The first Polish orchestra in Wrocław after World War II was established just after the downfall of the Festung Breslau by musicians coming to settle down in Wrocław from various parts of Poland. In the ruined city, the artists established themselves as an ensemble under the direction of Stefan Syryłło. The rehearsals began in the spring of 1945, and the first concert took place on 29 June 1945, opening solemnly with Chopin’s Polonaise in A major.
On 7 August the orchestra inaugurated the first regular concert season. Top-tier Polish artists were invited to guest perform in Wrocław, and among them Ewa Bandrowska-Turska, Zbigniew Drzewiecki, Henryk Sztompka, Irena Dubiska and Eugenia Umińska. Syryłło announced the orchestra on bills and in formal correspondence as ‘the Philharmonic’ although no one had officially designated the orchestra this way. Yet the orchestra went down in the history of Wrocław concert life as ‘the first Philharmonic’. In the 1946/1947 season Stanisław Skrowaczewski was appointed associate conductor of the Philharmonic.
At the outset of the 1946/1948 season Kazimierz Wiłkomirski took over as director, continuing to invite the outstanding Polish soloists and beginning collaborations with international artists, such as Rafael Kubelík and Václav Smetáček (conductors), Daniel Shafran (cello), Pavel Serebryakov (piano), and Paul Robeson (bass). From the start the orchestra functioned not only as a philharmonic but also as an opera orchestra, however when in 1949 Wrocław Opera became a state institution, the orchestra became an opera-only ensemble and from 1949-1953 a philharmonic orchestra was sadly missing from Wrocław’s cultural life.
In the early 1950s Wrocławians began to express their craving for a symphony orchestra more and more vocally. On 27 December 1953 a memorandum on the establishment of the Lower Silesian Workers’ Philharmonic to celebrate the II Congress of Polish United Workers’ Party was submitted to the National Council of the City of Wrocław, signed by Antoni Stanisławczyk (chief of Song and Dance Company of Wrocław Military Unit), conductor Radomir Reszke and Wojciech Dzieduszycki representing the Chopin Society. The signatories resolved to create a symphony orchestra engaging local musicians, to perform with the best soloists and conductors, giving concerts in various places (Wrocław Polytechnic, Wrocław Opera, Śląsk Cinema as well as factory halls and culture centres). The letter ended with the information that the orchestra’s rehearsals had already begun. January 1954 saw the establishment of the Wrocław Symphony Orchestra Artistic Council, and Józef Lasocki, the then rector of the State Superior Music School in Wrocław, was appointed general and artistic director. Adam Kopyciński became principal conductor and Radomir Reszke – associate conductor. The orchestra’s office was located in the cellars of the State Superior Music Schools, its rehearsals were held in the School’s Aula, and for a dozen years or so the concert venue was the Aula of Wrocław Polytechnic. As early as 1954 the musicians formed a string quartet, the first in the long line of chamber ensembles engaging the Wrocław Phiharmonic players. In 1956 the first Symphonic Matinée for young people was presented, and in 1958 the orchestra hosted the first jazz concert. On 1 August 1958 the orchestra was given the status of state institution of culture and renamed the State Philharmonic in Wrocław. Adam Kopyciński took over as general and artistic director in addition to working as principal conductor. The Philharmonic was granted office space and a rehearsal room on the first floor of the building in ul. Pawła Włodkowica 5.
From 1961-63 Radomir Reszke was artistic director and principal conductor of the Philharmonic. In partnership with the Polish Composers Union the Philharmonic organized the Festival of Music by Composers of Western Territories to take place at irregular intervals (annually, or every two or four years). The festival has continued to present contemporary Polish music to date, and is nowadays known as Musica Polonica Nova. In 1961 an oratorio choir was incorporated, presenting oratorios with the Philharmonic Orchestra for the following seven years.
Włodzimiesz Ormicki succeeded Radomir Reszke, directing the Philharmonic for the following two years. 1965 saw a few months’ vacancy in the post of general director, and the Philharmonic’s associate conductor Tadeusz Strugała managed the institution. The new general director Andrzej Markowski initiated the Oratorio-Cantata Festival ‘Wratislavia Cantans’ and persuaded the authorities to build a new venue for the Philharmonic in Piłsudskiego Street. In 1966, on the occasion of Poland’s Millennium, Markowski founded the Chamber Choir Cantores Minores Wratislavienses, and Edmund Kajdasz became choirmaster. Andrzej Markowski stepped down as the Philharmonic’s director in 1968, continuing to manage Wratislavia Cantans until 1977. The Philharmonic’s associate conductor Tadeusz Strugała took over as director for another 10 years, and one of his achievements was championing the Leopoldinum Chamber Ochestra founded by a group of the Philharmonic musicians.
In 1980 Marek Pijarowski became general and artistic director, and his tenure lasted 21 years. In 1994 the Wrocław Philharmonic was named after Witold Lutosławski. In 1999 it became an institution of culture of Lower Silesian province. In 2001 Lidia Geringer d’Oedenberg was appointed general director, and Mariusz Smolij became artistic director. He is remembered in Wrocław for initiating Family Concerts, hugely popular until today. In the 2004/2005 season Jan Latham-Koening was artistic director of the Wrocław Philharmonic.
In 2005 Andrzej Kosendiak became general director of the Philharmonic. Since 2006 the Philharmonic has been co-financed by the Lower Silesian Province, the City of Wrocław and the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. Kosendiak created new ensembles: Wrocław Baroque Orchestra, the Choir and the Boys’ Choir, in addition to launching new festivals: Singing Europe and Leo Festival as well as education projects: Singing Wrocław, Singing Poland, and Mummy, Daddy Sing to Me. Upon his initiative Witold Lutosławski – Opera Omnia recording series was initiated, whose aim is to release the complete works of Lutosławski. Andrzej Kosendiak is among the proponents of the new venue of the National Forum of Music. In 2014 he effected the merger of the Wrocław Philharmonic and International Festival Wratislavia Cantans.