A low blow to an orchestra giant who can’t defend himself

Skrowaczewski takes the stage at Orchestra Hall in 2014. Jeffrey Thompson | MPR News file

It was rather a low blow the Star Tribune Letters to the Editors page allowed in this morning’s newspaper.

It objected to the proposal to name Orchestra Hall after Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, the conductor laureate who died last month at 93.

He was, by the accounts I’ve read in the intervening days, beloved by musicians.

But not according to some anonymous information the newspaper chose to print today.

No, don’t rename it after the late conductor — or at all

A Feb. 25 letter writer suggests renaming Orchestra Hall after Stanislaw Skrowaczewski (who died last week). All I know is what I heard a long time ago from a Minnesota Orchestra player regarding Skrowaczewski as a great conductor:

“Yes, he cuts a nice figure up there, and audiences love to see that, but we as players don’t follow what he’s doing; we play among ourselves and make it look like we’re following him. He’s in a world of his own, conducting some mythical orchestra in his head but not the one in front of him. My advice would be how a jazz band leader should conduct: Start the tune and then get the hell out of the way.” The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra sees merit in this, too.

If you’re going to rename Orchestra Hall (please don’t), how about Neville Marriner Hall? He was respected by all.

Ted Unseth, Minneapolis

As there’s a direct quote there, it seems there’d easily be a name that Unseth, a jazz musician, could have and should have been required to cite before defaming a man who can no longer defend himself.

A commenter called Unseth on the anonymity.

Every great conductor has his or her detractors. Who was the musician that Ted Unseth quoted? For crediblity site your sources. I am afraid that cellist Tony Ross would disagree with your opinion. The maestro’s promotion of modern music made him unpopular with some, but there is no accounting for taste. Also, the St Paul Chamber can not be compared with a large symphony orchestra. Even they need a conductor at times especially for complex scores. A listener of Skrowaczewski for sixty years, I side with musical opinions from around the world that testify to his growing appeal going late into his life. I would recommend that you watch his You Tube concerts to understand that he knew exactly what results to seek from the orchestry, conducting with great knowledge, clarity and persuasiveness. Let us look at the whole picture, Mr. Unseth.

(h/t: Paul John Scott)