In 1960, composer and conductor Stanislaw Skrowaczewski emigrated from Poland to become the music director of the Minneapolis Symphony, as the Minnesota Orchestra was called in those days.
In the decades that followed, Skrowaczewski, or “Stan” as his friends and admirers affectionately called him, became one of the most respected conductors of our time, famous for his interpretations of a wide range of repertory from Bruckner, Bartok and Stravinsky to the works of his Polish contemporaries, Lutoslawski and Pendereceki.
Skrowaczewski was born in Lwow in 1923. He composed an orchestral overture at age 8, played a piano recital at age 11, and at 13 performed Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3, conducting from the keyboard. His career as a budding piano virtuoso ended when his hands were injured by a collapsing brick wall during a World War II bombing near his home. After the war he won a French scholarship that enabled him to study composition with Nadia Boulanger and conducting with Paul Kletzki. His American debut occurred with the Cleveland Orchestra in 1958.
Skrowaczewski’s busy career as a conductor left little time to nuture his own talents as a composer, but even so he’s written a respectable number of chamber and orchestra works, including this one entitled “Passacaglia Immaginaria,” which received its premiere performance on today’s date in 1996, at a Minnesota Orchestra concert. A few of his works have made their way onto compact discs, including this recording of “Passacaglia Immaginaria” by the Saarbrucken Radio Symphony, conducted by Skrowaczewski himself.