Dimitri Mitropoulos

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Dimitri Mitropoulos
Dimitri Mitropoulos, Konstantinos Kotzias, Filoktitis Oikonomidis (cropped).jpg
Born(1896-02-18)18 February 1896
Athens, Greece
Died2 November 1960(1960-11-02) (aged 64)
Milan, Italy
Resting place First Cemetery of Athens
OccupationPianist, conductor, composer

Dimitri Mitropoulos (Greek : Δημήτρης Μητρόπουλος; 1 March [ O.S. 18 February] 1896 [1] – 2 November 1960) was a Greek conductor, pianist, and composer.


Life and career

Mitropoulos was born in Athens, the son of Yannis and Angelikē Mitropoulos. His father owned a leather goods shop 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, finding that his soloist was sick he played the solo part of Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3 and conducted the orchestra from the keyboard, becoming one of the first to do so. [2]

United States

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).

External audio
Nuvola apps arts.svg You may hear Dimitri Mitropoulos conducting Sergei Prokofiev's Lieutenant Kijé Suite , Op. 60 with the New York Philharmonic in 1956 Here on archive.org
Nuvola apps arts.svg You may hear Dimiri Mitropoulos conducting his orchestral trasncription of Johann Sebastian Bach's Great Fantasia and Fugue in G minor, BWV 542 with the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra in 1942 Here on archive.org

In 1949 Mitropoulos began his association with the New York Philharmonic. 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.

Work in opera

In addition to his orchestral career, Mitropoulos 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 never had an official 'principal conductor' title until the 1970s. 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 . He recorded with the Minneapolis Symphony for RCA Victor during the 78-rpm era. He was also represented on the Cetra Records label, most notably with an early recording of Richard Strauss's Elektra .

Mitropoulos premiered many contemporary works. Examples include the American premieres of Shostakovich's Tenth Symphony (1954) and First Violin Concerto (1956) and the world premieres of Barber's Vanessa (1958), Ernst Krenek's Fourth Symphony (1947), and John J. Becker's Short Symphony (1950).

Personal life

He was noted for having an Eidetic 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". [3] Among his relationships reportedly was one with Leonard Bernstein. [2]

He died in Milan, Italy at the age of 64 of heart failure, while rehearsing Mahler's 3rd Symphony. One of his last recorded performances was Verdi's La forza del destino with Giuseppe Di Stefano, Antonietta Stella and Ettore Bastianini in 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.

External audio
Nuvola apps arts.svg You may hear Dimitri Mitropoulos conducting Zoltán Kodály's Háry János Suite with the New York Philharmonic in 1953 Here on archive.org

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  1. The dates 18 February 1896 and 1 March 1896 both appear in the literature. Many of Mitropoulos's early interviews and program notes gave 18 February. In his later interviews, however, the conductor said he was born on 1 March, and most American sources also show this birthdate. The reason for the different dates is that Greece was still using the Julian calendar in 1896, and did not adopt the Gregorian calendar until 1923, when Mitropulos was 27. By then, the calendars were 13 days apart, but in 1896 they were only 12 days apart. The date 18 February 1896 under the Julian calendar corresponded to 1 March 1896 in the Gregorian. The earlier sources used the original Julian calendar date, and the later sources used the equivalent Gregorian date.
  2. 1 2 Lebrecht, Norman (1992). The Maestro Myth . New York: Birch Lane Press (Carol Publishing Group). p.  259. ISBN   1-55972-108-1.
  3. Horowitz, Joseph (2005), Classical Music In America: A History Of Its Rise And Fall, W. W. Norton & Company, p.  323, ISBN   0-393-05717-8