Currently the Conductor Laureate of the New Hampshire Music Festival where he was Music Director from 1992-2009, Paul Polivnick enjoyed both critical and popular success there. Due to his energetic and inspired leadership, the Festival season expanded, the orchestra roster grew, the first commercial recording, “Summer Lightning” was met with enthusiasm and high praise, and ticket sales went over the 100% mark. Musicians came from far and wide to live closely together for six weeks each summer creating musical magic, renewing friendships and recharging their energies.
From 1997-2002 Polivnick served as Music Director of the Oberlin Conservatory Orchestras while maintaining an active schedule of national and international guest conducting engagements. Prior to that he served as the Music Director of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra for eight years, during which time the season grew from 40 to 46 weeks. His talent, charisma and energy were very much in evidence at the ASO’s Kennedy Center debut in 1988. A rousing program led by the youthful conductor resulted in a remarkable review in the Washington Post praising “a fine collection of musicians who gave a bright, precise, energetic and highly enjoyable performance.” And: “After three seasons under conductor Polivnick, the ASO seems to be leaving its regional status to claim national attention.” This national attention was further enhanced by the production of a series of critically acclaimed commercial recordings.
From 1988-1993 Polivnick was the Principal Conductor of Harmonia Classica of Vienna, Austria, a composers’ society devoted to “beautiful new music.” This post enabled him to conduct concerts and recordings in all of the principal Viennese halls. The tonal qualities of these great musical spaces have become an inseparable part of Maestro Polivnick’s “sound.” In the spring of 1987, Mr. Polivnick was nominated for the Seaver Award, an award given annually to the most outstanding young conductor in the USA. In August of the same year, he made his European debut in Portugal with the Gulbenkian Orchestra. Since that time, he has been seen on many podiums abroad including those of the London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, ORF of Vienna, Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra, L’Orchestre National de Lille, Ensemble Orchestral de Paris, Orchestre Philharmonique de Luxembourg, Orquestra Simfonica de Barcelona y Nacional de Catalunya, Russian Philharmonic of Moscow, Kiev Camerata, Brno Philharmonic, Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra London, Ontario, UNAM Symphony Orchestra of Mexico City, Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra and all of the leading orchestras in Korea: the KBS Symphony Orchestra, Seoul Philharmonic, Korea Symphony, and the Philharmonic Orchestras of Busan, Bucheon, Daejon, Taegu and Gwangju. In December of 2010, Paul added his Japanese debut to the list conducting Handel’s Messiah in Tokyo and Bach’s Christmas Oratorio in Osaka.
Polivnick has also guest conducted over 40 orchestras and opera companies in the USA including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Symphony Silicon Valley in San Jose, California, Brooklyn Philharmonic, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Utah Symphony, San Diego Symphony, North Carolina Symphony, Fort Worth Symphony, New Mexico Symphony, Central City Opera, Santa Barbara Grand Opera and Charleston Opera to name just a representative few. In addition, he has recently conducted for several notable ballet companies, including the New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center and Ballet San Jose in California.
Maestro Polivnick conducted the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra from 1981-85, first as Associate Conductor and then as Associate Principal Conductor. During those four years, Paul conducted an amazing 360 concerts with a vast amount of repertoire while serving in the demanding role of spokesman to the community-at-large for the orchestra. One of the highlights of his time in Milwaukee was a performance of Messiaen’s monumental “Turangalila Symphony” that was broadcast on 300 classical radio stations nationwide through the WFMT network. This performance prompted the composer to write a personal letter to maestro Polivnick praising the performance as “truly remarkable” and his direction as “magnificent.”
Prior to Milwaukee, he held a similar title and post with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra for three years. While in Indianapolis he was popularly received by its critics, audiences and musicians. He conducted both subscription and Bach series concerts, regional touring engagements, Youth Concerts, the “Sunday Night Pops” series, outdoor concerts and special events. Paul also hosted a bi-monthly TV show called “Symphony Backstage.”
Paul began his professional career in Los Angeles as a conductor and violist. He founded the LA Radio Orchestra giving concerts on KPFK. This ensemble was a unique group comprised of some of the area’s best free- lance musicians. Paul’s first conducing post was Conductor of the Debut Orchestra of the Young Musician’s Foundation from 1969-1973, succeeding Michael Tilson Thomas. During this period Paul was also a violist with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra under Sir Neville Marriner and a member of the UCLA Young Artists Piano Quartet.
No stranger to the recording studio, Paul has made numerous commercial recordings in the United States and Europe for such companies as Naxos, Harmonia Mundi, Albany, Nonesuch, Universal Music France, Harmonia Classica, Centaur and Christal. His recent live recording of “Mirror of Shadows,” a double concerto for violin and cello by the award winning Parisian composer, Thierry Escaich caused quite a sensation. This important world premier took place in Paris at the Messiaen Hall of Radio France with Renaud and Gautier Capucon, soloists and the National Orchestra of Lille. Another recent recording that has garnered considerable praise took place in Moscow with the dramatic and expressive Russian Philharmonic. The two brilliant and romantic symphonies of the late Stephen Albert appeared together for the first time and were given passionate readings--lucid and fully committed.
Born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Paul Polivnick grew up in Westchester County just north of New York City. At the age of eight he began studying both the violin and trumpet with his father, Sidney Polivnick, who was the director of the music program for the Briarcliff Manor school system. After private study with Boris Koutzen, former first violinist with the late Arturo Toscanini’s NBC Symphony Orchestra, and Raymond Crisara, trumpeter with the same orchestra, Paul entered the Juilliard School in 1965. He began studying with that legendary “musician’s musician,” Oscar Shumsky. Eventually he focused on conducting with instructor Jean Morel, earning his degree in 1969 in Orchestral Conducting. Paul had additional study at the Tanglewood Music Festival in 1965 and 1966 as a violinist, and in 1971 as a conducting student of Leonard Bernstein. He also performed often at the Aspen Music Festival as a violinist, violist and conductor during his student and early professional years and spent the summer of 1969 studying with the renowned conductor Franco Ferrara at the Accademia Chigiana in Siena, Italy.
1976 marked Paul Polivnick’s debut as an opera conductor. Since that time, he has led numerous productions of the Mozart, Rossini, Verdi and Puccini operas as well as several world premiers including Conrad Sousa’s “Transformations.” He has worked with many top singers including Marilyn Horne and Kathleen Battle and they find him to be a “singers” conductor par excellence. His love of the art form prompted him to write his own original opera libretto. The work is entitled “2001, A Space Opera” with music by the Viennese composer, Alexander Blechinger. A concert overture based on themes from the opera was commissioned by the New Hampshire Music Festival and premiered there in the summer of 2000 leaving the audience clamoring for more. “2001, A Space Suite” followed in 2002.
A true gentleman with excellent communication skills, Maestro Polivnick is equally at home with artistic colleagues, administrators, board members, politicians, civic leaders and volunteers. He is so highly regarded by the musicians with whom he works that he is frequently recommended by them to orchestras the world over.