Minnesota bitching over Maestro’s legacy

Minnesota bitching over Maestro’s legacy


norman lebrecht

March 03, 2017

A proposal to rename a concert hall after Stanislaw Skrowacewski has promote the Minneapolis Star-Tribune to publish an ugly letter disparaging the much-loved former music director. Read it here.

This may be more than just bad taste. In the 16-month orchestra lockout in which the newspaper and its proprietor backed the hardline management while Skrowacewski passionately sided with the musicians.


  • MacroV says:

    There’s hardly a conductor who won’t have something like that said about him/her by some musician or other.

    As for naming Orchestra Hall after Skrowaczewski, I’m not from Minnesota and it’s not my place, but as much as I admired Skrowaczewski, I kind of like maintaining the purity of keeping it nameless, like Symphony Hall or Chicago’s Orchestra Hall. Bigger than any individual. Though maybe worth naming it after him to head off naming it after a donor at some point in the future.

    • Anon! A Moose! says:

      “Though maybe worth naming it after him to head off naming it after a donor at some point in the future”

      Unfortunately that’s not really a safeguard. An orchestra I used to be in’s hall was named after the founding music director, and when it was rebuilt naming rights were auctioned.

      I agree with your basic point, and feel the same way about sports arenas. Used to be every city had something named like “Memorial Coliseum” and now they are all named after cellphone companies.

    • herrera says:

      “purity of keeping it nameless”

      1) We’d be happy to take your $100 million, but you better be modest and selfless about it; no in fact, keep your stinkin’ money, we only take money from anonymous donors; no in fact, we don’t take any donations above $10, our hall belongs to the People.

      2) Believe me, the Board isn’t being pure, it just hasn’t found the right donor. I guarantee if the Pritzker family (just as an example, nothing against the richest family in Chicago that has their names on every important institution in Chicago, including the internationally renowned Pritzker Prize in architecture) came knocking with $1 billion, Chicago’s Symphony Hall wouldn’t only be called Prizker Hall, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra would be called the Pritzker Symphony Orchestra!

  • WCoast says:

    Skrowaczeski isn’t exactly a catchy name for a concert hall

    • John says:

      I suspect that in Minneapolis – St. Paul, it would definitely be a catchy name. And a familiar one.

      • Pamela Brown says:

        Yes and no. SS’s contribution to the MO came during the transition from Minneapolis Symphony to the larger-footprint MO (which many players hated). During SS’s tenure the playing was lacadasical (to be kind) and mostly unexciting. The MO changed gears when it hired Sir Neville Marriner, and kept on going, so naming the hall after SS could imo be going back-in-time.

  • David Boxwell says:

    Well, us real Americans cain’t pernounce them funny-soundin’ furrin names, special if they’s a long one.

  • Patrick says:

    Mr. Unseth. An opinion. No class.

  • Steve P says:

    Surely the naming powers can find a suitable globalist transgender liberal vegetarian immigrant of color to honor.

  • Mark Jordan says:

    It’s funny that the writer suggests naming it after Marriner because he was supposedly respected. I’ve read elsewhere that during his tenure in Minnesota, some orchestra members dubbed him “Nasty Neville.”

    • Bruce says:

      Reminds me: I remember reading a New Yorker profile of Frans Welser-Most a few years ago. When the reporter told him that the London Philharmonic called him “Frankly Worse Than Most,” he chuckled and said “Oh well. They used to call Georg Solti the Screaming Skull.”

      • Pamela Brown says:

        During his tenure with the MO, SS was roundly despised by many of the players and ridiculed behind his back. There were tons of awful stories, including one where a performance of Rite of Spring had to be stopped and restarted because he had lost his place. The morale of the players was, to me –a student of their then-Principal Flute — extremely discouraging.

  • Sarah says:

    It was suggested originally that the Hall be named after the Dayton family – huge contributors then and now – but they wanted it to be about something bigger. Fast forward 40 years to the lockout and the Board’s utter disrespect of Mrs. Judy Dayton, the doyenne of the family. Didn’t we go through a period where we almost lost the orchestra? And where there were no photos of the orchestra members in Orchestra Hall? And the word “Orchestra” was taken out of the mission statement of “Orchestra Hall”? Let’s leave it like it is. Holding up the foundation is – the Orchestra.

  • Joe says:

    At the time Avery Fisher Hall became David Geffen Hall, I fantasized (“If I were a rich man….”) handing over the dough, with the stipulation that the hall be named after one composer, decided on by the Philharmonic musicians. Other than Beethovenhalle in Bonn, are there any other concert halls named after composers?

  • Alvaro says:

    “This may be more than just bad taste”…..in fact it might approach to the contents of this blog.

  • William Stahl says:

    Back to the original post, there is less here than meets the eye. The Star Tribune newspaper probably published the letter to the editor because the writer–Ted Unseth–is a locally recognizeable if minor name in the Minneapolis-St Paul music scene. He had pick-up groups under various names specializing in recreating jazz band music from the 1920s, but he seems inactive now. Unseth’s comments about Skrowaczewski were just silly.

    Regarding the alleged bias inferred regarding the newspaper: The Star Tribune publisher–Michael Klingensmith– joined the Minnesota Orchestra board a year or two before the lockout, but he was not then on the operating committee and thus wasn’t driving the lockout decision. After the lockout, the board was reorganized, with quite a few leaving and several joining, and the crucial addition of Kevin Smith as the new CEO. Klingensmith remains but now is on the board operating committee. I happen to know that he is an extremely sensible fellow–and a bit of a celebrity among American publishers because of his leadership in restoring the fortunes of the Star Tribune newspaper.

    As for the name: I love Skrowaczewski, but the name wouldn’t work for the hall. (One of his sons–a former musician and now very successful Silicon Valley executive–changed his name to Paul Sebastien because of the difficulty for Americans.) On the other hand, they should name SOMETHING prominent at the hall after Stan because of his 56-year relationship with the M.O.; the fact that the hall wouldn’t have been built without his aggressive advocacy in the 1960s & 1970s; and not to mention his very important work in raising the musical standards of the orchestra. I suggest naming one of the performance or meeting spaces.

  • Rolf Erdahl says:

    Orchestra Hall could probably use a statuary hall – some great conductors have contributed to its history –

    Emil Oberhoffer (1903–22)
    Henri Verbrugghen (1923–31)
    Eugene Ormandy (1931–36)
    Dimitri Mitropoulos (1937–49)
    Antal Doráti (1949–60)
    Stanisław Skrowaczewski (1960–79)
    Neville Marriner (1979–86)
    Edo de Waart (1986–95)
    Eiji Oue (1995–2002)
    Osmo Vänskä (2003–13; 2014–)

    Add Principle Guest Conductors, Sommerfest conductors, and Pops conductors like Klaus Tennstedt, Andrew Litton, Doc Severinsen, and other luminaries, and you have a list of some of the leaders who helped shape and define the orchestra.

    I’d play tribute to Stan’s vision by focusing on the music, now and in the future, and keep the name Orchestra Hall.