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Stanislaw Skrowaczewski dies at 93.
The following announcement was released by the Minnesota Star Tribune today.
Minnesota’s beloved maestro Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, who defected from Communist Poland to lead the Minnesota Orchestra to new heights, died Tuesday at age 93.
“Stan” conducted the Minnesota Orchestra – then called the Minneapolis Symphony – in the 1960s and ’70s, raising its repertoire and national profile. Between guest conducting major orchestras across the world and composing symphonic works in the basement of his Plymouth home, he regularly returned to that podium.
“I think he gave the Twin Cities a sense of artistic luster that they’ve enjoyed ever since,” said Frederick Harris, author of “In Search of the Infinite,” Skrowaczewski’s biography. The Polish-born maestro reinforced that cultural milieu by staying in the state while building a distinguished international career, Harris said. “He had been the dean of classical musicians of Minnesota for decades.”
Skrowaczewski suffered a stroke in November and again in February. A memorial service will be held March 28 at Orchestra Hall.
“It is hard to express all that Maestro Skrowaczewski has meant to the Minnesota Orchestra,” the orchestra said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “In total, his partnership with the Minnesota Orchestra spanned 56 years, and we are deeply grateful for more than a half-century of music-making with him.”
By the time of his final concerts with the orchestra in October, the conductor laureate’s wild hair had turned white, his heart steadied by a pacemaker. But critics lauded the performance as “vigorous,” full of “drama and fury.”
His first stroke came just a few weeks later, causing him to cancel a Dallas Symphony gig and conducting engagements on his 2017 calendar.
Skrowaczewski’s tireless career is forever tied to the orchestra he took charge of in 1960, at age 36.
It was his relentless campaigning that got Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis built in 1974 after years of performing in then-acoustically deficient Northrop Auditorium.
He was the conductor the musicians turned to during a bitter 16-month lockout, conducting a rogue, musician-organized concert in 2012. And, when that orchestra returned to Orchestra Hall’s stage in 2014, he held the baton.
Despite increasing frailty and heart problems, he conducted and composed until the end. “When you are 93,” he told the Star Tribune last year, “there is so much work to do because there is not a lot of time left to do it.”
In what turned out to be his final concerts, he led the Minnesota Orchestra in Anton Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony in October, just after his 93rd birthday. It was a fitting farewell: Skrowaczewski had become known as one of Bruckner’s finest interpreters, and, when he retired as music director in 1979, Bruckner Eight was his valedictory.
Longtime Twin Cities music critic Michael Anthony said that his performance in October “seemed hardly the work of a man in his twilight years. It was bold, vigorous and dramatic, a prime example of what might be called this conductor’s later style, a reading with a strong sense of direction, of inevitability and flow.”