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Stanislaw Skrowaczewski

Stanislaw Skrowaczewski

Country of origin: Poland
Birthday: October 3, 1923
Date of death: February 21, 2017

About Stanislaw Skrowaczewski

Stanislaw Skrowaczewski retains a unique position on the international musical scene, where he is both a renowned conductor and a highly regarded composer. Recognized as the preeminent Bruckner interpreter of his times, Skrowaczewski's recordings include the complete Bruckner symphonies and his interpretations have earned him the Gold Medal of the Mahler-Bruckner Society. He has also received the "Commander Order with White Star," the highest order conferred by the Polish Government.

Born in Lwow, Poland but resident in the U.S. since 1960, Skrowaczewski began piano and violin studies at the age of four and composed his first orchestral work at age seven. Although he showed great promise as a pianist, making his debut with Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto, an injury to his hands during World War II terminated his keyboard aspirations. Composing and conducting then became his double focus.

Directly after the war and still in his mid twenties, he was named music director of the Wroclaw (Breslau) Philharmonic, proceeding in the following years with appointments at the Katowice Philharmonic, Krakow Philharmonic, and Warsaw National Orchestra. During the immediate post-war period, Skrowaczewski also studied with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, where he was a co·founder of the avant-garde group known as Zodiaque. During these years he won several composition prizes, and by the early 1950s his symphonic works (including Symphony for Strings and Music at Night) appeared in the European repertory.

In 1956, Skrowaczewski won first prize in Rome's Santa Cecilia International J. Competition for conductors, a turning point in his podium career. At the invitation of George Szell, be made an acclaimed American conducting debut with The Cleveland Orchestra in 1958; equally successful engagements with the orchestras of New York, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati soon followed. These led to his appointment in 1960 as music director of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, now known as the Minnesota Orchestra. Across his nineteen-year tenure, Skrowaczewski amassed a discography with the Minnesota that included works of Bartok and Penderecki, along with the complete orchestral music of Ravel. His recent Grammy Award-nominated Bruckner Ninth with the Minnesota Orchestra was recorded while in his role as conductor laureate, a post he has held since leaving his directorship in 1979.

Although Skrowaczewski was principal conductor of the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester, England from 1984 to 1991, and has never lightened his guest-conducting schedule, he has managed to be a consistently productive composer. Earning a Kennedy Center Friedheim Award in 1976, his Ricercare Notturni for saxophone and orchestra revealed Skrowaczewski's imaginative rendering of nocturnal moods. His Concerto for Orchestra, commissioned and premiered by the Minnesota Orchestra, appeared on the short list for the 1999 Pulitzer Prize. The composer’s other concerted work includes the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra which was premiered by the Philadelphia Orchestra and Norman Carol, in 1985.

No two Skrowaczewski scorings are exactly the same. He creates a unique tonal canvas for each piece, proceeding from a palette devised for the substance of the piece, always plumbing the deepest pools of sound and exploiting exotic percussion. The result is highly colored, evocative music rendered in a free harmonic language that heightens the emotional content of each work.

Skillful, imaginative, and full of passion the works of Stanislaw Skrowaczewski challenge a musicians technique while expanding the listeners' awareness of the power of music to describe the indescribable. For the composer, all art is a dialogue with the unknown. "This dialogue," says the composer, “encompasses all the fundamental human concerns such as the meaning of life and death, love and cruelty, and sacrifice and redemption in the constant hope to know that which cannot be known. Art thrives on metaphysical ideas ... and is a powerful antidote for the spiritual ills of our chaotic, violent and troubled times."