The search for the new music director and principal conductor of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO) has come to a close as the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) announces Polish conductor Maestro Grzegorz Nowak will assume the management of the country’s leading orchestra.
The Polish conductor takes over from Maestro Yoshikazu Fukumura, who concluded his tenure in 2021.
After the Japanese conductor left, the CCP began the search in 2022, forming a search committee to screen candidates for the position. Both CCP and PPO were looking for a music director who exemplifies solid musicianship, a strong sense of leadership, artistic discipline and respect for peers, extensive program repertoire, and orchestral rapport.
The PPO’s 38th concert season served as the battleground for the five shortlisted conductors, who all have the potential to lead the premiere orchestra company to greater heights and provide an uplifting classical music experience to Filipino audiences.
Maestro Nowak took the baton for the second concert of the series, dated October 7, 2022, at the CCP Main Theater. The Maestro conducted the PPO as they performed masterpieces by National Artist Lucio San Pedro, Peter Illich Tchaikovsky, and Igor Stravinsky, featuring young violinist Vincent Owen Romanban as a soloist on Felix Mendelssohn’s “Violin Concerto, Op. 64, E minor.”
As the new music director, Maestro Nowak will be responsible for the preparation and implementation of the PPO’s thrusts, programs, concert season, training of musicians, and other related activities. He is expected to conduct at least 10 to 12 performances per year, including the regular PPO season, outreach tours, the Young People’s Concert Series, and other special events of CCP. He will also be in charge of a development program for the PPO members and ensure that the level of musicianship and artistic quality meets the highest standard.
A much-sought-after conductor with a long career in opera and concerts, Maestro Nowak was a highly-esteemed principal associate conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London. He was the music director of the Polish National Opera in Warsaw, Poland, from 2017 to 2020, and other orchestras in Poland, Germany, Switzerland, and the USA. For years, he was able to record orchestral music in over 80 CDs that have received awards and 5-star ratings.
In his early days, he studied conducting, composition, and violin at the Ignacy Jan Paderewski Academy of Music in Poznan, Poland, before receiving his doctorate degree at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. He obtained a Serge Koussevitsky Fellowship at Tanglewood, where he later became Kurt Masur’s assistant. He was able to conduct various prestigious orchestras, including London Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestre National de France, and the Hong Kong Philharmonic.
Nowak’s career was propelled to the international level after he won the prestigious Ernest Ansermet Conducting Competition in Geneva. He bagged all the special awards, including the Grand Prix Patek Philippe, the Rolex Prize, the Swiss Prize, and the American Patronage Prize. Since then, he has conducted the world’s finest orchestras and served as Music Director for Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, SWR Radio Orchestra in Germany, Sinfonia Helvetica in Switzerland, and the Musique et Amitié Festival.
Nowak has worked with and performed with many of today’s most renowned soloists, including Martha Argerich, Yefim Bronfman, Nigel Kennedy, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Mstislav Rostropovich, Gil Shaham, and Krystian Zimerman, as well as singers Janet Baker, Kathleen Battle, Marilyn Horne, Gwyneth Jones, Sherrill Milnes, and Anja Silja.
At his concerts, he was hailed as an outstanding and brilliant conductor who always left the audience in awe every time he conducted. Los Angeles Times celebrated the brilliance and depth that Nowak elicited from the orchestra. He’s known for conducting “a brilliant and very musical performance full of color, sensibility and high precision.”
Catch Maestro Nowak for his first concert with the PPO, kicking off the 39th concert season, on September 15, 2023, at 7:30pm, at Samsung Performing Arts Theater in Circuit, Makati. The Philippine’s leading orchestra will be performing French composer Hector Berlioz’s Roman Carnival, Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto, with guest performer pianist Mark Beddington, and Italian composer Ottorino Respighi’s Pini di Roma.
Tickets will be available at CCP Blackbox Theater Box Office and at TicketWorld. Visit the CCP website (www.culturalcenter.gov.ph) for more information. Follow the official CCP and PPO social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok for the latest updates.