Monday, May 12, 2014

Dimitri Mitropoulos - A Musician With Astonishing Gifts...

As a child,  my favorite conductor was Arturo Toscanini; however, a rather close second was, arguably, the most powerful Greek musician of his time, Dimitri Mitropoulos.
My first visual impression of him (of course, I was quite young, then!) was that he looked more like a  gangster straight out of the movies, what with that gleaming, bald head and eternal cigarette dangling out of the right corner  of his mouth - BUT, that impression was erased when I became aware of what this man could do with an orchestra:
His sense of the ultra-focus on the architectural lines  of the music he was dealing with became quickly clear to my young mind, which, of course at that time, had no definable reason to contend with, for my attraction to his ways of building the structure he was putting together - I was simply mesmerized without knowing, intellectually, why  I was mesmerized. That knowledge, of course, came much later by way of my own intellectual development.
At any rate, this man was an astonishing musician, with an equally astonishing power of memory;  for example, when he appeared at his first rehearsal with the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra in, I believe, 1937, which he just assumed directorship of,  the orchestra members quickly found that he never had a score in front of him, and on that first day it became  quickly clear  that he knew the name of each and every orchestra member, whom he addressed  directly by name, rather than by instrument.
On one occasion he visited Cyril Scott, the eminent English composer and  writer, to look at the score of a new work that Scott had written for the orchestra to debut. Mitropoulos pored over the score on that day. Scott later revealed that Mitropolous looked only one more time at this score; then conducted it at rehearsals and the debut event without ever again  referring to it. This incident, with all of the experiences I have read about genius performers and their photographic minds, was the most stupefying example of memorizing powers that I know of.
If you are not familiar with the feats and recordings of this little bald fellow with the dangling cigarette, why not delve into the life of this frighteningly gifted conductor?

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