but Cracovian composers! Daniel Cichy, director of the PWM music publishing house and member of our Artistic and Programme Board, has presented us with a long list of works for string orchestras by composers who had lived or currently live in Kraków. We will intertwine their works into our concert cycles. We also want to work with young artists – I am particularly interested in Ewa Fabiańska-Jelińska.
A.G.: I see promoting this music as our mission – something written in the Sinfonietta’s DNA. This is what gave us the idea for the Sinfonietta Nova cycle introducing the latest music, which is often not the most accessible. At the same time we are absolutely not straying away from our heritage, having become the city’s municipal orchestra largely thanks to the support of Prof. Penderecki and his wife. It’s especially important to cultivate this heritage now, since Prof. Penderecki’s passing.

The September concert launching the new season featured Daniel Stabrawa, who recently joined the Artistic and Programme Board of the Sinfonietta. Does that mean that we’ll be able to hear this wonderful violinist more frequently in Kraków? What other soloists is the orchestra hoping to work with?
We certainly hope so – Daniel is a fantastic soloists and an acclaimed conductor, so we will certainly invite him to lead concerts for us. At the start of the season, we heard another “Berliner” [member of the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra – ed.] and Cracovian resident – Ignacy Miecznikowski.
A.G.: Kasia prepared a great programme in general: there was film music, there was solo and chamber music – and of course there was Penderecki. Therefore, the concert was a promise of what’s to come this season.
K.T.J.: As well as the “Berliners”, we will also welcome rising stars of the European music scene. On 5 October, the Sinfonietta will be joined by Zosia Neugebauer – an incredibly talented Polish flautist working in Zurich. Don’t miss it!

Agata Grabowiecka
Cultural manager with many years’ experience in organising music projects at home and abroad. She worked with the Krakow Festival Office since 2009, where she was in charge of the music department responsible for organising major symphonic concerts and flagship festivals of the City of Kraków. Member of the World Soundtrack Academy, and director of the Sinfonietta Cracovia since 2021.

Katarzyna Tomala-Jedynak
Conductor, working with the Poznań Grand Theatre since 2015. Winner of the prestigious Dartington International Summer School (2017) programme and winner of the Jan Kiepura Theatre Music Awards for best conductor in 2021. Artistic Director and First Conductor of the Sinfonietta Cracovia since September 2022.

Photo by Edyta Dufaj

The interview was published in the 3/2022 issue of the “Kraków Culture” quarterly.



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