Dimitri Mitropoulos (1 March 1896 – 2 November 1960), was a Greek conductor, pianist, and composer. He received international fame, in the classical music world, both as a major conductor and composer of the 20th century. Also known as Dimitris Mitropoulos.
Mitropoulos was born in Athens, the son of Yannis (John) and Angelikē (Angelica) Mitropoulos. His father owned a leather goods shop at 15, St. Mark Street, in downtown Athens. He was musically precocious, demonstrating his abilities at an early age. From the ages of eleven to fourteen, when Mitropoulos was in secondary school, he would host and preside over informal musical gatherings at his house every Saturday afternoon. His earliest acknowledged composition - a sonata for violin and piano, now lost - dates from this period.
He studied music at the Athens Conservatoire as well as in Brussels and Berlin, with Ferruccio Busoni among his teachers. From 1921 to 1925 he assisted Erich Kleiber at the Berlin State Opera and then took a number of posts in Greece. At a 1930 concert with the Berlin Philharmonic, he played the solo part of Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3 and conducted the orchestra from the keyboard, becoming one of the first modern musicians to do so.
Mitropoulos made his U.S. debut in 1936 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and he later settled in the country, becoming a citizen in 1946. From 1937 to 1949 he served as principal conductor of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra (forerunner of today's Minnesota Orchestra).
In 1949 Mitropoulos began his association with the New York Philharmonic, the peak of his orchestral career. He was initially co-conductor with Leopold Stokowski and became the sole music director in 1951. Mitropoulos recorded extensively with the Philharmonic for Columbia Records and sought to reach new audiences in the city through appearances on television and by conducting a week of performances at the Roxy Theatre, a popular movie theatre. Mitropoulos expanded the Philharmonic's repertoire, commissioning works by new composers and championing the symphonies of Gustav Mahler. In 1958, he was succeeded as the Philharmonic's conductor by a protégé, Leonard Bernstein. In January 1960, he guest conducted the Philharmonic in a performance of Mahler's Fifth Symphony, which was recorded.
In addition to his orchestral career, Mitropoulos was an equally important force in the operatic repertoire. He conducted opera extensively in Italy and from 1954 until his death in 1960 was the principal conductor of the Metropolitan Opera in New York, although the Met did not officially use that title at the time. His musically incisive and dramatically vivid performances of Puccini, Verdi, Richard Strauss and others remain models of the opera conductor's art. The Met's extensive archive of recorded broadcasts preserves many of these fine performances.
Mitropoulos's series of recordings for Columbia Records with the New York Philharmonic included a rare complete performance of Alban Berg's Wozzeck. Many of these have been reissued by Sony Classics on CD, including most recently his stereo recordings of excerpts from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet. For RCA he recorded with the Minneapolis Symphony during the 78-rpm era. He was also represented on the Cetra label, most notably with an early recording of Richard Strauss's Elektra.
Mitropoulos premiered many contemporary works. The interpretation of Cemal Reşit Rey's Concerto chromatique with Orchestre de Paris is one of them.
He was noted for having a photographic memory (which enabled him to conduct without a score, even during rehearsals) and for his monk-like life style due to his deeply religious, Greek Orthodox beliefs.
Mitropoulos never married. He was "quietly known to be homosexual" and "felt no need for a cosmetic marriage". Among his relationships reportedly was one with Leonard Bernstein.
He died in Milan, Italy at the age of 64 of heart failure, while rehearsing Gustav Mahler's 3rd Symphony. One of his very last recorded performances was Verdi's La forza del destino with Giuseppe Di Stefano, Antonietta Stella and Ettore Bastianini at Vienna on 23 September 1960. A recording exists of the performance of Mahler's 3rd Symphony given by Mitropoulos with the Cologne Radio Symphony on 31 October 1960, just two days before his death.
Mitropoulos was noted as a champion of modern music, such as that by the members of the Second Viennese School. He wrote a number of pieces for orchestra and solo works for piano, and also arranged some of Johann Sebastian Bach's organ works for orchestra. In addition he was very influential in encouraging Leonard Bernstein's interest in conducting performances of Mahler's symphonic works. He also premiered and recorded a piano concerto of Ernst Krenek as soloist (available on CD), and works by composers in the U.S. such as Roger Sessions and Peter Mennin. In 1952 he commissioned American composer Philip Bezanson to write a piano concerto, which he premiered the following year. His compositions include a piano sonata, the opera "Soeur Béatrice" (1918), and other works.
Leonard Bernstein (/ˈbɜrnstaɪn/; August 25, 1918 – October 14, 1990) was an American composer, conductor, author, music lecturer, and pianist. He was among the first conductors born and educated in the United States of America to receive worldwide acclaim. According to music critic Donal Henahan, he was "one of the most prodigiously talented and successful musicians in American history."
His fame derived from his long tenure as the music director of the New York Philharmonic, from his conducting of concerts with most of the world's leading orchestras, and from his music for West Side Story, Peter Pan, Candide, Wonderful Town, On the Town, On The Waterfront, his Mass, and a range of other compositions, including three symphonies and many shorter chamber and solo works.
Bernstein was the first conductor to give numerous television lectures on classical music, starting in 1954 and continuing until his death. He was a skilled pianist, often conducting piano concertos from the keyboard.
As a composer he wrote in many styles encompassing symphonic and orchestral music, ballet, film and theatre music, choral works, opera, chamber music and pieces for the piano. Many of his works are regularly performed around the world, although none has matched the tremendous popular and commercial success of West Side Story.
Priest of Music: The Life of Dimitri Mitropoulos by William R. Trotter
Hardcover: 532 pages
Publisher: Amadeus Press; First Edition edition (March 1, 2003)
Amazon: Priest of Music: The Life of Dimitri Mitropoulos
Impeccably researched and written with a novelist's narrative mastery, this biography of the great conductor is a modern tragedy. Mitropoulos was a passionate advocate of difficult modern music and an early champion of Mahler; his emotionally charged performances brought the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra into the first rank of American orchestras. Generous and self-effacing, he was an innocent in the game of musical politics, unprepared for the intrigues and treachery in store when he became music director of the New York Philharmonic, "the orchestra that took no prisoners."
The Queer Composition of America's Sound: Gay Modernists, American Music, and National Identity by Nadine Hubbs
Paperback: 293 pages
Publisher: University of California Press; First Edition edition (October 18, 2004)
Amazon: The Queer Composition of America's Sound: Gay Modernists, American Music, and National Identity
In this vibrant and pioneering book, Nadine Hubbs shows how a gifted group of Manhattan-based gay composers were pivotal in creating a distinctive "American sound" and in the process served as architects of modern American identity. Focusing on a talented circle that included Aaron Copland, Virgil Thomson, Leonard Bernstein, Marc Blitzstein, Paul Bowles, David Diamond, and Ned Rorem, The Queer Composition of America's Sound homes in on the role of these artists' self-identification--especially with tonal music, French culture, and homosexuality--in the creation of a musical idiom that even today signifies "America" in commercials, movies, radio and television, and the concert hall.
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