Stanisław Skrowaczewski commands a rare position in the international musical scene, being both a renowned conducting figure and a highly-regarded composer. During his long and distinguished career, he has conducted all the top orchestras, and—in his 90th year—he retains a busy schedule with guest engagements taking him across North America, Europe and Japan. Skrowaczewski is currently Conductor Laureate of the Minnesota Orchestra, Principal Guest Conductor of the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie, and Honorary Conductor Laureate of the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra.
Born in 1923 in Lwów, Poland, Skrowaczewski began piano and violin studies at the age of four, composed his first symphonic work at seven, gave his first public piano recital at 11, and two years later played and conducted Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto. A hand injury during the war terminated his keyboard career, after which he concentrated on composing and conducting. In 1946 he became conductor of the Wrocław (Breslau) Philharmonic, and he later served as Music Director of the Katowice Philharmonic (1949-54), Kraków Philharmonic (1954-6) and permanent conductor of the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra (1956-9).
Skrowaczewski spent the immediate post-war years in Paris, studying with Nadia Boulanger and co-founding the avant-garde organization, Groupe Zodiaque. In 1948 he conducted the Paris premiere of Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony with L’Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France. After winning the 1956 International Competition for Conductors in Rome, he was invited by George Szell to make his American debut, conducting the Cleveland Orchestra in 1958. This led to engagements with the New York Philharmonic, Pittsburgh Symphony and Cincinnati Symphony orchestras and, in 1960, to his appointment as Music Director of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra (now the Minnesota Orchestra), a position that he held for 19 years. During the 1960s he made his debuts with the Royal Concertgebouw, London Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, Boston Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Munich Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic and Berlin Philharmoniker orchestras, as well as with the Vienna State Opera and Metropolitan Opera (New York). In particular, he became a regular guest-conductor of the Philadelphia and Cleveland orchestras and the Berliner Philharmoniker.
From 1984 to 1991 Skrowaczewski was Principal Conductor of The Hallé, the oldest professional orchestra in the UK and among the most distinguished. With The Hallé he gave concerts across England, led tours throughout Europe and the USA and recorded extensively. In 2007 Skrowaczewski was appointed Principal Conductor of the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra for three highly successful seasons, during which time many of his performances were recorded live for Columbia Records.
Still an active composer, Skrowaczewski’s works have recently been performed by the Bavarian Radio Symphony, Deutsche Radio Philharmonie, Bruckner Orchester Linz, Yomiuri Nippon Symphony and Minnesota orchestras. His Concerto for Orchestra (1985) and Passacaglia Immaginaria (1995) were both nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. 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. Music for Winds (2009) was commissioned by a consortium of nine orchestras from the USA, Germany, Austria, and Japan. Recordings of Skrowaczewski’s music are found on Oehms Classics, Reference Recordings, Albany Records, and Innova, among others.
The recipient of numerous accolades, Skrowaczewski is a Commander of Polanda Restituta with White Star, one of Poland’s highest decorations, and has six Honorary Doctorates, awarded most recently by the universities of Minnesota and Wrocław, the New England Conservatory of Music and the Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music, Katowice. Skrowaczewski’s interpretations of Bruckner have earned him the Bruckner Society of America’s Kilenyi Medal of Honor and the Gold Medal of the Mahler-Bruckner Society, and his programming of contemporary music at the Minnesota Orchestra was acknowledged with five ASCAP Awards and the Ditson Conductor’s Award, bestowed by Columbia University, New York. He is the recipient of the 2004 McKnight Foundation Distinguished Artist Award, one of Minnesota’s highest cultural recognitions. In 2013, the University of Minnesota established the Stanisław Skrowaczewski Endowment in Conducting in honor of his remarkable contributions to music and to Minnesota.
Of particular note within his extensive discography are Skrowaczewski’s complete recordings of Bruckner’s and Beethoven’s symphonies with the Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra (now Deutsche Radio Philharmonie) for Arte Nova Classics (now OehmsClassics), which received enormous critical acclaim. The Bruckner set won the 2002 Cannes Classical Award in the ‘Orchestral 18/19 Century’ category and was also included in BBC Music Magazine’s ‘Top Ten Discs of the Decade.’ On his 90th birthday—Oct. 3, 2013— OehmsClassics released Stanisław Skrowaczewski: The Complete OehmsClassics recordings, 90th Birthday Collection. The 28-CD box set includes complete symphonies of Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, and Schumann, the two Chopin piano concerti, and music of Bartók, Berlioz and Skrowaczewski.
Published in 2011, a comprehensive account of Skrowaczewski’s life and work can be found in Seeking the Infinite: The Musical Life of Stanisław Skrowaczewski, by Frederick Harris, Jr.
Currently, two documentary films about Skrowaczewski are in progress in Poland and the United States.
Stanisław Skrowaczewski is represented by Intermusica. Read more about Skrowaczewski at the Intermusica web site: http://www.intermusica.co.uk/artists/conductor/stanislaw-skrowaczewski/biography