Sunday, October 19, 2008

St Louis Symphony: Skrowaczewski conducts Bruckner 8th

"Why isn't the name Stanislaw Skrowaczewski at the top of the list of greatest conductors, except for nuts like us" I wondered out loud to Steve who I had met at the end of the concert.

"Well, he is not flashy and no one can pronounce let alone spell his name", Steve replied with a chuckle.

There is a lot of truth in that. An audience of only 750 was on hand at magnificent Powell Symphony Hall in St Louis to hear one of the great conductors perform one of his signature works, the mighty Bruckner Symphony #8 with the St Louis Symphony.

Skrowaczewski is, in my opinion, the pre-eminent Bruckner conductor of my time. At 85, he led an energetic, detailed, superbly shaped performance of this magnificent work from memory. The 9 horns (4 on Wagner Tubas), quadruple brass, triple woodwinds, 2 harps, full strings and percussion filled the gilded hall with deep organ like sounds (the beginning of the incredible slow movement for example), proud clarion calls (the beginning of the Finale), sweet glitter from the harps (making the slow movement as close to heavenly music making as possible) and delicate figures from the woodwinds, often buried in murky recordings. Never slacking but never rushed either, he brought out the soaring architecture of this demanding symphony, making it seem almost easy. Fully in command, Skrowaczewski only need look or wave a finger at a section to coax the most incredible sounds from the orchestra.

I could go on... but you get the picture. Every movement surpassed the previous one in intensity and beauty. The lady next to me thought I was nuts as I beamed, cried, sighed, conducted passages and rolled my eyes heavenward as the all too short 80 minutes flew by as if a second in time. Skrowaczewski was rewarded with a sincere and prolonged ovation from not only the audience but the orchestra as well.

The 500 mile, 8 hour round trip (similar, Steve quipped, to the story of Bach walking 200 miles to hear Buxtehude)was worth every penny, hassle and lost minute of sleep to hear music making this fine and this incredible.

Those empty seats missed a rare opportunity to hear some magnificent music making. Their loss.

1 comment:

kaneohe1972 said...

Skrowaczewski is truly one of the best conductors of the past 50 years. Glad you got to hear him.