The name of Stanisław Skrowaczewski will be well known as
a conductor to aficionados of the Vox family labels. His Ravel
in particular is not to be missed and neither is his Schumann
and Bruckner - the latter two on Oehms Classics. He is also a
composer as this substantial collection serves to prove. He was
born in Lwow to a brain surgeon and a pianist. A hand injury
from an explosion during the war put paid to his hopes of becoming
a concert pianist. After the end of hostilities he moved to Krakow
where he studied with Roman Palester (1907-1989). Between 1949
and 1981 he produced very few works including a Cor Anglais Concerto
(1969) and the Ricercari Notturni
(1977). It seems that
he destroyed two early symphonies. A few works survive from prior
to 1949, during his Polish period: an overture (1947), the Symphony
for Strings (1947-49) and Music at Night
which, as heard
here, was revived in 1977. Music at Night
is in four movements.
The orchestra is used abstemiously as a luxuriously appointed
palette rather than to deliver great swathes of sound. Night's
melancholy, mystery, lushness and promise are suggested in music
of sophisticated allusion with light deployment of dissonance.
Drum-beat and tom-tom noises are in evidence and in the finale
there is stabbing violence. Even that fritters away into a spidery
gleaming web. The music has its origin in a ballet: Ugo e
. The Fantasie
for flute and orchestra was
written for the player here, Roswitha Staege. While conducting
the RAI orchestras in Rome the composer met and became close
friends with that great flautist Severino Gazzelloni (1919-1992)
and his presence haunts the pages of the Fantasie
music is dark, mercurial, winged and fantastic - Ariel-like with
dashes of dissonance. Note again the nocturnal theme reflected
in the title.
Apart from the destroyed two early symphonies and the third (the
symphony for strings) there is this Fourth Symphony in three
movements. In fact this work is, perhaps more strictly, the Fifth
as the composer had funnelled his ideas for a symphony into the
Pullitzer prize-winning Concerto for Orchestra
The Symphony of 2003 is a big work of rising 37 minutes. It is
dedicated to his friend of the Minneapolis years, Ken Dayton.
It was premiered on the evening of the composer's eightieth birthday.
There's no escaping it, this is a work absorbed in tragedy and
burning with anger. The focus is on the impoverishment of the
human spirit - the loss of the cultural traditions especially
in America. Two lanky quarter hour plus movements flank a diminutive
poisonous or poisoned splenetic scherzo of 5:08. The stylistic
references are to Bartók, Shostakovich and the Polish
avant-garde. The outer two movements carry the bigger furious
gestures but have more of a slow epic gait. In addition tracts
of music are delicately plaited with elegiac vinegary strings
and the lustrous chime of church bell, celesta, marimba, vibraphone,
harp and piano. Phantasmal music - mercurial and a warning about
the bony hand at the throat of cultural appreciation.
Music brought to our ears with unflinching wringing intensity.