The musical heart of Wrocław
Od 2015

The Witold Lutosławski National Forum of Music is an institution founded in 2014 as a result of the merger of the International Festival Wratislavia Cantans and the Wrocław Philharmonic.

Andrzej Kosendiak is one of the initiators of the creation of the NFM, and currently serves as its Director. After years of constructing the huge venue and organising a modern cultural organization, music was heard for the first time at the NFM on 4 September 2015. The performers included Wrocław ensembles which found their home and conditions for artistic development in this extraordinary facility. Since then, millions of listeners have taken part in concerts at the NFM and thousands of artists from Poland and abroad have performed.

The NFM, whose architecture serves music and is at the same time beautiful and timeless, is one    the biggest and most acclaimed concert venues in the world. There are four concert halls: the Main Hall for 1,800 people and three chamber halls, as well as a restaurant, conference and office rooms and an exhibition space. Located in the centre of Wrocław, the venue fits into the historical fabric of the city full of historic buildings. The NFM is located in on today's Wolności Square, the former Royal Forum, a place of state and military celebrations, where the construction of an Arts Forum was planned in the 19th century. The square is teeming with life, it is an ideal space for organizing outdoor events, a favorite place for roller skaters, skateboarders and even dancers.

In 2002, we met with my friend, composer Zbyszek Karnecki, to prepare comments on the election programme of Rafał Dutkiewicz, who ran in 2002 for the mayor of Wrocław. We reviewed the list of plans in the field of culture and included the construction of a new concert hall, because many generations of Wrocław residents had dreamed that Wrocław would have a venue adequate to the importance of the city. (...) I met the mayor of the city in his office. Rafał Dutkiewicz has a habit of writing down the topics of the talks on a piece of paper. I can see that there is a "concert hall" among the notes. The president says: “Okay, maybe we'll try to get down to it. Do you know how to do it so that we have the best concert hall in the world?” A moment of silence ensued. "I have no idea, but I'll try to find out, reach out to people who know," I replied. “Then do it”.
Andrzej Kosendiak, Director of the NFM

The establishment of the NFM has become a catalyst for changes in the artistic life of the capital of Lower Silesia. The size of the building and its equipment make the possibilities of implementing various ideas and artistic projects almost unlimited. Among the various events, everyone will find something for themselves. In the activities of the NFM, the most important thing is to share emotions and values in order to inspire through art and enable everyone to participate in culture.
On the tram and on the street, time and again I met people talking about the fact that they were carpenters, foremen at the NFM construction site – they were proud to work there. They were happy because everything they did here was prototype. They were proud to contribute to the creation of this facility.
Andrzej Kosendiak, Director of the NFM

The NFM is built to please the eye and ear. The architectural design by an outstanding Polish architect, Stefan Kuryłowicz, was inspired by music. The shape of the venue and the finish of the facade bring to mind a string instrument, and the black walls of the foyer and white stairs refer to a piano keyboard. Horizontal divisions in the Main Foyer, as well as on the outer walls of the building, are associated with the characteristic architecture of Wrocław. When designing the interior, Kuryłowicz’s studio collaborated with Artec Consultants Inc (Arup) from New York, because before the architects started working, an acoustic design was created. The acousticians determined the size, shape and finishing of the four concert halls, as well as their technical parameters and the use of systems that enable the space to be adjusted to different types of music. They also suggested solutions for the construction of air conditioning or the arrangement of sewage pipes – all so that nothing would disturb the silence in the halls. The prepared guidelines have become a key element of the architectural design. Tateo Nakajima, the author of the NFM acoustic design, admitted that: “Halls with adjustable acoustics are like canvases. We can easily adjust the dimensions to the miniature portrait and to the epic landscape. It is equally easy to predict what acoustics symphonic and chamber music needs. Canvases need to be properly primed. We know very well that early music has a different texture than the works of Wagner, and Szymanowski's works – yet another.”

Concert halls
NFM and its four halls will complement the wealth of Wrocław’s heritage and give the music a chance to sound in ideal conditions.
Andrzej Kosendiak, Director of the NFM

The heart of NFM is the Main Hall. It hosts concerts of world-famous orchestras such as the Berliner Philharmoniker, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Wiener Philharmoniker, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, or the National Symphony Orchestra, prominent soloists, incl. Lang Lang, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Midori, Bomsori Kim, Piotr Anderszewski and Janusz Wawrowski, and the best conductors, such as Sir Simon Rattle, Antonio Pappano, Christoph Eschenbach, Semyon Bychkov, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Paul McCreesh, Giancarlo Guerrero, Jacek Kaspszyk, and Andrzej Boreyko, who attract large audiences not only from Wrocław, but also from all over the world. The most prominent musicians have commented on their stay at the NFM:

“This hall has wonderful acoustics. I remember Kurt Masur’s words from the rehearsal before the concert with the New York Philharmonic. We were preparing the Beethoven Concerto then and not everything was going as we wanted. We couldn't get the chamber music sound as we wanted. Kurt Masur stopped playing and turned to the orchestra: friends, let it fly. We have been playing with Lambert Orkis for thirty years, we have had a great time in the Wrocław Main Hall of the National Forum of Music. This hall allows you to bring out every colour, every tone, dynamics of a sound that is never forced, harsh, never bland. On the contrary, here the sound is constantly teeming with life and it is never exaggerated either. It is a real Stradivarius among concert halls, I can only congratulate you.”
Anne-Sophie Mutter, violinist

“The National Forum of Music in Wrocław, in my opinion, has excellent acoustics for the symphonic repertoire we performed in September 2015. The stage is of the right size and the musicians can hear each other well. I think it is a very successful cultural facility! "
Zubin Mehta, conductor

“I liked this hall very much. For the sound, the atmosphere, for the contact with the audience that is immediately established here. It is also worth appreciating how the building corresponds to the buildings in this part of the city. I have very positive memories. As I said right after the concert: the inhabitants of Wrocław should feel lucky that they have such a concert hall in the middle of the city, it is a hall that will be enjoyed by many, many generations. It is already known that the National Forum of Music changed the fate of music in Wrocław, Poland. […] Yes, you are lucky.”
Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor

"The main hall of the National Forum of Music is one of the best concert halls in the world."
Lang Lang, pianist

“Wrocław has one of the best concert halls in Europe and we are very happy that we can perform there. Lucky city! We hope to come back here often.”
Sir Simon Rattle, conductor

Have a look at the venue during a virtual walk available on the NFM website.

Over the years, I had got used to presenting what we were doing in Wrocław. The NFM was just being constructed, there were only my assurances that the hall would be the best, and the imagination of the recipients of these words. It turned out that our emotions and determination inspired many people.
Andrzej Kosendiak, Director of the NFM

All halls and other spaces at the NFM have been designed in such a way as to be multifunctional: they enable the organisation of artistic events in the first place, but also multimedia projections, banquets and various events. Each of the chamber halls, due to the different size and colours, creates a different atmosphere and conditions for receiving music. Various concerts take place there, and each of them requires an adequate acoustic environment. It is adjusted with the use of curtains, which, when pulled over, dampen the sound, while opening them increases the reverberation and sharpness of the sound. In the chamber rooms, numerous classes and educational workshops for children and adolescents are also organized by the NFM Education Centre, which has a wide offer for various age groups, including the yet unborn babies in the form of the Mammy, Daddy Sing to Me campaign. Nice atmosphere and safe environment, competent and friendly professionals, company of other children – all this makes the young participants learn through fun and games. In many ways, the NFM supports the development of school and kindergarten choirs through the Singing Poland programme operating as part of the Choral Academy and enables the development of passion for music among singing enthusiasts thanks to the Music Lovers’ Choir and the Family Choir.

Resident ensembles
Music must be shared! Performers cannot close themselves in their own circle and practice art for art’s sake. And that’s why we built the NFM.
Andrzej Kosendiak, Director of the NFM

In total, thirteen ensembles: orchestras, chamber groups and choirs develop under the aegis of the National Forum of Music, and others are invited to cooperate. The most important of the resident ensembles is the NFM Wrocław Philharmonic. It collaborates with a group of recognized guest artists, and since the 2017/2018 season its artistic director has been a multiple Grammy Award winner – Giancarlo Guerrero. In the 2020/2021 season, the orchestra celebrated its 75th anniversary – it was established in 1945. In 2015, upon the opening of the NFM, it adopted the name of the NFM Wrocław Philharmonic. The NFM Leopoldinum Orchestra, which has achieved a high position on the stage of classical music in over forty years of operation, is a string orchestra. Since 1 September 2017, its Artistic Director has been an acclaimed violinist and conductor Joseph Swensen. The NFM Choir, founded by Andrzej Kosendiak, was established in 2006. It was managed by Agnieszka Franków-Żelazny, and since the 2021/2022 season Lionel Sow has been Artistic Director. The choir quickly gained recognition, performing both a cappella repertoire and large oratorio, opera and symphonic forms. It has collaborated with eminent conductors, has performed at over three hundred concerts in Poland and around the world, and has also been invited to numerous international festivals. In 2006, Andrzej Kosendiak founded Wrocław Baroque Orchestra. It is one of few period orchestras in Poland being resident ensembles of philharmonics. During each season at the NFM, the ensemble presents its own series of concerts, which is warmly received by the audience. From the very beginning, the WBO’s Artistic Director has been the cellist Jarosław Thiel. Wrocław Baroque Ensemble is another group specialising in historical performance, focusing on discovering a rarely presented repertoire from Central Europe. It mainly performs the music of the Polish Renaissance and Baroque – from chamber compositions to oratorio and cantata works. It was established in 2012 on the initiative of Andrzej Kosendiak and operates under his artistic direction. The core of the group consists of excellent instrumentalists and singers from European countries. The NFM is also home to the West Side Sinfonietta, the NFM Girls' Choir, the NFM Boys' Choir, the Lutosławski Quartet, LutosAir Quintet, the Polish Cello Quartet, the NFM Leopoldinum String Trio and the NFM Ensemble.

From the very beginning, it was not only about building the venue, but also about changing the cultural life of Wrocław. The NFM was supposed to be a catalyst for these changes. New ensembles, festivals, conductors, soloists, new music schools, extensive educational programmes. All of this has already happened in Wrocław. We have a beautiful building with a sound of extraordinary beauty. A unique space for musical beauty. The venue will last for generations, everything else is very fragile. But after all, volatility and constant changeability give flavour to life.
Andrzej Kosendiak, Director of the NFM

At the NFM, you can share the passion for music during seven festivals, to which the most important artists from around the world are invited, presenting classical, early, ethnic, contemporary, electronic music, alongside jazz, opera, dance and interdisciplinary projects. The International Festival Wratislavia Cantans is one of the most important events in Europe popularizing classical music. As an oratorio and cantata festival, it focuses on presenting the beauty of the human voice, which fills not only the halls of the National Forum of Music, but also the historical interiors of Wrocław and Lower Silesia. In recent years, Wratislavia Cantans has been visited by, among others, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Zubin Mehta with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Philippe Herreweghe, Giovanni Antonini, Paul McCreesh, Julia Lezhneva, Philippe Jaroussky, Jordi Savall and ensembles such as Collegium Vocale Gent, Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, Gabrieli Consort & Players, Il Giardino Armonico or English Baroque Soloists.

The festival’s Artistic Director, Giovanni Antonini, when asked about his impressions of playing at the NFM, said: “I consider the Main Hall of the National Music Forum to be one of the best concert halls in Europe. When I talk about it during my visits to different countries, I can see that musicians and managers already know the NFM. Many new concert halls have been built in recent years, but not all are so successful. Whereas the NFM is not only a beautiful building – its acoustics are memorable. I am very happy with the albums I recorded here. The hall has a beautiful, natural sound and all the sound engineers who worked with me recordings were impressed with the acoustics and didn't really have much to do. "

The Jazztopad Festival presents premieres of works commissioned by famous improvisers and music from distant parts of the world (including Korea, Turkey, India and Japan); there are also concerts in private apartments, as well as educational events. Special projects for this festival have been prepared by, among others Charles Lloyd, Wayne Shorter, Vijay Iyer, Kenny Wheeler, and Wadada Leo Smith. It also has its iteration in New York.

Held every two years, the Musica Electronica Nova festival presents new forms of expression in contemporary music, including electronics and new media, and projects that combine music with other arts, such as dance, cinema and visual arts. The festival promotes international artists and Polish musicians and composers. For a week, Wrocław becomes a melting pot of cultures and a place of creative exchange. The Artistic Director of Musica Electronica Nova is the composer Pierre Jodlowski. The other festival devoted to contemporary music is Musica Polonica Nova, which has been organized for over half a century now. The programme abounding in premieres (mainly of works commissioned by the National Forum of Music) presents the latest trends in music and compositions important for the development of Polish art in the 20th and 21st centuries. Score pieces prevail, although there are also improvised ones; electronics and new media play an increasingly important role in the repertoire. The festival, whose Artistic Director is the composer Paweł Hendrich, refers to the reality that surrounds us, redefines what music is, and sets new paths for creative work. Both festivals are organized in cooperation with the Polish Composers' Union, and the selection of the repertoire is approved by a specially selected programme council. NFM also organises: Leo Festival, Forum Musicum and Early Music Academies.

In 2020, the construction of a pipe organ was completed, and the long-awaited new instrument was inaugurated during a concert in the Main Hall. The symphonic organ allows to expand the repertoire by programming works for organ and orchestra, organ recitals and silent film screenings with organ improvisations. The organ has 4700 pipes and was designed and made by organ builders from the Orgelbau Klais studio in Bonn, which boasts over a hundred years of tradition and experience. With its rich sound, it perfectly matches the excellent acoustics of the Main Hall.

Recording projects and releases
I remember the first sounds that we heard at the NFM – it was during the first rehearsal – a great, beautiful sound. We knew that this was what we had been aiming to achieve for over a dozen years, and that it was one of the best halls in the world.
Andrzej Kosendiak, Director of the NFM

The recording projects carried out by the NFM are appreciated not only by music lovers, but also by critics, as evidenced by numerous national and international awards. In 2022 alone, albums published by the NFM received four nominations for the most important music award in Poland – Fryderyk, and the album Paweł Mykietyn – Concerto for Cello and Symphony Orchestra, Hommage à Oskar Dawicki was awarded in the Album of the Year – Contemporary Music category. In earlier years, among others The NFM Choir and Wrocław Baroque Orchestra each received a Fryderyk 2019 (Album of the Year – Choral, Oratorio and Opera Music), and the albums A.M. Bononcini: La decollazione di San Giovanni Battista with Wrocław Baroque Orchestra and Mikołaj Zieleński: Offertoria et communiones totius anni with Wrocław Baroque Ensemble – both recorded under the baton of NFM Director Andrej Kosendiak – were nominated in the Baroque Vocal category for the International Classical Music Awards in 2020 and 2021. A recording with Zieleński's compositions was awarded a Fryderyk 2021 (Album of the Year – Early Music). Artists such as Sir John Elliot Gardiner, Jordi Savall, Paul McCreesh and Giovanni Antonini appreciated the acoustics of the Main Hall so much that they decided to produce their recordings here. Deutsche Grammophon released an album with Bomsori Kim and the NFM Wrocław Philharmonic recorded at the NFM.

Before you enter the NFM, your attention is drawn to the Walk of Fame with plaques including signatures of notable musicians associated with Wrocław: Christoph Eschenbach, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Zubin Mehta, Stanisław Skrowaczewski, Charles Lloyd, Wayne Shorter, Krzysztof Jakowicz, Jacek Kaspszyk, and Krzysztof Penderecki. In the vicinity of the National Forum of Music, you can also find dwarf figurines well-known in Wrocław – an orchestra of small players commemorates the first post-war concert in Wrocław, which took place on 29 June 1945 in the ruins of the city destroyed by the war. On Plac Wolności, there is also a sculpture designed by Theodor von Gosen, cast by Stanisław Wysocki and Michał Wysocki, and it shows the head of Orpheus, who, according to Greek mythology, was the greatest of singers, a musician and poet. All these projects were initiated by Andrzej Kosendiak.
Exhibitions of sculptures, ceramics, graphics and paintings are regularly presented in the foyer. The NFM cooperates with renowned institutions and art galleries, such as the Centre of Polish Sculpture in Orońsko, Zachęta – National Gallery of Art or the Wrocław Academy of Fine Arts and organises solo and collective exhibitions of various artists.

NFM is a place where we want to enjoy music, dreams and passions together.
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