Born in London, Stokowski is best known for his association with the Philadelphia Orchestra and for his free-hands style of conducting. Stokowski was music director of orchestras including the NBC Symphony and New York Philharmonic, and founded the Hollywood Bowl SO among others. He conducted music for Disney’s Fantasia and was a lifelong champion of contemporary composers.
Tribute by José Serebrier
When I was 17 Leopold Stokowski premiered my First Symphony as a last-minute replacement for the still-unplayable Fourth Symphony by Charles Ives. He took a big chance because he had invited the world music press to attend the long awaited Ives premiere. It was typical. He was constantly launching new works by composers from all over the world. Very few conductors today take such chances. That habit cost him his position with the Philadelphia Orchestra, when the board got tired of the constant barrage of new music. Stokowski performed more new works than any other musician in history. When I was Stokowski’s Associate Conductor at Carnegie Hall for four years, I observed his instant magic. As soon as he started conducting the sound changed. Early in the history of the gramophone, Stokowski pioneered high-quality recorded sound. He could balance the orchestra by changing the traditional seating patterns. Rehearsal technique was planned like a general going to war. When the Stokowski Society asked me to record his transcriptions I turned it down. They then sent me many contemporary recordings by various conductors and I accepted, recording four volumes with the Bournemouth Symphony, a small tribute to one of my great mentors.