b. Athens, March 1, 1896
d. Milan, November 2, 1960
Dimitri Mitropoulos, who died on November 2, 1960, was Music Director of the Philharmonic from 1949 to 1958. He first conducted the Orchestra in 1940, and over a 20-year period led 764 performances around the world, with itineraries that took the maestro and the Philharmonic musicians to South America and, Europe, as well as 40 American cities. For Mitropoulos, the highlight of his tenure was a 1955 visit to his native Athens, where he had not conducted since 1938. The Athenian reaction was overwhelming, with thousands camped out all night in front of the box office.
A passionate champion of contemporary composers, Mitropoulos conducted almost 50 world premieres with the Philharmonic; he also introduced Mahler's Sixth Symphony to American audiences for the first time, as well as important works by Schoenberg, Shostakovich, and Prokofiev. He also presented vocal works and complete operas in concert, which he believed provided an advantage to the audience, "whose eyes are not distracted and whose ears can therefore focus on what they hear without competition or conflict."
To expand the Orchestra's audience and the players' financial opportunities, Mitropoulos and the Philharmonic appeared at the Roxy Theatre for two two-week stints in 1950-51, playing four short programs of popular favorites before the featured film. Although the films were not extraordinary (The Black Rose, starring Tyrone Power and Orson Welles and I'd Climb the Highest Mountain, with Susan Hayward and Bill Lundigan), public support was. Nearly 205,000 people attended the September showings, roughly the equivalent of 100 concerts at Carnegie Hall!