82 Facts About Leopold Stokowski


Leopold Anthony Stokowski was a British conductor.


Leopold Stokowski was especially noted for his free-hand conducting style that spurned the traditional baton and for obtaining a characteristically sumptuous sound from the orchestras he directed.


Leopold Stokowski was the founder of the All-American Youth Orchestra, the New York City Symphony, the Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra and the American Symphony Orchestra.


Leopold Stokowski conducted the music for and appeared in several Hollywood films, most notably Disney's Fantasia, and was a lifelong champion of contemporary composers, giving many premieres of new music during his 60-year conducting career.


Leopold Stokowski, who made his official conducting debut in 1909, appeared in public for the last time in 1975 but continued making recordings until June 1977, a few months before his death at the age of 95.


On occasion, Leopold Stokowski gave his year of birth as 1887 instead of 1882, as in a letter to the Hugo Riemann Musiklexicon in 1950, which incorrectly gave his birthplace as Krakow.


Leopold Stokowski studied at the Royal College of Music, where he first enrolled in 1896 at the age of thirteen, making him one of the youngest students to do so.


Leopold Stokowski sang in the choir of the St Marylebone Parish Church, and later he became the assistant organist to Sir Walford Davies at The Temple Church.


Leopold Stokowski attended The Queen's College, Oxford, where he earned a Bachelor of Music degree in 1903.


In 1905, Leopold Stokowski began work in New York City as the organist and choir director of St Bartholomew's Church.


Leopold Stokowski was very popular among the parishioners, who included members of the Vanderbilt family, but in the course of time, he resigned this position in order to pursue a career as an orchestra conductor.


In 1908, Stokowski began a campaign to win this position, writing letters to Mrs Christian R Holmes, the orchestra's president, and travelling to Cincinnati, Ohio, for a personal interview.


Leopold Stokowski was selected over other applicants and took up his conducting duties in late 1909.


That was the year of his official conducting debut in Paris with the Colonne Orchestra on 12 May 1909, when Leopold Stokowski accompanied his bride to be, the pianist Olga Samaroff, in Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No 1.


Leopold Stokowski's engagement as new permanent conductor in Cincinnati was a great success.


Leopold Stokowski introduced the concept of "pops concerts" and, starting with his first season, he began championing the work of living composers.


Leopold Stokowski's concerts included performances of music by Richard Strauss, Sibelius, Rachmaninoff, Debussy, Glazunov, Saint-Saens and many others.


Leopold Stokowski conducted the American premieres of new works by such composers as Elgar, whose 2nd Symphony was first presented there on 24 November 1911.


Leopold Stokowski was to maintain his advocacy of contemporary music to the end of his career.


However, in early 1912, Leopold Stokowski became frustrated with the politics of the orchestra's Board of Directors, and submitted his resignation.


Two months later, Leopold Stokowski was appointed the director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and he made his conducting debut in Philadelphia on 11 October 1912.


On 22 May 1912, Leopold Stokowski conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in a concert that he was to repeat in its entirety 60 years later at the age of 90, and on 14 June 1912, he conducted an all-Wagner concert that featured the noted soprano Lillian Nordica.


Leopold Stokowski helped with recruiting faculty and hired many of their graduates.


Leopold Stokowski experimented with new lighting arrangements in the concert hall, at one point conducting in a dark hall with only his head and hands lighted, at other times arranging the lights so they would cast theatrical shadows of his head and hands.


Leopold Stokowski encouraged "free bowing" from the string section, "free breathing" from the brass section, and continually altered the seating arrangements of the orchestra's sections, as well as the acoustics of the hall, in response to his urge to create a better sound.


Leopold Stokowski is credited as the first conductor to adopt the seating plan that is used by most orchestras today, with first and second violins together on the conductor's left, and the violas and cellos to the right.


Leopold Stokowski became known for modifying the orchestrations of some of the works that he conducted, as was a standard practice for conductors prior to the second half of the 20th century.


For example, Leopold Stokowski revised the ending of the Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture, by Tchaikovsky, so it would close quietly, taking his notion from Modest Tchaikovsky's Life and Letters of Peter Ilych Tchaikovsky that the composer had provided a quiet ending of his own at Balakirev's suggestion.


Leopold Stokowski made his own orchestration of Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain by adapting Rimsky-Korsakov's orchestration and making it sound, in some places, similar to Mussorgsky's original.


Leopold Stokowski was the only conductor to perform all of Arnold Schoenberg's orchestral works during the composer's own lifetime, several of which were world premieres.


Leopold Stokowski gave the first American performance of Schoenberg's Gurre-Lieder in 1932.


Leopold Stokowski presented the American premieres of four of Dmitri Shostakovich's symphonies, Numbers 1,3,6, and 11.


In 1916, Leopold Stokowski conducted the American premiere of Mahler's 8th Symphony, Symphony of a Thousand, whose premiere he had attended in Munich on 12 September, 1910.


Leopold Stokowski added works by Rachmaninoff to his repertoire, giving the world premieres of his Fourth Piano Concerto, the Three Russian Songs, the Third Symphony, and the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini; Sibelius, whose last three symphonies were given their American premieres in Philadelphia in the 1920s; and Igor Stravinsky, many of whose works were given their first American performances by Stokowski.


Leopold Stokowski appeared as himself in the motion picture The Big Broadcast of 1937, conducting two of his Bach transcriptions.


In 1939, Leopold Stokowski collaborated with Walt Disney to create the motion picture for which he is best known: Fantasia.


Leopold Stokowski even got to talk to Mickey Mouse on screen, in a famous silhouette footage; though, he would later say with a smile that Mickey Mouse got to shake hands with him.


Leopold Stokowski made two LP recordings with them for Columbia Records, one including a performance of Manuel de Falla's El amor brujo, which he had introduced to America in 1922 and had previously recorded for RCA Victor with the Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra in 1946, and a Bach album which featured the 5th Brandenburg Concerto and three of his own Bach transcriptions.


Leopold Stokowski has appeared as a guest conductor on several more occasions, his final Philadelphia Orchestra concert taking place in 1969.


Leopold Stokowski conducted a great deal of contemporary music with the NBC Symphony, including the US premiere of Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky in 1943, the world premieres of Schoenberg's Piano Concerto and George Antheil's 4th Symphony, both in 1944, and new works by Alan Hovhaness, Stravinsky, Hindemith, Milhaud, Howard Hanson, William Schuman, Morton Gould and many others.


Leopold Stokowski conducted several British works with this orchestra, including Vaughan Williams' 4th Symphony, Holst's The Planets, and George Butterworth's A Shropshire Lad.


In 1944, on the recommendation of Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, Leopold Stokowski helped form the New York City Symphony Orchestra, which they intended would make music accessible for middle-class workers.


Many early concerts were standing room only; however, a year later in 1945, Leopold Stokowski was at odds with the board and he resigned.


Leopold Stokowski made three 78pm sets with the New York City Symphony for RCA Victor: Beethoven's 6th Symphony, Richard Strauss's Death and Transfiguration, and a selection of orchestral music from Georges Bizet's Carmen.


Leopold Stokowski has appeared frequently with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, both at the Hollywood Bowl and other venues.


Leopold Stokowski made many splendid recordings with the NYPO for Columbia, including the world premiere recordings of Vaughan Williams's 6th Symphony and Olivier Messiaen's L'Ascension, in 1949.


However, when in 1950 Dimitri Mitropoulos was appointed Chief Conductor of the NYPO, Leopold Stokowski began a new international career which commenced in 1951 with a nationwide tour of England: during the Festival of Britain celebrations he conducted the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the invitation of Sir Thomas Beecham.


Leopold Stokowski returned to the NBC Symphony Orchestra in 1954 for a series of recording sessions for RCA Victor.


Leopold Stokowski made a series of Symphony of the Air recordings for the United Artists label in 1958 which included Beethoven's 7th Symphony, Shostakovich's 1st Symphony, Khatchaturian's 2nd Symphony and Respighi's The Pines of Rome.


From 1955 to 1961, Leopold Stokowski was the Music Director of the Houston Symphony Orchestra.


Leopold Stokowski gave the US premiere in Houston of Shostakovich's 11th Symphony and made its first American recording on the Capitol label.


In 1960, Leopold Stokowski made one of his infrequent appearances in the opera house, when he conducted Giacomo Puccini's Turandot at the New York Metropolitan, in memorable performances with a cast that included Birgit Nilsson, Franco Corelli and Anna Moffo.


In 1962, at the age of 80, Leopold Stokowski founded the American Symphony Orchestra.


Leopold Stokowski served as Music Director for the ASO until May 1972 when, at the age of 90, he returned to live in England.


Leopold Stokowski continued to conduct in public for a few more years, but failing health forced him to only make recordings.


An eyewitness said that Leopold Stokowski often conducted sitting down in his later years; sometimes, as he became involved in the performance, he would stand up and conduct with remarkable energy.


Leopold Stokowski conducted the New Philharmonia in the 'Merry Waltz' of Otto Klemperer, Vaughan Williams's Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis, Ravel's Rapsodie espagnole and Brahms's 4th Symphony.


Leopold Stokowski gave his last world premiere in 1973 when, at the age of 91, he conducted Havergal Brian's 28th Symphony in a BBC radio broadcast with the New Philharmonia Orchestra.


Edward Greenfield of The Guardian wrote: "Leopold Stokowski rallied them as though it was a vintage Philadelphia concert of the 1920s".


Leopold Stokowski continued to make recordings even after he had retired from the concert platform, mainly with the National Philharmonic, another ad-hoc orchestra made up of first-desk players chosen from the main London orchestras.


Leopold Stokowski died of a heart attack in 13 September 1977 in Nether Wallop, Hampshire, at the age of 95.


Leopold Stokowski made his very first recordings, with the Philadelphia Orchestra, for the Victor Talking Machine Company in October 1917, beginning with two of Brahms' Hungarian Dances.


Leopold Stokowski found ways to make the best use of the acoustic recording process, until electric recording was introduced by Victor in the spring of 1925.


Leopold Stokowski conducted the first orchestral electrical recording to be made in America in April 1925.


Leopold Stokowski was the first conductor in America to record all four of Brahms' symphonies.


Leopold Stokowski made the first US recordings of the Beethoven 7th and 9th Symphonies, Antonin Dvorak's New World Symphony, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony and Nutcracker Suite, Cesar Franck's Symphony in D minor, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade, Sergei Rachmaninoff's 2nd Piano Concerto, Jean Sibelius's 4th Symphony, Dmitri Shostakovich's 5th and 6th Symphonies, and many shorter works.


In 1954, Leopold Stokowski made his first commercial stereo recordings with the NBC Symphony Orchestra for RCA Victor.


From 1947 to 1953, Leopold Stokowski recorded for RCA Victor with a specially assembled 'ad hoc' band of players drawn principally from the New York Philharmonic and NBC Symphony Orchestras.


Leopold Stokowski was very careful in the placement of musicians during recording sessions and worked closely with the recording staff to achieve the best possible results.


Leopold Stokowski's Capitol recording of Holst's The Planets was made with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.


All of the music that Leopold Stokowski conducted in Fantasia was released on a 3-LP set by Disneyland Records, in the 1957 soundtrack album made from the film.


One of Leopold Stokowski's most notable Everest recordings was a coupling of Tchaikovsky's Francesca da Rimini and Hamlet with the New York Stadium Symphony Orchestra.


Several of Leopold Stokowski's televised concerts have been issued on both VHS and DVD, including Beethoven's 5th Symphony and Schubert's Unfinished Symphony with the London Philharmonic on EMI Classics 'Classic Archive' label; the Nielsen 2nd Symphony with the Danish Radio Orchestra on VAI ; and Charles Ives' 4th Symphony with the American Symphony Orchestra on Classical Video Rarities.


In 1973, Leopold Stokowski was invited by the International Festival of Youth Orchestras to conduct the 1973 International Festival Orchestra, numbering 140 of the world's finest young musicians, in a performance of Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony at the Royal Albert Hall, London.


Edward Greenfield in The Guardian reported "Leopold Stokowski rallied them as though it was a vintage Philadelphia concert of the 1920s".


In March 1938 Leopold Stokowski vacationed with Greta Garbo on the island of Capri in Italy.


On 21 April 1945, Leopold Stokowski married heiress and actress Gloria Vanderbilt.


Leopold Stokowski deplored the segregation of symphony orchestras in which women and minorities were excluded, and, Burnam claims, his detractors got revenge by slandering him.


Nevertheless, and notwithstanding Burnam's claims, attitudes towards Leopold Stokowski have changed dramatically since his death.


Leopold Stokowski is recognised as the father of modern orchestral standards.


Leopold Stokowski possessed a truly magical gift of extracting a burnished sound from both great and second-rank ensembles.


Leopold Stokowski loved the process of recording and his gramophone career was a constant quest for better recorded sound.