One of the most flamboyant conductors of the 20th century, Leopold Stokowski was born at Marylebone in London in 1882, the son of a Polish father and Irish mother. As a young boy he started taking violin, piano and organ lessons and, at 13, became one of the youngest students to be admitted to the Royal College of Music, where his teachers included Sir Hubert Parry and Sir Charles Villiers Stanford. He later went to Queen's College, Oxford, where he gained a Bachelor of Music degree in 1903.
He paid his first visit to the United States in 1905 as organist of St. Bartholomew's Church in New York but returned to Europe to continue his studies. He made his conducting début in Paris in 1908 and his London début aRead more year later. 1909 was also the year that Stokowski took up his first official conducting post, with the Cincinatti Symphony Orchestra. After three successful years at Cincinnatti Stokowski became music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, where he remained for the next 25 years, building for himself and the orchestra an enviable international reputation; creating what became known as the 'Philadelphia Sound'. Stokowski took up US citizenship in 1915.
Stokowski conducted a wide range of contemporary music, many of his performances being either world or American premières. The music of Schoenberg, Shostakovich, Mahler, Rachmaninov, Sibelius and Stravinsky featured prominently in his concerts and he gave the first US performances of the music of a whole host of other contemporary composers.
Stokowski made his first Hollywood appearances in 1937 in the films 'The Big Broadcast' and, with Deanna Durbin and Adolphe Menjou, 'One Hundred Men and a Girl'. His best-known film role was as the conductor in Disney's 'Fantasia'. He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He married three times, his third wife being the railroad heiress, Gloria Vanderbilt. At the end of his life he returned to live in England and died, aged 95, at his home in Nether Wallop, Hampshire. His grave can be found in the cemetery at East Finchley in north London.
His collaboration with Capitol Records resulted in a crop of some of Stokowski's most famous recordings, made using three-track stereo tape recorders. Always the great innovator, Stokowski was more than happy to cooperate with the Capitol engineers to ensure the best recorded result and these, together with those he made for United Artists with the Symphony of the Air, can be heard in this unique 10-CD Icon set. Read less
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