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January 11, 2010

This Day in UMS History: The Cracow Philharmonic (Jan 11, 1986)

By Paula Muldoon

January 11, 1986
Hill Auditorium

The Cracow Philharmonic (Orchestra of the Karol Szymanowski Philharmonic in Cracow)
Tadeusz Strugala, principal conductor and artistic director
Krzysztof Penderecki, guest conductor
Yo-Yo Ma, cellist

Penderecki: The Awakening of Jacob (1974)
Penderecki: Concerto #2 for Cello and Orchestra (1982)
Shostakovich: Symphony #6 in b minor, Op. 54 (1939)

Backstage at Hill Auditorium: (from left to right) Composer & Conductor Krzysztof Penderecki with wife Elzbieta, UMS President Gail Rector and wife Beth, Cellist Yo-Yo Ma (from the UMS Photo Archive)

Hill Auditorium saw a remarkable meeting of cultures at this concert: a Polish orchestra gave the Ann Arbor premiere of a Russian symphony, and a Chinese-American cellist played a cello concerto written by a Polish composer for a Russian cellist, Mstislav Rostropovich.

Born in 1933, Krzysztof Penderecki was at the forefront of classical composition, and had been called “the musical personification of Poland.”   He had already written a violin concerto for Isaac Stern, a Christmas Symphony for Zubin Mehta and the New York Philharmonic, and a Te Deum, dedicated to his fellow-countryman Pope John Paul II.  His Polish Requiem, inspired by Poland’s Solidarity Movement, was premiered under the baton of Rostropovich in 1984.

UMS audiences have seen Yo-Yo Ma many times over the years, most recently in 08/09 UMS season with the Silk Road Ensemble.  Twenty-three years ago, at age 30, he was already a veteran of the classical music world, having won a Grammy for his recording of the Bach Suites for Solo Cello (1984) and being described by the London Daily Telegraph as “among the finest instrumentalists of our time.”

At this concert, UMS audience members were invited to meet Yo-Yo Ma on the Hill Auditorium stage after the concert.  Here’s a scan of the original invitation.

“This day in UMS History” is an occasional series of vignettes drawn from UMS’s historical archive.   If you have a personal story or particular memory from attending the performance featured here, we’d love to hear from you in the comments.


Paula Muldoon is a UMS Marketing Intern. She recently graduated from the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance with a degree in violin performance.