Stanisław Skrowaczewski was a composer and conductor who worked with the most distinguished orchestras around the world. He was born on 3rd October 1923 in Lviv, and died 21st February 2017.
When Skrowaczewski was 4, he started piano and violin lessons. By the time he was 7 he had composed his first symphonic piece, and at the age of 11 he debuted on stage with a piano recital. Two years after that he performed Piano Concerto no. 3 by Ludwig van Beethoven as a pianist and conductor. Unfortunately, during WWII both of his hands were injured, which meant an end to his piano career. He did not give up his musical dreams and decided to concentrate on composing and conducting. He studied under Roman Palester (composition) and Walerian Bierdiajew (conducting) in State Higher School of Music in Kraków. Between 1947 and 1949 he studied in Paris, where he was educated by Nadia Boulanger, and where he was one of the founders of avant-garde group Zodiaque. In 1946 he had become a conductor for the Wrocław Philharmonic, later, from 1949 to 1954 he was a director of the Śląsk Philharmonic in Katowice, and from 1954 to 1956 he was in charge of the Kraków Philharmonic. He was also associated with the Warsaw Philharmonic as a regular conductor from 1956 to 1959.
He was awarded several awards at important competitions worldwide, for example at the Liège Competition for his String Quartet no. 3, as well as at Szymanowski Competition for 1947 Overture. His Symphonic Suite received a gold medal at the Composition Competition in Moscow in 1956.
1956 was also the year when Skrowaczewski won the International Conducting Competition in Rome. After he had been invited by George Szell, he debuted in the United States with the Cleveland Orchestra. Soon after, he was already a well-known conductor, working with the New York Philharmonic, the Pittsburgh Symphony, and the Cincinnati Symphony. In 1960 he became artistic director of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, which changed its name to the Minnesota Orchestra in 1970, a position he occupied for 19 years. That job opened him many more doors to the best orchestras in the world (Berliner Philharmoniker, Wiener Symphoniker, London Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, NHK Symphony Orchestra), as well as opera theatres, such as Wiener Staatsoper and the Metropolitan Opera. He went on an international tours with orchestras such as Concergebouworkestr, Orchestre Nationale de France, Orkiestra Filharmoni Narodowej in Warsaw, twice with the Philadelphia Orchestra to South America and with the Cleveland Orchestra to Australia. Between 1984 and 1991 he was the head conductor for the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester. With this group he toured around Great Britain, as well as Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Scandinavia, Spain, Poland, and the United States.
Stanisław Skrowaczewski recorded a great deal for recording companies: RCA, Philips, CBS, Denon, EMI/Angel, Mercury, Vox, Erato, Polskie nagrania, Arte Nova, and Oehms Classics. Many of his analogue recordings have been re-released on CD, and his (with Hallé Orchestra) new interpretations of Anton Bruckner, Dmitrij Szostakowicz and Johannes Brahms met with a very warm welcome. His rendition of Bruckner was awarded a gold medal by the Mahler-Bruckner Association. Furthermore, for his work with the Minnesota Orchestra and his popularisation of contemporary music he was awarded the ASCAP award 5 times. In Cannes in 2002 recordings of 11 Bruckner symphonies, played by Saarlaendischer Rundfunk Orchestra, and published by Arte Nova, received an award for the best interpretation of a 18th/19th-century orchestral piece. In 2012 he received a Medal of Honor from the Bruckner Society in America for his brilliant performances of Anton Bruckner’s music
He was an honorary conductor for the Minnesota Orchestra, as well as a guest conductor for Saarlaemdischer Rundfunk Orchestra, Narodowa Orkiestra Symfoniczna Polskiego Radia, and Deutchen Radio Philharmonie. Between 2007 and 2010 he was head conductor of the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo.
He was frequently awarded for his magnificent contributions to Polish culture and his artistic achievements. In 1999 he was awarded the Commander’s Cross with Star of Polonia Restituta. In 2002 he accepted the title of guest conductor of Narodowa Orkiestra Symfoniczna Polskiego Radia. In 2004 he was awarded an honorary degree by the Music Academy in Wrocław, and a few years later, in 2012, the same honour was bestowed on him by the Music Academy in Katowice. Abroad, he also gained numerous honorary degrees – from the University of St. Paul, Minnesota University, and New England Conservatory of Music. In 2009, in Katowice, he claimed a Diamond Director’s Baton, an award granted by the board of Polish Radio. In 2014 he received the Grand Cross of Polonia Restituta.
After Skrowaczewski passed away in February 2017, his colleague Timothy Walker, Chief Executive and Artistic Director of the London Symphony Orchestra, wrote:
The London Philharmonic Orchestra had the privilege of some extraordinary performances with Stanislav Skrowaczewski at Royal Festival Hall over the last few years and to have been able to release on our own label Bruckner Symphonies 3, 5 and 7 derived from live recordings of these concerts. He was more than admired and respected by the players: he was in the true sense of the word, revered. Admiration for his sheer stamina and love of music and making music. Respect for a lifetime of incredible knowledge and experience which brought to every performance a real understanding of the repertoire. Reverence, because every concert was an ‘event’, a concert you don't forget. He will live long in our memories and we have the shared joy of music making with him, held for us and everyone on the Bruckner recordings, to sustain our love and appreciation of him.
- Overture in classical style for orchestra (1944)
- Piano trio A-flat major (1944)
- Three songs for soprano and orchestra
- Symphonic prelude, fugue and postlude for orchestra (1946-48)
- Overture for orchestra (1947)
- Mazurka for piano (1947)
- Symphony for strings (1947-49)
- Music at night symphonic variations for orchestra (1949)
- Ugo and Parisina ballet (1949-50)
- Song of songs for soprano and chamber orchestra (1949-51)
- Symphonic fairy tale of Little Orphan Mary and the Gnomes for orchestra (1952)
- Victorious symphony (1954)
- Concert for cor anglais and orchestra (1969)
- Ricercatri notturni for saxophone or clarinet and orchestra (1977)
- Concert for clarinet and orchestra (1980)
- Trio for clarinet, fagot and piano (1982-84)
- Fantasie per Quattro for clarinet, violin, cello and piano (1984)
- Concert for violin and orchestra (1985)
- Concert for orchestra (1985)
- Fanfare for orchestra (1987)
- Fantasie per sei for oboe, violin, viola, cello, double bass and piano (1988)
- String trio (1990)
- Double concert for violin, clarinet, piano and orchestra (1991)
- Fantasie per tre for flute, oboea and cello (1992)
- Gesualdo di Venosa: Six madrigals for orchestra (1992)
- Chamber Concerto 'Ritornelli poi ritornelli' for orchestra (1993)
- Passacaglia immaginaria for orchestra (1996)
- Musica a Quattro for clarinet, violin, viola and cello (1998)
- Concert for piano and orchestra (2002)
- Il Piffero della notte fantasia for flute and orchestra (2007)
- Music for Winds (2009)
Written by Małgorzata Kosińska, Polish Music Information Centre, Polish Composers' Association, December 2002; Updated July 2016, AG, Translated by AS February 2017