The Maestro's Farewell
Stanisław Skrowaczewski and The Minnesota Orchestra, April 20, 2012
More culture, this time on the highest level. Anton Bruckner's symphonies have a limited appeal, even among classical music lovers. Mesmerizing to some, boring to others, they remain enigmatic. No. 8, his final complete symphony, contains the sublime Adagio which is decidedly "trippy". Broad, shimmering sheets of chords alternate between strings, reeds, winds and brass (with even some harps thrown in!) Subtle, ever-shifting dynamics transport the receptive listener to realms of...
... of what? In the ear of the beholder, this piece of music has meant almost all things to listeners over the years. Bruckner was a favorite of the Nazi regime's cultural ministers while in recent years his work has even been compared to Zen mysticism (Celibidache among others). Whatever opinion one may have of the music, there can be little disagreement that Bruckner is a challenge, usually only tackled by the finest orchestras.
Stanisław Skrowaczewski is considered by many to be the finest living interpreter of Bruckner. Last Friday's performance at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis showed a man in complete control of the material, eliciting a majestic performance from the expanded ensemble and even touching an emotional high point in the famous Adagio. The 88-year Skrowaczewski, conducting without a score, delivered a definitive 8th. Only between movements could one sense what a struggle the 80 minute opus was. A touching moment occurred between the Adagio and the Finale, as Stanisław bent down and spoke softly to the first violinist while daubing his eyes with his handkerchief.
The prolonged standing ovations for this humble man were a heartfelt recognition for his lifetime of dedication to the highest of musical ideals.
In the audience were several groups of children who were of the same age I was when first I heard Skrowaczewski conduct. They were enthralled, just as I was— 50 years ago.