Berlin Phil confirms Polish concertmaster

Berlin Phil confirms Polish concertmaster


norman lebrecht

October 14, 2020

Krzysztof Polonek today completed his probationary period as concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic.

His father, the violist Zdzisław Polonek, was also a member of the orchestra and his son’s first teacher.

Krzysztof Polonek joined the Berlin Philharmonic in 2009 after spells as concertmaster at Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Dresden Philharmonie and the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin. In February 2019, he won the audition to succeed Andreas Buschatz as concertmaster. He has now won early confirmation.



  • Anthony Sayer says:

    Clearly no slouch. Bravo.

  • Does it mean that the legend Daniel Stabrawa continues or not continues?

    • 5566hh says:

      He’s retiring very soon. There is a tribute concert on the Digital Concert Hall.

    • Axl says:

      Daniel Stabrawa is retiring 1st concertmaster. Mr. Plonek is (2nd) concertmaster. BPO is looking now successor for Stabrawa. Mr. Polonek’s predacessor was Andreas Buschatz who left to become 1st concertmaster of Gewandhaus orchestra

  • sam says:

    is it me or does Berlin turn over its concertmasters faster than it turns over its principal horns and trumpets? is tenure so tenuous and brutal in Berlin? are people so unhappy with the top job after fighting so hard to get it?

    • The Ghost of Karlos Cleiber says:

      They have four concertmasters, some of whom sometimes play on the front desk together.

      • Mike_T says:

        Historically, Germany has had problems when leadership roles are vested in one person, so spreading it around a bit is a safer bet…

        • The Concertgebouw and the Winer, the other two giants continue to do the same thing. You don t know Who will be the concertmaster they are two or three. La Scala do the same thing for la Filarmonica.

    • Fil says:

      The tenure process is pretty tough. Every member of the orchestra has to agree on any appointment unanimously. Some players leave to pursue solo endeavors, teaching positions, or simply for the sole reason of returning to their home countries. The pay is very good for the cost of living, and the workload is very evenly spread out among the players in any given section. Of course there is a greater deal of pressure on principal players.

    • MacroV says:

      Berlin has three First Concertmasters – Kashimoto, Bendix-Balgley, and Stabrawa. “Concertmaster” – Polonek’s position – is #4 after the three co-equal First Concertmasters. Basically an Associate Concertmaster in the U.S. system.

      Stabrawa has been there since 1986 (?), Kashimoto since 2009, and Bendix-Balgley since 2014. I would guess Stabrawa is close to retirement (but still plays wonderfully) so we may go through this again before too long.

      • Max Grimm says:

        Regarding Daniel Stabrawa, this season (2020/2021) is officially his last and application/audition dates for the resulting vacancy have already been announced:

        1. Konzertmeister*in (ab 2021/22)
        Pflichtstücke: Mozart. Konzert D-Dur KV 218 oder Konzert A-Dur KV 219; Violinkonzerte von Beethoven oder Brahms. Orchesterstellen werden mit der Einladung bekanntgegeben.

        Bewerbungsschluss: 29. April 2021
        Probespiel: 10./11. June 2021

        1st Concertmaster (starting 2021/22)
        Required pieces: Mozart. Konzert D-Dur KV 218 oder Konzert A-Dur KV 219; Violinkonzerte von Beethoven oder Brahms. The candidates shall be advised of the orchestral excerpts upon invitation.

        Application deadline: 29 April 2021
        Audition: 10/11 June 2021″

      • Like Ken Hakii the leader of the altos at the RCO, Strabrawa is a living legend and the soul of the Waldbhun. Last year I had the chance to see him with the BPO before I thought that he don t work at the BPO any more. Kashimoto is there more frenquantly maybe Strabrawa will end to work with the BPO next year.

      • 5566hh says:

        They’re already recruiting for Stabrawa’s replacement:

    • Alejandro Ramirez says:

      I was about to ask the same question. Maestro Leon Spierer, who played with us at Venezuela Symphony Orchestra (oldest symphony orchestra in Latin America 1930) was concertmaster for many years, until he was obliged to retire at age 60.

  • Gustavo says:

    Nice example of nepotism driving cultural evolution.

    • kaa says:

      Inbreeding is the only way to get racehorses. Moreover, in music, not only do you need the right genes but also the right atmosphere at home when you are a baby allowing you to hold your first violino piccolo. So nurture + nature gives you these stunning results

      • Gustavo says:

        Also known as genotype-by-early-environment interaction.

        Maternal effects may also play a role.

        My mother went to see Tchaikovsky’s 4th with Roshdestvensky when I was still in her belly, and I believe that may have had some imprinting effect on my musical taste.

    • Bill says:

      Krzysztof Polonek comes from a family of musicians. The Krakow-born violinist studied first at Berlin’s Universität der Künste with Tomasz Tomaszewski, later with Thomas Brandis at the Lübeck Musikhochschule, where he completed his studies with a concert exam. Additionally he gave a graduate concert in the chamber music department of the Hanover Musikhochschule and received grants from the Seymour Obermer Foundation in Switzerland, the Ferenc Fricsay Society in Berlin and the Villa Musica of the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate.

      He began his orchestral career in 2001 as 2nd Concertmaster of the Deutsche Oper in Berlin.This was followed by engagements as section leader of the second violins with the Dresden Philharmonic (2002 to 2005) and as principal section leader of the second violins at the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin (2005 to 2009) before he became a member of the Berliner Philharmoniker, where he has been concertmaster since March 2019. In addition, Krzysztof Polonek, who obtained a doctorate at the Wrocław Music Academy, is a member of the Berolina Trio.

      That nepotism thing seems to work pretty well even in groups dear old dad didn’t play in. Or maybe he’s just a fine violinist. Hmm, how to tell?

    • Novagerio says:

      Nepotism? Did you know that some Wiener Philharmoniker players are 4th and 5th generation? Do you really think they get a free ride?…
      Do you even have any slightest idea of the audition program they have, especially in the first chairs, plus the merciless trial periods?…
      Maybe you should try that life, instead of writing bitchy whinny nonsense on SL…

  • Lady Weidenfeld says:

    It is nice to think that another Pole will take this position after the great and legendary Michel Schwalbé ( ) who became concert master at Karajan’s insistence in1957, after Karajan worked with him leading the Swiss Romande, and remained until 1985. First test will be Ein Heldenleben, a great war-horse of Schwalbé’s! Powodzenia Mr Polonek!

    • Lancelot Spratt says:

      Thankfully old Carry on is now pushing up the daisies. His Mantovani sound is no longer popular.

    • Bruce says:

      That Karajan Heldenleben (and indeed their whole Strauss recordings) is a wonder, due in large part to Schwalbé’s playing. Every time I hear Heldenleben now, it’s like “Well, this is good, but…”

  • papageno says:

    What’s the name of the Japanese concertmaster under Karajan? (the guy with a big birthmark on his face) And what happened to him?

    • Charlotte says:

      Toru Yasunaga left the orchestra in 2009 and moved back to Japan. Kashimoto got his position.

    • JohnB says:

      His name is Tōru Yasunaga. He retired in 2009 (and was replaced in Berlin by another Japanese violinist, Daishin Kashimoto) and moved back to Japan.

    • Axl says:

      Do you mean Toru Yasunaga? He left in 2009 and Daishin Kashimoto was replaced him

    • MacroV says:

      Toru Yasunaga. He retired in 2009 – replaced by Daishin Kashimoto (and only in his mid-50s, I think) and is back in Japan. You can find more on the Google.

  • Tamino says:

    Such an international orchestra. Best from all over the world. “Alle Menschen werden Brüder”. Who was the last German born and educated concertmaster with them?

    • Axl says:

      I think the last one was Rainer Kussmaul who was 1st concertmaster in 1993-1998. He actually shared his position with fellow-German Kolja Blacher (1993-1999) but he was I think more US educated. Their “two position” was succeded by Israeli Guy Braunstein (Noah Bendix-Balgley’s predacessor in 2000-2012).
      Other 1st concertmasters at that time was Mr. Stabrawa and Mr. Yasunaga