Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, a conductor who defected from his native Poland in 1960 to take charge of the Minnesota Orchestra for the next 19 years, died on February 21, 2017 in Minneapolis.
As a child, he studied piano and violin; displaying talent on the piano at an early age, he made his public debut playing Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor. A hand injury ended his piano career.
In 1960 he was appointed music director of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra (later renamed the Minnesota Orchestra under his tenure in 1968), a position he held until 1979 when he became conductor laureate. In 1981 the American Composers Forum commissioned the Clarinet Concerto which Skrowaczewski wrote for Minnesota Orchestra principal clarinetist Joe Longo, who premiered it in 1981.
Skrowaczewski's Passacaglia Immaginaria, completed in 1995, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1997. Commissioned by the Minnesota Orchestral Association to honor the memory of Ken and Judy Dayton, it was premiered at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis in 1996. His Chamber Concerto was commissioned by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra in memory of Leopold Sipe, their first music director. Skrowaczewski received his second Pulitzer nomination in 1999 for his Concerto for Orchestra.
He received the Commander Order of the White Eagle, the highest order conferred by the Polish government, as well asthe Gold Medal of the Mahler-Bruckner Society, the 1973 Ditson Conductor's Award, and the 1976 Kennedy Center Friedheim Award.
He lived in Wayzata, Minnesota, and died in St. Louis Park on February 21, 2017. Director Kodner recounts this of the man the musicians knew as “Stan”: Skrowaczewski's death certainly marks the end of an era. I was privileged to work with him from 1976 until he retired in 1979, including the Minnesota Orchestra's 1979 east coast tour and a performance of Bruckner 7th symphony at Carnegie Hall.
He was an accomplished conductor when it came to interpreting and performing the works of Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler and Anton Bruckner. His love for the big orchestral works of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was impressive and contagious.