FeaturedInterviewsIssuesMay 2022

Magdalena Maliszewska Artist Interview

Magdalena Maliszewska is the Principal Flutist of the Silesian Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra in Katowice, Poland, as well as a soloist and a member of Paderevo Trio (flute, cello, piano). She has performed in 15 countries around the world in concert halls such as the Musikverein Wien, Berliner Philharmonie, and Berliner Konzerthaus. She is a laureate of national and international flute competitions and recipient of the Young Poland scholarship funded by the Ministry of Culture for outstanding achievements in music. 

 Can you give us 5 career highlights?

  1. When I was in my second year of studies I had a chance to play in the Großer Saal at Berlin Philharmonic. Together with the German-Nordic Youth Philharmonic Orchestra we played Stravinsky’s Firebird. I was a student so performing in such a legendary concert hall was a really transformative experience. But it wasn’t only because of my concert — a day before, I went to see the rehearsal of the Berliner Philharmoniker with Sir Simon Rattle. They were practising Daphnis et Chloé and my childhood hero, Emmanuel Pahud, was playing. It was the first time I heard him live, and Daphnis is such a landmark piece for every flutist. I’ll never forget that sound!
  1. A solo concert with Silesian Chamber Orchestra in Katowice, when I played Concerto in D minor by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach and Suite in B minor by Johann Sebastian Bach. It was a very special moment because it was the first concert with a live audience after lockdown. Only when we saw the hall filled with people did we really feel how much we missed them. Playing for a live audience was something we always took for granted. The pandemic disrupted the lives of all of us. So when it was finally over and we could invite the audience back, and play for them, it was a very emotional moment.  
  1. Performing Beethoven’s 9th Symphony in front of 50,000 people gathered at the Independence Square in Kyiv, celebrating Ukraine’s Independence Day. It was 2015 and the political situation in Ukraine was very unstable. Until the last moment we weren’t sure if the concert won’t be cancelled for security reasons. But when we played The Ode to joy for this endless crowd, it was magical. We could really feel the power of Beethoven’s masterpiece, resonating in every single person in the crowd. 
  1. Every flutist dream-come-true program which we played with The Silesian Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra in Katowice. In one concert, we played the entire Daphnis et Chloe ballet (not the suite!) by Ravel, Nocturnes by Debussy, and we finished with Faure’s Pavane. If you’re a flutist, your embouchure is probably tired even reading about this. Playing all those fantastic pieces in one evening, for a full house was a big challenge, but it gave me great satisfaction!
  1. Receiving „The Young Poland'' Scholarship funded by the Ministry Of Culture and National Heritage. This scholarship is awarded every year to a small group of young artists for exceptional achievements in their discipline. The scholarship allowed me to buy a new high-quality instrument right after graduating from the academy of music. 

How about 3 pivotal moments that were essential to creating the artist that you've become?

Certainly one of the most pivotal experiences in my career was doing postgraduate studies with János Bálint. He shaped me as an artist, helped me to build my self-confidence, and was a great source of inspiration. And a great friend at the same time.

Every audition that I won was pivotal in some way. At auditions you play to win, and it feels amazing when you succeed. But at the same time it usually means your life will change, sometimes only for a while, other times for many years. You need to move to a different city, go on a tour for the whole summer etc. I loved it when I was a student. I played in many youth orchestras or mentorship programs, like I Culture Orchestra, Lutoslawski Youth Orchestra, Sinfonia Iuventus or Sinfonia Varsovia Orchestral Academy. Finally, when I managed to get the permanent position as a Principal Flutist in the Silesian Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra I had to move again, but this time I could settle down in one place for a bit longer. 

Another pivotal moment was when I started a chamber ensemble with my old time friends. We’re called the Paderevo Trio and the ensemble consists of flute, cello and piano. It’s quite an unusual composition, so we create our own transcriptions and commission new pieces. Running an ensemble teaches you many new skills, not only musical ones but also managerial! But it’s not that scary when you do it with your friends. 

What do you like best about performing as Principal Flute in the Silesian Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra?

The atmosphere in our orchestra is exceptional. Around the time when I joined the orchestra, about half of the whole ensemble changed. It was a huge generational change. We knew each other from university, high school or youth orchestras so it instantly felt like working with friends. The orchestra is very ambitious, we want to create beautiful music together and there’s always a feeling of support and inspiration. Our musical director, Yaroslav Shemet is only 28 years old but he’s a brilliant and very ambitious conductor. Since we started working with him the artistic level of the whole orchestra skyrocketed, giving everyone even more satisfaction.

I also love the repertoire that we play. Our programming board selects a very challenging and ambitious repertoire, giving us countless opportunities to fulfil many of our musical dreams. In the last few seasons I had the opportunity to play or record such pieces as Le Prélude à l'Après-midi d'un faune, Daphnis et Chloe, Leonore, Carnival of the Animals with the famous Voliere, Intermezzo from Carmen (numerous times!), Suite l’Arlesienne, Scheherazade, Bolero, most symphonies by Mahler and Dvorak, all symphonies by Brahms, Beethoven. We also played many operatic suites, including William Tell, Rosenkavalier or The Bartered Bride. Very often when I talk to flutists from other orchestras in Poland or other European countries they are super jealous of the pieces we play!


What does your schedule look like for the next 6 months? 

The next 6 months will be very busy at our Orchestra. A few months ago we hosted the Grzegorz Fitelberg International Conducting Competition so now we’re playing concerts and tournees with the winners. We also have our regular subscription concerts, during which we’ll play for example Mahler’s 6th Symphony, The Creation by Haydn, Death and Transfiguration by Strauss. The season finishes in June but it doesn’t mean we’ve got the whole summer off – every summer we do some recordings or play at festivals in Poland and abroad. We will also host conducting masterclasses with Maestro Patrick Fournillier.

I am also working intensively with my trio on new repertoire and on developing new concert opportunities. We are planning some new recordings as well. There are also a couple of solo pieces I’m working on for the next season.

What are your goals personally?  Professionally?

I think my current goal is to achieve a good work-life balance. I love challenges, but I am learning how to be more assertive and to recognize when my body’s telling me that I have taken on too much. 

What inspires me the most in life?

People that found their own path and stayed true to themselves. I’m inspired by stories of artists, but also athletes, scientists and other people who are determined and believe in achieving their dreams. Recently I had a chance to spend some time with Sławosz Uznański, an astronaut, who’s preparing for his first flight to space. What he had to go through to achieve his goal is extreme. But his story is a great inspiration that anything is possible. 

Another great source of inspiration for me is nature. It’s where I go to find peace and to recharge my batteries. 

What has been your professional greatest challenge?

One of the most recent challenges was auditioning for the London Symphony Orchestra last year. I was invited to the final round, together with just a handful of flutists from the whole world. It was a great privilege to play in front of musicians who I knew and looked up to for years and I was very stressed before the auditions. But once I went into the room I felt so much support and encouragement that playing for them was a pure joy. 

For me, as for many other musicians, the pandemic was a very challenging time. I was still lucky, because our orchestra kept playing online concerts, so I had a job. But it was a very weird feeling to play for an empty hall. 

As I mentioned earlier, a few months ago we hosted an international conducting competition. For 10 days in a row we played 9 hours a day, jumping between 30 different pieces and working with 50 different conductors. It was very challenging not only musically, but also mentally and physically. 

What has been your personal greatest challenge?

Every day, getting up from bed on time is a huge challenge for me. I love sleeping! But somehow, I don’t think I ever overslept for a rehearsal or a concert. 

Another everyday challenge is living under the same roof with a super fluffy cat to which I am allergic. But he’s totally worth it!

Who were your music mentors?  and what did you learn from them?

  • János Bálint, who’s been the principal flutist of the Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra for many years, professor at the Hochschule für Musik in Detmold, my mentor during postgraduate studies. He helped me develop a deep sensitivity to the beauty of phrasing, quality of the sound, and the importance of being able to change its colour. He showed me how to develop healthy technique and how to pass on my skills to others. He also taught me how to be smart about planning my work and that you shouldn’t always be so serious about yourself. Sometimes you need to laugh at your own mistakes!
  • Walter Auer, the principal flutist of the Vienna Philharmonic. I met him at a masterclass in Poland and after that I visited him regularly for lessons in Vienna. He gave me confidence and faith in my abilities. He showed me that not everyone has to play the same way and introduced me to the world of Viennese opera.
  • Andrzej Krzyżanowski, the principal flutist of the Sinfonia Varsovia Orchestra. He was an important mentor in my orchestral practice. He shared with me countless secrets and tricks about playing and practising orchestral parts. He showed me how to work in a group with other musicians, and what the work of a principal flutist looks like in real life. Every time I was preparing for an audition, I knew I could visit him and play through the program with him. It was a big step in my career when he started inviting me to play with him at Sinfonia Varsovia. Now, I feel very happy whenever I have a chance to ask him to play with us at the Silesian Philharmonic!

Can you give us 5 quirky, secret, fun, (don't think too much about this) hobbies or passions?  

I love guinea pigs, I'm a huge Formula 1 fan, and I love snowboarding. I've watched all seasons of Survivor. I’m known in my neighbourhood for walking my cat on a leash.

What 3 things would you offer as advice for a young flutist?

1. Play in public as often as possible.  At every stage of your learning journey, try to seize every opportunity to play in front of other people. It doesn’t have to be for large audiences; you can organise mini-concerts at home for your family or friends. The experience of performing in front of others will help build your confidence and improve your stage presence.

2. Take advantage of every opportunity there is. And if there are none – create them! Start your own ensembles, apply to youth orchestras, take part in workshops and masterclasses, and listen to live concerts as often as possible. Listening to other artists is a never ending source of inspiration. It broadens your perspective and shows how much diversity there is in music. 

3. Embrace failure: Don't be afraid of setbacks! Every musician experiences failures at some point. There is not a single musician in the world who has never faced failure. The key is to learn how to pick yourself up and keep going!



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