Leopold Stokowski (1882-1977) – American conductor of Polish origin. He became famous as the director of the Philadelphia Orchestra (from 1912), which he raised to an international level. He was also founder of other significant ensembles: the All-American Youth Orchestra and the American Symphony Orchestra. He made numerous recordings, which assured him an immense popularity. His legend was heralded by musical films made with the participation of the Philadelphia Orchestra – One Hundred Men and a Girl and Fantasia.
Stokowski maintained a live interest in new music, and contributed to the popularization of Witold Lutosławski’s creative output. He introduced into his repertoire Lutosławski’s Concerto for Orchestra (a letter from 1958 survives, in which the composer thanks him for interest in the work) and Funeral Music, with which he inaugurated the existence of the Contemporary Music Society in Houston. During 1959 European tour Stokowski made a concert appearance in Warsaw (May 22), where he performed Witold Lutosławski’s Symphony no. 1, among other works. (The recording of the Symphony’s performance was released on CD in 1995.) In a radio interview given at the time, Stokowski said that he considers Shostakovich and Lutosławski to be the greatest living composers.
Although critics differed in their appraisal of Stokowski’s interpretations, for the Polish composer the performance of his work by a world-famous conductor was a memorable event. In a letter kept at the Paul Sacher Foundation, he wrote: “I will never forget your concert, the performance of my Symphony, your visit in our country, and all our personal contacts”. (kt / trans. mk)