MASTERPIECE FOR WIND ORCHESTRA
I was originally involved in the Commissioning Consortium for this work, along with the RNCM and Trinity Laban, but we withdrew later when the work was held up for several years. However, it emerged in 2009, and I have no doubt that it is a major addition to our repertoire. I am delighted to conduct the UK premiere at the Royal College on February 6th at 6.pm.
MUSIC FOR WINDS by Stanislav Skrowaczewski
…….great art is slowly disappearing and being replaced by superficial semi-culture.
The Composer writes:
For Music for Winds I was commissioned by a consortium of nine orchestras in four countries (the United States, Germany, Austria, and Japan). The initiator of this project is Dr. Frederick Harris, director of the wind orchestra at MIT in Boston. He knew that I had long since wanted to write a kind of symphony or concerto for winds, or more precisely for symphonic winds, the wind instruments that appear in the symphonies of the nineteenth to twenty-first centuries, from Beethoven to Shostakovich and beyond. The repertoire for the instruments is rather scarce, compared to the great repertoire for strings. I added three saxophones, of which two are less common and less often played, soprano and baritone saxophone. They enrich the wind section by extending the possibilities of sound quality. And to that I brought in percussion, very gently along with piano, celesta, and harp.
The work has four movements, which continue from one to the next without pause. There is a primary theme played at the beginning by clarinet and celesta and this weaves itself through all four movements, either in its original form or slightly modified. The listener may find the character or tone of the piece to be sad, mysterious, or even tragic. This could be my own reaction to the state of our world, in which great art is slowly disappearing and being replaced by superficial semi-culture.
Composed in 2009, this virtuosic four movement work is surely one of the most important additions to the repertoire of the past fifty years. Stanislaw Skrowaczewski commands a rare position in the international musical scene, being both a major conducting figure and a highly-regarded composer. Born 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 Wroclaw (Breslau) Philharmonic, and he later served as Music Director of the Katowice Philharmonic (1949-54), Kraków Philharmonic (1954-56) and Warsaw National Orchestra (1956-59). Skrowaczewski is currently the Conductor Laureate of the Minnesota Orchestra, Principal Guest Conductor of the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie, and Honorary Conductor Laureate of the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo.
SEEKING THE INFINITE
Learning full orchestral scores at age four, composing by age seven, conducting a professional orchestra at thirteen, eventually fleeing his native Poland in a hush of secrecy, and becoming an American classical music sensation as music director of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra—so began the artistic ascent of conductor-composer Stanisław Skrowaczewski.
Much more than a fascinating life saga, the comprehensive new biography Seeking the Infinite: The Musical Life of Stanisław Skrowaczewski by Frederick E. Harris, Jr., is an epic work spanning more than 90 years of music history. It reveals little-known facets of concert life and the changing landscape of the professional orchestra while illuminating Skrowaczewski’s artistic philosophy, creative genius, and his ties to many of the 20th-century’s most eminent musical figures. This maestro has guest conducted every major orchestra in the U.S., Europe, and Japan, and created dozens of orchestral compositions. He has held celebrated directorships with the Minnesota Orchestra (formerly Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra) and the Kraków and Katowice Philharmonics, and was principal conductor of England’s Hallé Orchestra and Japan’s Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra. A beacon for new music, Skrowaczewski also is considered one of the world’s foremost interpreters of the works of Anton Bruckner. The book’s author, Dr. Harris, is music director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Wind Ensemble and Festival Jazz Ensemble. He was inspired to undertake Seeking the Infinite after interviewing Skrowaczewski while working on his Ph.D. dissertation about the ways in which a conductor conveys musical feeling. Nine years of meticulous research and 230 interviews have gone into this monumental work.
Throughout the book Harris portrays Skrowaczewski as a man of keen intellect, wit, sensitivity, and integrity. His Old World courtliness, natural reserve, and never-ending quest for perfection have endeared him to many musicians and disaffected others. Decades before it became fashionable, he embraced organic foods, vigorous exercise, and a passion for the outdoors. Skrowaczewski’s family life provides some of the book’s most moving and charming aspects. Krystyna Skrowaczewski, who died August 26, 2011, was her husband’s true partner and the family’s bedrock. The book is both a compelling read with popular appeal and a treasure trove of scholarly resources with its comprehensive list of Skrowaczewski’s compositions, transcriptions, and arrangements; full discography; life chronology; and a list of awards and honors. It also includes a full history of the Minnesota Orchestra, including details on how he championed the creation of Orchestra Hall, and a comparative history of Manchester’s Hallé Orchestra. Pulitzer Prize-winner Gunther Schuller wrote the book’s foreword.
"Reading Harris’ book, one cannot fail to note the principal qualities of his subject: his self-deprecating modesty, wit, intellectual curiosity, scholarship, and—always—his total dedication to his art. Seeking the Infinite is a riveting portrait of a 20th and 21st century man, musician, and his contribution to our world." —George Sturm, Music Associates of America Published by CreateSpace,
Seeking the Infinite: The Musical Life of Stanisław Skrowaczewski is now available at www.seekingtheinfinite.com and Amazon.com