Help us improve our websiteSend feedback
Leopold Stokowski (1882-1977) was an American conductor, who led the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, American Youth Orchestra, New York City Symphony, Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra, NBC Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Houston Symphony Orchestra, and American Symphony Orchestra. His career began with studies at the Royal College of Music in 1896 when Stokowski was just 13. He performed as an organist and choral director for several years in England, Europe and the U.S. before becoming director of the Cincinnati Orchestra in 1909. During his career, Stokowski promoted Modern and late Romantic music, combining an avant-garde approach with a traditional glamour that drew audiences of all sorts to his performances. Today he is perhaps most well known for his collaboration with Walt Disney on the movie Fantasia.
The collection is open for research use.
Photocopies and scans of original materials may be provided for a fee and at the discretion of the curator. Please see our Duplication of Materials policy for more information. Queries regarding publication rights and copyright status of materials within this collection should be directed to the appropriate curator.
1.75 Linear Feet
The Leopold Stokowski collection covers the period from 1908 to 1982; the bulk dates are 1910 to 1920. The collection consists of letters, programs, clippings, and memorabilia, most dating from the first few years of Stokowski’s tenure with the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Leopold Stokowski was born in London 18 April 1882. After completing studies at the Royal College of Music in 1900 at the age of 18, he formed a choir at St. Mary's, Charing Cross Road (1900-1901). The next year he received an appointment as organist and choir director at St. James, Piccadilly. From 1905 to 1908 he was the choirmaster at St. Bartholomew's, New York and in 1908 he made his debut in Paris. His first appointment as conductor of a symphony orchestra came in 1909, when he became the director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Despite his lack of experience, the organization improved immensely over the next three years under Stokowski's leadership. As a result he won an appointment as the conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1912.
Stokowski led the Philadelphia Orchestra for 24 years, from 1912 until 1936, remaining associated with the organization until 1941. Because of his interest in new music the Philadelphia Orchestra gave several U.S. premieres during his tenure including Alban Berg's Wozzeck and Gustav Mahler's Eighth Symphony. Stokowski also became affiliated with modernist chamber music societies in New York City. It was through one of these, the International Composers' Guild, that he offered the U.S. premiere of Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. Stokowski's musical showmanship and high public profile also earned him the spot of conductor for the Walt Disney film Fantasia (1940).
After leaving the Philadelphia Orchestra, Stokowski had a series of brief appointments with orchestras of his own creation, including the All-American Youth Orchestra (1940-41), the New York City Symphony (1944), and the Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra (1945). In 1941-42, Stokowski served as conductor of the NBC Symphony Orchestra. The next season Arturo Toscanini, Stokowski's sometime-rival, joined him as co-conductor; they worked together two years. Several years of work with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra followed. His last major appointments were with the Houston Symphony Orchestra (1955-60) and the American Symphony Orchestra (1962-72). Toward the end of his life, Stokowski returned to London where he remained until his death in 1977.
The collection has been divided into four series
This collection was purchased in 1998 from a manuscript dealer then affiliated with the University Libraries. One accession of additions was included soon after. How the material came to be gathered by the dealer is unknown, but it is not believed to have been accomplished under any suspicious circumstances. It is worth noting that the papers of both Olga Samaroff and Josef Hoffman are held by the International Piano Archives at Maryland (IPAM), also located in the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library.
Part of the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library