b. London, April 18, 1882
d. Nether Wallop, England, September 13, 1977
Leopold Stokowski is best known for creating the unique sound of The Philadelphia Orchestra, where he was music director for 25 years. His engaging personality and sense of showmanship brought him unprecedented popularity for a symphonic conductor. He fully exploited new media as they came along, making commercial recordings with The Philadelphia Orchestra as early as 1917, and appearing in several films, most memorably opposite Mickey Mouse in Walt Disney’s Fantasia (1941).
Leopold Stokowski was a frequent visitor to the Philharmonic throughout his long career, appearing with the Orchestra on nearly 200 occasions, taking part in Young People's Concerts, and, in the 1940s, leading the Orchestra on tours. During the 1949–50 season he shared the position of Principal Conductor with Dimitri Mitropoulos. In his last appearance with the Philharmonic, on February 8, 1969, he led a program of music by Bach and two modern works inspired by him: Lukas Foss’s Phorion, and Rock Variations and Fantasy on a Brandenburg Concerto, written and performed by the New York Rock and Roll Ensemble.
Stokowski placed his popularity at the service of contemporary composers, premiering over 2,000 new works during his career. Most of these were written by Americans, including Copland’s Dance Symphony, Antheil’s Fourth Symphony, Ives’s Fourth Symphony, and compositions by Griffes, Cowell, and Hovhaness. Stokowski also conducted world premieres of Rachmaninoff’s Third Symphony, Fourth Piano Concerto, and Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, as well as the US premieres of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du printemps (as both a concert piece and a ballet), Berg’s Wozzeck, and several Schoenberg works, including the Gurre-Lieder.