Stokowski, Leopold (1882-1977)

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Stokowski, Leopold (1882-1977)

A brilliant symphony orchestra conductor and arranger of classical music, Leopold Antoni Stanislaw Stokowski achieved his greatest fame as conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra, beginning in 1912. His statuesque physique, flowing hair, and theatrical temperament came to symbolize for generations of Americans—and for other conductors—how the musical directors of symphony orchestras should look and behave. Stokowski was especially admired and respected for creating an ensemble with so unique a sound that the Philadelphia Orchestra was considered by many musicians to be the greatest in the world. Eventually, celebrity entered his personal life when he married heiress Gloria Vanderbilt.

In the 1930s, Hollywood beckoned and Stokowski appeared with singer Deanna Durbin in films that were merely vehicles for their talents. The exception was Walt Disney's Fantasia, in which animation was blended with Stokowski conducting superb renditions of works by classical composers. The films reinforced Stokowski's image, allowing millions to see him in action.

—Milton Goldin

Further Reading:

Daniel, Oliver. Stokowski: A Counterpoint of View. New York, Dodd, Mead, 1982.