Skrowaczewski, it strikes me, has never quite received the recognition
he deserves. His initial concerts with the Hallé Orchestra were
quite revelatory – an interesting coupling of Mozart (29th
Symphony) and Mahler 10th featured in one, while
Ives rubbed shoulders with Stravinsky in another. Although his
subsequent programming while at the helm of that orchestra was
less adventurous - maybe pressure was applied by the orchestra
board? - he was never less than interesting, even introducing
some of his own compositions. His career has included a memorable
stay - nineteen years! - at Minnesota. His recording achievements
include a memorable Bruckner cycle.
clearly interacts well with the Saarbrücken orchestra. His view
of the Second Symphony is fascinating. Far from seeing it in
any sense as less than the other eight, he imbues the opening
with real weight. The sound is big but expressive, yet accents
and ornaments reveal an awareness of authentic practice. The
intent seems to be to show how seriously he takes this piece
– indeed, the Allegro con brio is massively punchy -
lovely agile strings - while the development has distinct shadows.
A light but emotive Larghetto - sheer delight, with suave
passages – 3'40 – and a nice darkening around the four-minute
mark - leads to a spring-in-the-step Scherzo; recessed horns,
though. Perhaps the finale is the finest movement, dramatic
and punchy. String accents are excellently caught by the superb
'Eroica' opens with two huge E flat explosions. There is little
space for pastoral allusion in Skrowaczewski's view of this
first movement, an outlook that more than pays dividends in
the build-up to the climactic grinding dissonances. The Funeral
March is dark and seems to inhabit various worlds at once, from
the bleak opening to the lovely later sense of flow. The recording
helps: the depth of the strings is caught to perfection around
encourages his horns to assume the mantle of real hunting horns
in the exciting third movement - strings really dig in to accents.
There is no real gap before the astonishing outburst of the
finale's opening. Strings are again astonishing in their accuracy.
Contrasts abound here, the ensuing pizzicati all but inaudible.
The variations are kept under a tight rein. Skrowaczewski combines
real control with a sense of breadth that arches over a movement
packed with incident and change.
massive achievement and a reminder of Stanislaw Skrowaczewski's
stature as a musician. Do try this. Most people reading this
will have multiple versions of this repertoire, of course, but
one more reminder of these works' stature under the illuminating
Skrowaczewski baton won't hurt at all.