Stanisław Skrowaczewski & Anthony Ross — Images via minnesotaorchestra.org

Skrowaczewski & Ross

Minnesota Orchestra
Works by Schumann & Bruckner

Among the annual Minnesota Orchestra traditions I’ve learned to look forward to are an appearance by conductor laureate Stanisław Skrowaczewski and a solo turn by principal cellist Anthony Ross. This weekend, we’re being treated to both in one program, and Friday evening’s concert more than lived up to my high expectations.

First up was a particularly subtle reading of Robert Schumann’s Cello Concerto, in which Skrowaczewski’s light, transparent touch with the much-reduced orchestra gave Ross plenty of room to explore the nuances of Schumann’s music without having to shout. After successfully drawing out the unique voice of each of the many transformations to which the composer subjects his themes, Ross took things a step farther in the third-movement cadenza, supplementing Schumann’s accompanied portion with some exotic-sounding, unaccompanied meditations before Skrowaczewski brought the orchestra back for the brief, determined conclusion. For his encore, Ross gave the audience a sneak preview of Sunday’s special Bach concert — featuring six of the orchestra’s cellists in Bach’s six cello suites — with the Bourrées from Suite No. 4.

After the intermission came one of the most popular symphonies — No. 7 — by Anton Bruckner, the composer with whom Skrowaczewski is most closely associated. The fact that Skrowaczewski is still conducting hour-long symphonies at the age of 92 is a wonder in and of itself, and the lifetime of insight he brings to Bruckner’s works definitely shows. He never lets us lose sight of the emotional content underlying the composer’s mechanical-seeming structures and rhythms, nor does the overall narrative get lose in the sometimes-sudden transitions between sections. It’s hard to single out any one thing to say about Friday’s performance; the whole thing just felt right, in a way that only a confident, committed orchestra and conductor can bring about.

Skrowaczewski, Ross, and the orchestra play this program one more time tonight. If you don’t have a ticket, get one. And here’s to many more years of both of these traditions.

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Eric Prindle

administers Bad Entertainment. He is also an attorney who leads a team of legal marketing copywriters at FindLaw. He is not Eric Prindle, the mixed martial arts fighter.