Two 90 year-old conductors return to lead their old orchestra

Minnesota welcomes the return of two former music directors next season.

Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, who was music director from 1960 to 1979, is now 92. Sir Neville Marriner, Minnesota chief from 1979 to 1986, is 91.

Can any other orchestra boast more than one nonagenarian? Does any other inspire such adhesion?


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  • Every orchestra should, because they’ve got the years of experience. There’s a culture of critic these days who use words like “fresh” and “new” to describe younger conductors. But the fact is their best work is most likely in their last years.
    People hold in high regard conductors like Szell, Reiner, Ormandy, Bruno Walter, Monteux, Barbirolli, Boult, etc. – so look at the ages of those men when they were at their peak… and look at the conductors who are that age now…

    • Forgot Toscanini – the NBC Symphony was created for him when he was 70 years old – Reiner was 65 when he went to the CSO. What orchestra today is going after a 65-year-old music director? Exceptionally high standards were set – and now the best orchestras perform at the standards but the conductors lack the experience, and the orchestras at least half the time are cleverly patching up their flaws.

      • …instead of communicating a singular musical vision which is one of the main reasons for having a conductor.

  • Kind of a shame that Minnesota doesn’t book Skrowaczewski for more than a week; he lives in Minneapolis, after all, so it wouldn’t be so hard to give him 2-3 programs over the season. He’s such an important part of who they are.

  • In London, the LSO works regularly with two advanced octogenarians that are both honorary KBEs: Previn and Haitink.

  • Here is a list of other conductors born in the 1920’s. Can some of you complete it? Frémaux (1921), Marriner and Prêtre (1924), Gielen and Leppard (1927), Zedda (1928),von Dohnányi (1929). Thank you.

  • If it is a tendency toward hiring elderly conductors for the big orchestras in the world,
    it is a step in right direction.Only of mature age conductor can give a performance with
    philosophical insights of the performed masterpieces.The great music requires very
    serious conductors.

  • “Can any other orchestra boast more than one nonagenarian?”

    Almost certainly.

    “Does any other inspire such adhesion?”

    What’s interesting is that both were quite unpopular with the orchestra when they left as Music Director. Of course Skrowaczewski was Music Director for 20+ years at a time when music directors were allowed to behave very badly, which would pretty much guarantee that the musicians would be happy to see him leave. He’s more than redeemed himself by 1) staying in the Twin Cities; 2) supporting the musicians many times since his departure; and 3) being a great musician.

    What’s really important about this story is that both gentleman conducted the orchestra during the lock-out. Most conductors consorting so publicly with musicians in the midst of a labor dispute are permanently black-balled, and not just by that orchestra either. This is a measure of just how much the institution is trying to put the bad old days of the lockout behind them – not to mention how negatively the lockout was viewed by the industry as a whole.

    • The Minnesota Orchestra played recently at Carnegie Hall and were cheered to the rafters before they even played a note. Osmo and the players gave a tremendous program of Sibelius (3, 1 and the Violin Concerto with Hilary Hahn playing with her customary Heifetzian intonation). 3 encores (also Sibelius, amusingly announced by Mr. Vanska). The orchestra sounded big and bright and bold. Wonderful playing didn’t even hint that some distinguished players had left during the dispute. All in all “full value” and I can’t wait for their return.

  • Harry Rabinovitz is due to conduct the LSO at the Barbican on 26 November 2016 – he was 100 years old on March 26th

  • Come, come, Norman, you really have been around long enough to know that leaders lead and conductors conduct, only rarely combining the roles, for example Iona brown violin, or an incredibly arrogant Dutchman, who we’ll not name! Perhaps you’ve been on the Radio 3 website, they don’t seem to know the difference either (or ever will given the total dumb-down in Radio 3 these days!).

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