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Music heals … that is the history of Ladek’s spa orchestra

The spa orchestra on the eastern slopes of Klodzko Valley has been playing for almost two hundred years. There are continuous efforts to preserve the Viennese musical atmosphere in this charming spa town.

In addition to traditional treatments for improving the health of patients, one of the most popular methods is sound treatment. Music therapy, i.e. listening to music to restore health and improve the functioning of people with various emotional, physical or mental problems, has a long tradition in spa towns. The most interesting is certainly the history of the orchestra in Ladek-Zdroj.


The beginnings of the spa band date back to 1680 when, on the balcony by the pool in the new spa hotel ‘Maria’, two local musicians played for the bathing guests. Various bands already gave concerts during the time of Minister Hoym at the end of the 18th century, although the organized spa orchestra was not established until 1829. In the last century, the duration of its concerts in parks was as much as four hours a day. They also played at evening games in the ‘Ludwika’ hall. The number of the orchestra members varied from only a few at the beginning of the 19th century to twenty or even thirty in the summer seasons in the 1930s. Until 1939 the orchestra was managed and conducted by Feliks Kochanski, who expanded the group to 32 musicians. The orchestra’s repertoire then included over 3,000 songs and it was given a building called the ‘House of Music’ (currently in its place there is a military sanatorium).


We can read in German pre-war information leaflets that spa concerts belonged to the local tradition. In the season the orchestra performed every day early in the morning at the promenade starting the concert at 6.30, and in the spa park from 4 to 5 p.m. On Thursdays at 4 p.m. there would be a concert in the forest temple. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, evening concerts took place in the spa park from 7 p.m.. Before the war three orchestra ensembles operated in the spa. They played throughout the day on promenades and arbours and at night also at dances.

Polish-German spa orchestra after World War II

From verbal information obtained from constantly active enthusiasts of the history of Ladek’s band we know that in the years 1946-51 a German spa orchestra gave concerts under the administration of the Soviet army. After World War II, a significant part of the spa town was taken over by the Russians – they would send their soldiers stationed in Legnica for treatment to Ladek. Therefore, initially in 1946-1947 it only played in the sanatorium belonging to the Soviet authorities.


In 1946, in the Zander’ hall of the ‘Adam’ Sanatorium the guests could enjoy the spa orchestra of German musicians during meals. At the same time the concerts were broadcast to three nearby sanatoriums using cable technology. In November 1950 Wiesław Kala, a Polish accordion musician, who after the departure of German musicians came to Ladek-Zdroj, restarted the Ladek’s orchestra. The Spa Commission was established and its task was, among others, to satisfy the cultural needs of the spa town. The commission purchased 1300 items for the orchestra creating the foundations for its diverse repertoire. Soon musicians from Bytom, Cracow and Gliwice joined the band. From then on, it consisted of 10 people and concerts, just like in the pre-war times, again took place every day – in the summer in the open-air concert hall, and in the winter in ‘Adam’ sanatorium. Towards the end of the decade, in the autumn-winter period, the orchestra also performed in the spa café.


The Spa Orchestra today

The band currently performs at the ‘Albrechtshalle’ Vienna Café in Lipowa street. In the summer season it moves to the open-air concert hall. Traditionally, it performs on Wednesdays three times a month and sometimes also in Dlugopole Health Resort in Zdrojowa (Spa) Café. The repertoire of the Spa Orchestra consists of works by operetta music composers: Br. Lehar, E. Kalman, J. Strauss, C. Zeller and representatives of classical music – F. Chopin, J.S. Bach, W.A. Mozart, J. Brahms.

Its not only the patients who can enjoy the performances of the Spa Orchestra. As part of the Polish-Czech cultural exchange it performed for several years in the friendly castle of Rychnov nad Kněžnou, and in 1997 and 1998 it participated in the Spa Music Festival in Polanica-Zdroj. The orchestra popularizes works of music masters in various places giving concerts f.ex. in the castle in Trzebieszowice, in Klodzko, Zloty Stok, Dlugopole-Zdroj or Kudowa-Zdroj. The orchestra’s performances are also appreciated during public holidays and events organized by Ladek’s cultural institutions.


What’s up in Ladek-Zdroj apart from the orchestra?

Cultural events in the town also include the ‘Pod Adamem’ cellar. Whereas in the corner tenement house in the market square at number 1, where Michał Klahr (older) one of the greatest Silesian sculptors of the Baroque lived and created, ‘Artistic Café House Klahra was opened. There are cyclical concerts of sung poetry and evenings with latin music. Children’s artistic output is also presented at the occasional concerts of the local Social Music Centre.

Text: Leszek Tułodziecki

A participant of the project ‘Knowledge and skills as a sure step to employment – supporting social and professional potential and integration of blind and visually impaired people’