The figure of the conductor as showman reached a 20th-century pinnacle in Leopold Stokowski, whose theatrical manner, exotic accent and celebrity lifestyle popularized for some, and obscured for others, his prodigious gifts as an inspired trainer of orchestras and interpreter of the most varied range of music. With an exceptional ear for orchestral tone and balance, he created the instantly recognizable “Philadelphia sound” over his many years with that orchestra, while applying his talents for orchestration and arrangement to works by composers from Bach to Mussorgsky. He was a prolific recording artist and tireless champion of new music, and conducted the US premières of many significant works, including Berg’s Wozzeck.
1895–1900: Studies at London’s Royal College of Music.
1902: Organist and choirmaster at St James’s, Piccadilly.
1903: Bachelor of Music at Queen’s College, Oxford.
1905–08: Organist and choirmaster at St Bartholomew’s, New York.
1908: Conducting début in Paris.
1910: Witnesses Mahler directing the rehearsals and world première of his Eighth Symphony.
1909–12: Conductor with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
1912–36: Makes the Philadelphia Orchestra one of the best in the world (Music Director in 1931, since 1936 co-conductor with Eugene Ormandy).
1940: Collaborates with Walt Disney on the film Fantasia.
1940–45: Forms and subsequently conducts the All-American Youth Orchestra, the New York City Symphony and the Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra.
1941–44: Conductor of the NBC Symphony Orchestra (joined by Toscanini over the last two years).
1955–65: Music Director of the Houston Symphony Orchestra.
1960: Conducts Turandot at the Metropolitan Opera.
1962–72: Creates and conducts the American Symphony Orchestra.
1972–1975: Returns to England; keeps performing and recording until his death.
“We must not permit anything to happen that stops the evolution and the experimentation [of music] into new directions, because time will take care of it in any case. If [the music] has true inspiration, if it has a true expression of the poetry of life in some form, whatever, it will live. If not, it will not.”