The Warsaw Philharmonic's first concert was held on 5 November 1901, in a new building. The orchestra was conducted by the Philharmonic's co-founder and first musical director Emil Młynarski, and Ignacy Jan Paderewski performed as soloist.
The Warsaw Philharmonic soon attained a high standard of performance, attracting outstanding artists from all over the world. Already prior to World War One and during the inter-war years, it became the principal centre of musical life in Poland and one of the most important musical institutions in Europe. Nearly all the famous conductors and soloists of those times performed here, including Claudio Arrau, Edvard Grieg, Arthur Honegger, Vladimir Horowitz, Bronisław Huberman, Wilhelm Kempff, Otto Klemperer, Sergey Prokofiev, Sergey Rachmaninov, Maurice Ravel, Artur Rodziński, Arthur Rubinstein, Pablo Sarasate and Richard Strauss.
The orchestra worked in the ruined Warsaw from the very first years after World War Two, with concerts being held in theatres and sports halls. It was only on 21 February 1955 that it gained a rebuilt venue and a new status as the Polish National Philharmonic. Under the direction of Witold Rowicki, it regained its prestige as the leading symphonic orchestra in Poland. In the years 1955-58, the artistic director was Bohdan Wodiczko, before the post returned to Rowicki. In 1977, the position was taken up by Kazimierz Kord, and since January 2002 the managing and artistic director of Warsaw Philharmonic has been Antoni Wit.
Today, the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir enjoy popularity and esteem across the world. They have undertaken over 120 tours across five continents, appearing in all the most important concert halls, warmly applauded by audiences and praised by critics for their excellent, charismatic performances. They have taken part in many prestigious international festivals, including in Vienna, Berlin, Prague, Bergen, Lucerne, Montreux, Moscow, Brussels, Florence, Bordeaux and Athens, and most recently La Folle Journée in France, as well as in Spain, Portugal and Japan.
The Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra regularly participates in the Chopin International Piano Competition and the Warsaw Autumn and Wratislavia Cantans festivals. It records for Polish Radio and Television, Polish and foreign record labels and films. The orchestra's artistic achievements have brought it many prestigious phonographic awards (including the Diapason d'Or, Gramophone, Record Geijutsu, Classical Internet Award and Cannes Classical Award, Grammy nominations for recordings of oratorios by Krzysztof Penderecki and Karol Szymanowski, and Polish ‘Fryderyk' awards). Each of the five discs featuring Szymanowski's complete symphonic and oratorio works recorded for Naxos in 2007-2008 under the baton of Antoni Wit was acclaimed ‘Disc of the Month' by prominent British music magazines, and the disc containing the Stabat Mater was nominated for a Grammy.
As well as Polish artists, brilliant foreign artists from all over the world have performed at the Warsaw Philharmonic: Hermann Abendroth, Martha Argerich, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Daniel Barenboim, Kathleen Battle, Joshua Bell, Teresa Berganza, Alfred Brendel, Aram Khachaturian, Charles Dutoit, Philippe Entremont, Vladimir Fedoseyev, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Philippe Herreweghe, Nigel Kennedy, Evgeny Kissin, Lang Lang, Felicity Lott, Lorin Maazel, Mischa Maisky, Igor Markevitch, Kurt Masur, Yehudi Menuhin, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, Midori, Anne-Sophie Mutter, David and Igor Oistrakh, Murray Perahia, Maurizio Pollini, Svyatoslav Richter, Helmuth Rilling, Mstislav Rostropovich, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Grigory Sokolov, Isaac Stern, Leopold Stokowski, Henryk Szeryng, Arcadi Volodos and many others.