A Report on the Presentation , by John Berky

A Report on the Presentation , by John Berky
When Charles Eble, the past president of the Bruckner Society of America passed away three years ago, I came to the realization that there were still some important initiatives that the Society should continue to do. One was to provide a vehicle where additional research into Bruckner's life and music could be fostered. The other primary objective was to recognize the achievements of scholars and musicians who have been active during the years of the Society's dormancy.

One of those major goals was achieved on April 20th when I was able to walk on stage at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis and present, before a capacity audience, the Bruckner Society of America's Kilenyi Medal of Honor to conductor and composer, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski.

Stan, as he is known by his friends and close associates, will soon be celebrating his 89th birthday and while his body is gradually showing its age, the spirit within this gifted musician is truly amazing. Delineating his musical career goes beyond the scope of this report. Biographer, Frederick Harris, Jr. has done that amazingly well with a 600 page biography that was just published under the title, "Seeking the Infinite." It is a very readable account that I recommend highly.

As one digs into Maestro Skrowaczewski's life, it becomes quickly apparent that the music of Bruckner is central to his existence. The first time he heard Bruckner's music emanating from an apartment window in his home town of Lvov, Poland, he was so taken by it that he was physically overcome. As the years progressed, Skrowaczewski conducted Bruckner in concerts given throughout the world. With the Minnesota Orchestra, he performed a Bruckner cycle, he recorded an eleven symphony cycle with the Saarbruecken Radio Symphony Orchestra (now the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie) and has made additional recordings with orchestras in the US, Poland and, most recently, Japan.

It was indeed heartening to see how Stan's friends and the Minneapolis music community rallied around this performance of the Bruckner 8th with the Minnesota Orchestra. I was invited to a preconcert dinner arranged by Judy Dayton, certainly one of Minnesota's most generous benefactors where it was possible to meet with Fred Harris, Skrowaczewski's biographer and advocate.

Arrangements were made for me to sit through the first three movements of the Symphony and I was then escorted backstage in preparation for the onstage presentation. After a few solo curtain calls and my opportunity to first meet the Maestro, I followed him onstage. As we walked to center stage, the low brass section presented a special gift - a "tusch" where a section of the 8th Symphony was played as a salutary fanfare.

It was gratifying to see and hear how supportive the audience was for the Maestro's recognition. Our presentation was punctuated several times by sustained applause.

After the presentation, orchestra members filed by and congratulated Skrowaczewski and we then proceeded to a post-concert reception. A short video, prepared by Fred Harris was shown to the invited guests.

And thus a wonderful evening came to a close. I got to bed around 12:30AM and then my (not so) smartphone awakened me at 2:00AM (thinking it was 3:00AM Eastern time) and I left the hotel at 3:30 for my return flight home.

My thanks go to Robert Neu of the Minnesota Orchestra, benefactress Judy Dayton, photographer Travis Anderson and biographer Frederick Harris, Jr. for helping to make this such a memorable occasion.