Maestro Vladimir Kamirski was born in Lublin, Poland in 1943 and christened with the name Wlodzimierz Kamil Kamirski. He adopted the stage name ‘Vladimir’ at the start of his musical career as it was much easier to pronounce for non Polish people. Vladimir was the second child of Polish journalist and World War I veteran Wladyslaw Kamirski and his Lithuanian wife Maria Kamirska (nee Radziwill). It was difficult times in Poland as they were in the middle of German occupation and World War II was raging in Europe. In 1946 his older sister was tragically killed after a mentally deranged servant threw her over the balcony of their 3 rd storey apartment. Following this tragedy his parents devoted themselves solely to their precious son and only child.
In 1948, at just age 5, he held his first solo piano concert in Warsaw, Poland. His tutors considered him a child prodigy with an extraordinary talent for music and the piano. In later years Vladimir continued his music tutorials and practised voluntarily for hours each day right through his early childhood and teen years. After graduating from high school Vladimir studied at the Warsaw Conservatoire under Professor Stanislaw Wislocki. He also studied various law subjects at the specific request of his father who told him that music was a hobby and social pastime, not a real career such as a lawyer, engineer or doctor. Vladimir persisted with his studies and graduated both in music, and arts/law. He also studied languages and became fluent in 7 (Polish, German, Russian, Lithuanian, Italian, French and English) which, because of his extensive travels throughout Europe, certainly assisted his career. In 1968/69 he was Assistant Conductor at the Warsaw Grand Opera Theatre. Following this engagement he undertook studies with Franco Ferrara and Paul Kletzki with considerable time spent in northern Italy at the Teatro Alla Scala in Milan honing his conducting skills and building his network of contacts in the music industry with other
young artists, such as the beautiful Italian soprano Adriana Anelli. He was now considered an up and coming artist in the industry and he personally felt that he had made the right career choice while at the same time making his parents proud. Vladimir worked with the Royal Opera, Brussels, from 1970 until 1972. In the same period he was Guest Conductor at the Warsaw and Lodz Grand Opera Theatres and was involved with significant productions of major works by Verdi, Puccini and Mussorgsky including Aida, Tosca, La Bohème, Madama Butterfly, La Traviata and Prince Igor.
In 1973 Vladimir was appointed General Music Director of the Polish Radio and TV Symphony Orchestras in Warsaw and also worked with the National Philharmonic (Poland), Polish Radio National Katowice and the Kraków Radio Orchestra. He led concerts and recordings of the orchestras in St. Petersburg, Venice, Berlin, Naples, Cologne, Brussels, Copenhagen, Melbourne, Sydney and New York. Vladimir had extensive artistic involvement with the Sϋdwestrundfunk (Southwest Broadcasting) of Baden-Baden, Sender Freies Berlin, Radio Symphonie Orchester Berlin and the Australian Broadcasting Commission. He completed a number of archival recordings for Polish Radio and participated in several prominent music festivals including the Berliner Festwochen, Warsaw Autumn and Bratislavis Cantans.
In 1977 Vladimir was invited to conduct the Leningrad Philharmonic, considered at that time to be Europe’s greatest orchestra. At just 34 years of age, Vladimir considered this assignment to be a great honour as traditionally, only the very best conductors are invited to Russia to perform. In 1983 Vladimir moved to an apartment at Bondi Beach in Sydney to be with his partner Ewa Kozlowska who had emigrated from Poland to Australia a few months earlier. They bought an apartment at Dee Why Beach the following year deciding to make Australia their permanent home. Soon after arrival he went with Ewa to the see the Sydney Opera House which had been opened 10 years earlier by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1973. He was amazed at just how small the Sydney Opera House was to what he had imagined from images and television clips that he had seen. However, once he toured inside the building he was satisfied that it was truly a remarkable architectural achievement and acoustically superior to many of the Concert Halls that he had performed in Europe and the USA. Using Sydney as his base, Vladimir continued to travel to the USA, South America, Asia and Europe for various operatic and concert engagements.
He made his debut with the Australian Opera conducting Gounod’s Roméo and Juliet during the 1985 Melbourne season. In 1986, Vladimir conducted Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney which was broadcast live by ABC Television. It was an ambitious project with both the full Sydney Symphony Orchestra and the Sydney Symphony Choir combining along with the acoustic challenge of very high, wooden vaulted ceilings. Verdi’s dramatic choral work, written in 1873, is regarded by many musicians as the greatest requiem mass ever written. Vladimir himself always said that he felt that his performance conducting Requiem was the most surreal and personally satisfying engagement he had ever undertaken. It certainly established Vladimir as an International Conductor of distinction and artistic versatility which then led to many more notable engagements over the following years for performances such as Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera in the Canterbury Opera (New Zealand), Rigoletto, I masnadieri and Bizet’s Carmen. Vladimir later travelled to South America and undertook conducting performances with the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra in San Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
Also in 1986 Vladimir conducted Verdi’s fast paced A Masked Ball at the Sydney Opera House with one of Australia’s finest sopranos Marilyn Richardson, along with the outstanding baritone Robert Allman.
In 1988 Vladimir was appointed Chief Guest Conductor of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra and the following year he made his debut with Opera Queensland conducting Carmen, which was repeated at the same venue to rave reviews in 2004.
In 1989 Vladimir conducted the Australian Opera’s production of Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffman in Sydney and Melbourne and Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur in Sydney. In 1991 he returned to Opera Queensland (formerly Lyric Opera of Queensland) to conduct Les Pecheurs De Perles. Apart from his busy schedule with Opera Australia, which he continued right through to 1994 when he conducted performances of Cavalleria Rusticana and I Pagliacci in Melbourne and Turandot in Sydney at the Sydney Football Stadium, he conducted various television performances for the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Over the next decade Vladimir continued to conduct various operas such as The Merry Widow, Cavelleria Rusticana, Carmen, The Pearlfishers and Lucia di Lammermoor in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Hobart and Perth, as well as Madama Butterfly in Singapore and various concerts with the Canterbury Opera and New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. In 2011 he was guest conductor at several special farewell concerts in Poland after which he retired completely from his musical career.
Vladimir certainly felt privileged to have conducted with many of Australia’s top sopranos including the late Dame Joan Sutherland OM AC DBE, Yvonne Kenny AM, his close and dear friend Marilyn Richardson and the popular musical theatre singer Marina Pryor. Vladimir also conducted with the Australian tenor Anthony Warlow in the operetta Countess Maritza at the Sydney Opera House, as well as conducting the Queensland Symphony Orchestra with one of Australia’s finest pianists, Roger Woodward AC OBE. At the Aria Music Awards in 1995, the Best Classical Album was awarded to Yvonne Kenny AM, with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra conducted by Vladimir Kamirski for their album “Simple Gifts”. Another ABC Classic Album included “Opera Arias” with Marilyn Richardson and the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. Although Vladimir conducted with many of the world’s great symphony orchestras throughout his career, some of his only regrets were that he never had the opportunity to conduct an opera with his all time favourite male operatic tenor, Luciano Pavarotti, who died from pancreatic cancer in Modena, Italy aged 72; and the volatile opera diva Maria Callas who died in 1977 of a heart attack in Paris, France aged just 53. He also regretted not being able to conduct with the very popular Polish/Russian singer, Anna German, who was born in Uzbekistan in Central Asia in 1936 from a Russian and German family but lived and studied in Poland. Vladimir did attend a number of Anna’s concerts in Poland and met her a number of times at the after concert parties. Although Anna was 7 years older than Vladimir he was always in awe of her beauty, intellect, musical talent and her height (Anna stood at 1.84 metres). Vladimir was sincerely distressed and saddened when Anna past away at just age 46 from bone cancer in 1982.
Another of his favourite singers was the late Édith Piaf, a French cabaret and nightclub singer with a unique style, throaty pitch and haunting voice who became widely regarded as France’s national chanteuse and an international star. Vladimir embraced the relaxed Australian way of life, the sunshine and moderate sunny winters (compared to Poland), and the beautiful sandy beaches. In 1986 he proudly became an Australian Citizen. He also loved the sporting culture in Australia particularly after the very successful 2000 Olympics held in Sydney. Vladimir himself was avid football (soccer) fan often staying up all night to watch his beloved European teams (Barcelona, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United) play live in important Cup matches on SBS television.
Just before Christmas in 1989 he and his long term partner, Ewa Kozlowska, formally married in Sydney and they moved from Dee Why Beach to their new home in West Pennant Hills. In 1998 they moved again to their final home in Cherrybrook. They joined the local West Pennant Hills Sports Club where they played twice weekly social tennis together with their many tennis friends. Ewa went on to play competition tennis winning a number of trophies with her team mates. They also enjoyed hosting regular pool parties and BBQs with their many friends throughout the year. After Ewa’s untimely death from cancer in October 2007, Vladimir struggled to find meaning in his life.
However, with the dedicated support of his closest friends he continued to live reasonably contented in retirement at his Cherrybrook home until his hospitalisation due to a number of debilitating health issues. Along with his closest friend he started going to the local cinema something that he had never done before since first arriving in Australia back in 1983. Comedies, classical drama and the James Bond and Jason Bourne action movies were among his favourites. He also enjoyed entertaining and cooking traditional Polish meals for his friends, as well as making homemade Limoncello liqueur from lemon rinds and pure alcohol. With encouragement from his closest friends, Vladimir’s zest for life was gradually returning. However, Vladimir gradually succumbed to his worsening illnesses finally passing away peacefully from multiple organ failure in Hornsby & Ku-ring- gai Hospital on 22 nd April 2017 aged 74.
As it was his specific wish, Vladimir was cremated at a private funeral service in Sydney with just one beautiful long stemmed red rose on his coffin. Following the personal tributes, Vladimir was farewelled with a life journey photographic presentation to the tune of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” followed by a standing ovation by all those attending his funeral service; and as a finalé, Anna German’s beautiful song that he had also pre chosen “Gori Gori Moya Zvezda”. Sadly, on this occasion no “encore” would be forthcoming. Vladimir’s cremated ashes, along with his late wife Ewa’s ashes will be returned home to Poland for burial in his parents’ family tomb at the Powązki cemetery in Warsaw. In 2014 Vladimir established and registered “The Wlodzimierz and Ewa Kamirski Trust”. The purpose of this Trust is to promote and encourage professional excellence in the development of classical pianists, classical violinists, film script writers or television professionals by providing various prizes, awards or scholarships so as to assist their future careers in Europe and/or in Australia or New Zealand.
A cash prize has already been awarded for the Youngest Finalist in the 17 th International Chopin Piano Competition in 2015. This competition, which first started in 1927, is held every 5 years in Warsaw Poland. Another cash prize was also awarded in 2016 for the Youngest Finalist in the 15 th International Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competition. This competition, which first started in 1935, is also held every 5 years in Poznań Poland. Further cash prizes in 2015 and 2016 for the Best Film Script have been awarded in the Eagle Polish Film Awards conducted annually by the Polish Film Academy.
Scholarships are also to be considered for applicants undertaking the full-time Master of Screen Arts degree in Film & Television (or equivalent) as conducted by the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) in Sydney Australia. This particular scholarship is in honour of Vladimir’s late wife Ewa whose whole career was in Television technical direction and production both in Poland and with the Australian Broadcasting Commission in Sydney.
Vladimir’s intellect, wit, charm, generosity, worldly advice and outstanding humour will certainly be missed by his many Polish and Australian friends as well as his professional colleagues. Bravo Maestro Vladimir Kamirski – what a performance and what a wonderful and full life.
Biography by Terence Micó (c) Copyright 2017