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The PNRSO is an ambassador representing Polish culture on the international artistic scene. The Orchestra cooperated with some of the greatest composers of the second half of the 20th century: Witold Lutosławski, Henryk Mikołaj Górecki and Krzysztof Penderecki, presenting first performances of their works.

The PNRSO was created in 1935 in Warsaw by Grzegorz Fitelberg who led it until the outbreak of World War II. In 1945, the orchestra was revived in Katowice by Witold Rowicki. In 1947, the post of the artistic director was taken over again by Fitelberg.

After his death in 1953, the orchestra was headed in succession by Jan Krenz, Bohdan Wodiczko, Kazimierz Kord, Tadeusz Strugała, Jerzy Maksymiuk, Stanisław Wisłocki, Jacek Kaspszyk, Antoni Wit, Gabriel Chmura and, once again, Jacek Kaspszyk. In September 2000, Joanna Wnuk-Nazarowa was appointed the General and Programme Director. In January 2009 Michał Klauza became the Associate Conductor. Stanisław Skrowaczewski holds the title of the first Guest Conductor of the PNRSO, Jan Krenz is Honorary Director and the function of Artistic Advisor is fulfilled by Jerzy Semkow. At the beginning of the season 2012/13, Alexander Liebreich became the Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the PNRSO.

Apart from making archival recordings for the Polish Radio, the Orchestra recorded more than 200 CD albums for many renowned record companies including Decca, EMI, Philips, Chandos, and Naxos. The PNRSO was honoured with numerous awards for its recording achievements, including Diapason d’Or and Grand Prix du Disque de la Nouvelle Académie du Disque, Cannes Classical Award, and MIDEM Classical Award.

Many renowned conductors and soloists have performed with the PNRSO, notably Martha Argerich, Leonard Bernstein, Rudolf Buchbinder, James Conlon, Plácido Domingo, Pierre Fournier, Nicolai Gedda, Barbara Hendricks, Julius Katchen, Leonidas Kavakos, Wilhelm Kempff, Kevin Kenner, Paul Kletzki, Kirill Kondrashin, Marguerite Long, Witold Lutosławski, Charles Mackerras, Misha Maisky, Neville Marriner, Kurt Masur, Shlomo Mintz, Ivan Monighetti, Garrick Ohlsson, Kun Woo Paik, Krzysztof Penderecki, Maurizio Pollini, Hermann Prey, Ruggiero Ricci, Mstislav Rostropovich, Artur Rubinstein, Jerzy Semkow, En Shao, Stanisław Skrowaczewski, Isaac Stern, Henryk Szeryng, Yan Pascal Tortelier, Pieter Wispelwey, Krystian Zimerman, and Nicolai Znaider.

The Orchestra has performed in nearly all European countries, the Americas, as well as in Japan, Hong Kong, China, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Taiwan and in the Persian Gulf countries. In recent years, the PNRSO implemented some spectacular projects which were very well received by the audience and reviewers (The Marathon of Górecki’s Works, The Liking to Kilar’s Music, Musical Voyage – two editions, The Górecki•Penderecki Festival – in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the composers). Since 2005, the PNRSO has organised a biannual event called The Festival of World Premieres – Polish Modern Music.