Polish conductor and composer Stanisław Skrowaczewski receiving the State Honour of Polonia Restituta, 01.12.2014 Photo: PAP/Jacek Turczyk
During the ceremony at the Belvedere Palace in Warsaw on Monday, President Bronisław Komorowski thanked Skrowaczewski, on behalf of the Polish nation, for his service as an ambassador for Polish culture in the United States, his country of residence, and in many other places across the globe where he has performed with Polish and foreign orchestras.
Evidently moved, 91-year-old Stanisław Skrowaczewski said that he was extremely happy to be honoured in this way.
“I have always been doing what I thought I should do and I have never expected to be given such a distinction, the highest I could think of,” he said.
Born in October 1923 in Lwów (now Lviv, Ukraine), Skrowaczewski studied piano, conducting and composition at the Music Academies in Lviv and Kraków. A hand injury ended his promising career as a pianist. At the age of 23, he became Music Director of the Wrocław Philharmonic Orchestra.
After two years of further studies in Paris (with Nadia Boulanger, Arthur Honegger and Paul Kletzki), he returned to Poland and was appointed conductor of the Philharmonic Orchestra in Katowice. In 1956 he won First Prize in the International Conductors’ Competition at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome. As a result of this success, he was appointed one of the leading conductors of the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra.
Skrowaczewski left Poland in 1960 and took over from Antal Dorati as Music Director of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra and held the post until 1979. In later years he also served as Music Director of the Halle Orchestra in Manchester and of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (Minnesota).
As a guest conductor, he has appeared with leading orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, the Berliner Philharmoniker, the Wiener Symphoniker, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Concertgebouw), as well as in such venues as Vienna’s Staatsoper and the Metropolitan.
He has recorded for RCA, Philips, CBS, EMI/Angel, Erato and several other labels. He is particularly renowned for his interpretations of the symphonies by Bruckner.
At present, Skrowaczewski is Principal Guest Conductor of the National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra in Katowice and of the Saarländischer Rundfunk Orchestra.
Skrowaczewski also made a name as a composer, his output including symphonies, instrumental works as well as chamber and film music. Later this week, he conducts the Warsaw Philharmonic in Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 and his own piece Passacaglia Immaginaria. (mk/jb)