Stanislaw Skrowaczewski commands an extraordinary level of respect in the international musical community as both a major conductor and a highly regarded composer. As music director of the Minnesota Orchestra from 1960 to 1979, he was a key figure in the creation of Orchestra Hall; since concluding his tenure he has continued his affiliation with the Orchestra as conductor laureate. He has conducted all the top orchestras during his long and distinguished career and continues to conduct major orchestras in England, Germany, Austria, Poland, Switzerland, Spain, France and Japan, as well as other countries. Now in his 91st year, Skrowaczewski is the oldest working major conductor.
Skrowaczewski’s engagements this season include a set of Minnesota Orchestra concerts in May 2015 featuring piano legend Garrick Ohlsson in Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1; the program also includes the Seventh Symphony of Beethoven. He travels across Europe, conducting the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern, of which he is principal guest conductor; the Bruckner Orchester Linz, with performances in the nearby St. Florian Monastery as part of the city’s Bruckner festival; and the Hallé Orchestra, Frankfurt Radio Symphony, Basel Symphony, National Polish Symphony, Warsaw Philharmonic, Bergen Philharmonic and Gothenburg Symphony. He also conducts Bruckner with Tokyo’s Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra and conducts two weeks in Brazil with the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra.
In February 2014 Skrowaczewski conducted the first Minnesota Orchestra concerts to be held in the renovated Orchestra Hall, highlighted by Beethoven’s Third Symphony and Skrowaczewski’s own orchestration of Bach’s D-minor Toccata and Fugue—the same work performed at Orchestra Hall’s opening concert in 1974. That year he also marked his 90th birthday, which was celebrated in an Orchestra Hall concert presented by the Chamber Music Society of Minnesota; the program included world premieres of compositions written for the occasion by John Harbison, Paul Schoenfield, Gunther Schuller, Steven Stucky and Skrowaczewski himself.
Born in Poland, Skrowaczewski began piano and violin studies at age 4, composed his first symphonic work at 7, gave his first public recital at 11, and two years later performed and conducted Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto. In 1956 he won the International Competition for Conductors in Rome, which led to regular engagements with leading orchestras throughout North America and Europe. In addition to guest conducting widely and composing actively, he has held numerous significant posts, serving as principal conductor of the Hallé Orchestra from 1984 to 1991 and as advisor to the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Milwaukee Symphony, committing three years to each.
In April 2007 Skrowaczewski began a three-year tenure as principal conductor of the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony in Tokyo, which he now serves as honorary conductor laureate. Since 1994 he has had a close relationship with the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie and has made many acclaimed recordings with the ensemble. Among them are cycles of the complete Beethoven and Bruckner symphonies—the latter winning the Cannes 2002 Award for Best Orchestral Recording—and, more recently, a highly praised set of the complete Schumann symphonies.
Many of Skrowaczewski’s compositions have received international awards, including his Concerto for Orchestra, which was commissioned and premiered by the Minnesota Orchestra and shortlisted for a Pulitzer Prize in 1999. In October 2007 the Orchestra presented the world premiere of his Flute Fantasies, Il Piffero della Notte, with Principal Flute Adam Kuenzel as soloist. His 2009 composition, Music for Winds, was co-commissioned by the Minnesota Orchestra with an international consortium of wind ensembles and orchestras including the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie, Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra and Bruckner Orchestra Linz. His Passacaglia Immaginaria (1995) was also nominated for the Pulitzer Prize; a new version of that work was premiered by the Minnesota Orchestra in 2010. Earlier award-winning compositions include Overture 1947, which won the Karol Szymanowski Competition in Warsaw, and Ricercari notturni (1977), which received the first Kennedy Center Friedheim Award.
Skrowaczewski, one of the world’s leading Bruckner interpreters, has received distinctions including the Bruckner Society of America’s Kilenyi Medal of Honor and the Gold Medal of the Mahler-Bruckner Society. In 2004 he received the McKnight Distinguished Artist Award, recognizing his decades of contributions to Minnesota arts and culture. His programming of contemporary music during his Minnesota Orchestra tenure was acknowledged with five ASCAP Awards. He holds honorary doctorates from organizations including the University of Minnesota, Musikakademie Wroclaw, New England Conservatory of Music, Hamline University and the Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music. A comprehensive account of his life and work can be found in Seeking the Infinite: The Musical Life of Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, by Frederick Harris, Jr., of MIT; it is available at seekingtheinfinite.com.