A man of remarkable tenacity and vigor, Leopold Stokowski had signed a recording contract the year before he died at age 95 that would have kept him professionally active until he was 100 years old.
He conducted his last public program in 1974, after more than 7,000 appearances in the concert hall. Afterward, he concentrated on recordings. To celebrate his 95th birthday, he completed a recording of Brahms' Second Symphony.
"Brahms has been in his grave a very long time. But his music lives. That is why I am here today," Stokowski told reporters. The maestro was 15 when Brahms died.
Leopold Antoni Stanislaw Boleslawowicz Stokowski was born in London on April 18, 1882, the son of a Polish father and Irish mother. For many years he gave the year of his birth as 1887 and, although he was raised in Britain, he retailed — or cultivated — an accent that caused some observers to place his background several longitudes to the east of England. He became an American citizen in 1915.
He was a romantic figure on the podium, a conductor who enjoyed the illumination of a spotlight. His flowing hair punctuated rhythmic definition as his long, elegant fingers sculpted phrases in the air. He was a showman as well as a musician.