The Grzegorz Fitelberg International Competition for Conductors
The Grzegorz Fitelberg International Competition for Conductors is one of the most prestigious performance competitions in Poland, since 1982 belonging to the World Federation of International Music Competition in Geneva. It is addressed to artists younger than 39. Its renown and the prestige associated with winning any place on the podium open a path to a world carrier for young conductors. Since its very beginning, the Competition has been organised by the Silesian Philharmonic, which ever since the first years of its existence has been strongly connected with the figure of the patron of the competition. He was a regular on the stage of this institution, where he performed together with the Grand Symphony Orchestra of the Polish Radio. His ideas were implemented in the Philharmonic in Katowice with particular respect by its director of many years, Karol Stryja, Grzegorz Fitelberg’s student, the only one Fitelberg had ever prepared for the diploma.
After two all-Poland’s editions (1970 and 1974), on Fitelberg’s 100th birthday, the 1st International Competition for Conductors commemorating him was held, with Karol Stryja as his initiator. Ever since then, the Silesian Philharmonic has been an extremely important centre of educating and discovering new conducting talents. The mission of the event established in 1979 was – and still remains – not only to help the most talented conductors to begin their artistic careers and to open the doors of the world’s grandest concert halls to them, but also to popularise Polish music amongst contestants from abroad and music lovers who follow the course of the Competition. Promotion of the Polish cultural heritage beyond the borders of Poland constitutes the essence of the idea Fitelberg devoted almost his entire life to.
The Competition is accompanied by measures which contribute to commemorating its Patron – one of the most acclaimed Polish conductors. They comprise not only initiatives promoting the competition itself, but also publications, exhibitions, and studies resulting in monographs.
Since its very beginnings, the Grzegorz Fitelberg International Competition for Conductors has been attracting distinguished personalities. Such artists as Stanisław Wisłocki, Karol Stryja, Sir Charles Groves, Juozas Domarkas, Jan Krenz, Pierre Colombo, Marianne Granvig, Tadeusz Strugała, Stanisław Skrowaczewski, as well as winners in previous editions of the Competition, including Chikara Imamura, Michael Zilm, Mirosław Jacek Błaszczyk, Marek Pijarowski, Jerzy Salwarowski, Patrick Fournillier, Andreas Weiss, Victoria Zhadko, Tomasz Bugaj, Piotr Gajewski, Eugeniusz Knapik, Jorma Panula, and Ken Takaseki have sat on the jury of the competition. Over the years, the group of winners has included such names as Claus Peter Flor, Uri Mayer, Tadeusz Wojciechowski, Anton Zapf, Makoto Suehiro, Jin Wang, Shin-ik Hahm, Hidehiro Shindori, Achim Fiedler, Massimiliano Caldi, Tomáš Hanus, Charles Olivieri-Munroe, Stephen Ellery, Aleksandar Marković, Modestas Pitrenas, Marko Ivanović, Eugene Tzigane, Lin Chen, Sean Newhouse, Daniel Smith, Marzena Diakun, Azis Sadikovic,, as well as Su-Han Yang, Bar Avni, and Modestas Barkauskas, who triumphed at the 10th International Competition for Conductors.
The 1st-8th editions of the Competition were held every four years, the subsequent ones – every five years. The 11th edition of this prestigious event, on the other hand, has been planned six years after the previous one, that is in 2023, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Grzegorz Fitelberg’s death. The groundwork for the 11th edition was provided already in 2021, with the announcement of a grant from the budget of the Minister of Culture and National Heritage from the Culture Promotion Fund within the scheme of the programme “Music”, implemented by the National Institute of Music and Dance. Preparations to the 11th Grzegorz Fitelberg International Competition for Conductors comprise – without limitations – concerts, exhibitions, and masterclasses. Their goal is to revive the memory of Grzegorz Fitelberg, to promote Polish music, to search for new conducting talents, and to emphasise the role of the Silesian Philharmonic as the organiser of the Competition as an institution that really influences the shape of the world’s leading music scene.
Prize money is not the only thing awarded to the winners. There is a number of extra-statutory awards – invitations to prestigious international orchestras (such BBC Symphony Orchestra or Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi) and to the most prestigious Polish institutions to conduct concerts. Therefore, the role of the Competition is to assist the most distinguished conductors in starting their international careers and to discover young talents, who will soon delight audiences all over the world with their interpretations. One should not forget the immense educational mission guiding the event. Thanks to the Competition and the publicity it gets during each edition, the attention of communities involved in the world of arts focuses on the figure of the conductor. The impact of the conductor’s sensitivity, skills, and ability to get their interpretation across to the orchestra receives its due attention. The Grzegorz Fitelberg International Competition for Conductors always appoints a youth jury. This way, young art adepts are involved in this prestigious event already at the early stages of their music education, in the secondary school. Consequently, another generation aware of the immense role of the conductor comes into being. And sometimes, young people’s participation in the event becomes a stimulus for them to choose their major in the future.