Last Stop: Zurich

No holiday without a viola, no day without pressure: many years of hard work passed before Katarzyna Kitrasiewicz-Losiewicz's great dream came true.

Kasia is sitting at the window. «Je n'abondonne jamais», I never give up, could be read in curved letters on her neck if no ash-blond hair fell over her shoulders that afternoon. She turns her head towards the Tonhalle Maag and laughs a bit mockingly, just as if she didn't trust her own story.

This story, she says, reached its climax on June 27th. It was a Thursday, at 3:12 p.m. a message was sent to the Tonhalle-Orchester and its management team, in which it was written: «At today's audition for viola tutti, Mrs Katarzyna Kitrasiewicz-Losiewicz, 1975, was chosen.» That's her full name, although everyone calls her Kasia. She, who you meet in conversation on the fringes of rehearsals, says that her heart belongs to playing in an orchestra because she loves people so much.

«At last,» some were heard to say happily, others used the phone to congratulate. Kasia herself was more exhausted than surprised, it was over thirty degrees and this felt like the hundredth time she had played behind a curtain. It had never been quite enough, round after round she kept getting further in all those years, but it just wouldn't work out. «I always felt that I belonged here,» she says, even twenty years ago, when she was a student sitting down there in the media library of the Warsaw Academy. She listened through a list of works, aural training, you had to recognize them all on demand.

The list was long, Kasia doesn't remember what was played today. But the sound burned in and so did the idea: «I want to play in this orchestra,» she says, the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich. She has been doing so for many years in various functions: Whether as a newcomer, as a musician on a case-by-case basis or as a temp, she didn't want to hear it anymore and only cried when her husband uncorked the champagne on the evening of that hot June day. Since 1997 the two have been together, «always and everywhere,» says Kasia, «even if not always locally.»

Saint Bernard, Child and Viola

So now she sits with a fixed place in the middle of the violas, he a few metres next to her: Kamil Losiewicz is a double bass player in the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, likes jazz and played in hotel bars when the two studied together in Warsaw. She also played and cleaned, everything was fine with her if she could only make music. Anyway, for a long time she didn't dare to believe in her dream, even when Kamil and the two of them were chosen from hundreds of applicants to tour for a Polish festival orchestra with a Chopin programme. Only when the conductor there told her to go out into the world and find a teacher, she had to move on. «Me? Choose?» she remembers. She did: Wolfram Christ was chosen, whom Herbert von Karajan had engaged as the first principal viola player for the Berlin Philharmonic in 1978. He taught her free of charge in Berlin and took her with him to Freiburg, where he accepted a position as professor and she as his student, one of many renowned patrons on her way, for example during her subsequent soloist studies in Cologne.

Kamil, meanwhile, found a position in Lyon. There they shared a home with St. Bernard and shortly afterwards with their little Philippe. But Kasia felt not at home in this city, the commuting and the chaotic environment made her unhappy. She, who liked to put things in order.

She constantly looked for positions with the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich. For herself, for him, until she found a double bassist position and cobbled together the dossier of her then fiancé. He was invited to audition and accepted, that was thirteen years ago. A few months later she followed, soon there were four of them, daughter Lia was born. Since then, she has played with the orchestra again and again, and has repeatedly gone through the demanding application process for this and for permanent positions. «In the orchestra there are different people with many qualities,» she says, «what they all have in common is that they are strong characters,» like her. That also shapes the sound. The soft vibration of her register, the sound beyond that, which she chose twenty years ago, her dream that she never gave up.

Melanie Kollbrunner

published: 09.04.2020