Dimitri Mitropoulos – Minneapolis Symphony Orche

Album cover art for upc 194398882529
Label: SONY CLASSICAL
Catalog: 19439888252
Format: CD

Dimitri Mitropoulos

Sony Classical is proud to announce one of its most significant historic releases of recent years: a 69-CD box set containing the recorded legacy of Dimitri Mitropoulos (1896–1960), who ranks by general consensus among the 20th century’s most brilliant conductors. Many of these legendary performances have never before been transferred from their analogue masters and released on digital medium. A lifelong ascetic and mystic, Mitropoulos was attracted in his youth to the monastic life but decided against following his older brothers into the Greek Orthodox Church when he learned that music was censured as a forbidden indulgence. After studying piano, composition, theory and conducting, first in his native Athens, then in Rome, Brussels and with Busoni in Berlin – where he served as Erich Kleiber’s assistant at the Staatsoper from 1921–24 – his career took flight in Athens. It was there that he developed his trademark style of conducting without baton or score and brought to his music-making all his religious fervour and passion along with his prodigious memory. As the critic Peter Quantrill astutely noted in an overview of his recordings in Gramophone: “Mitropoulos’s facility of memory could draw out [recurring melodic and motivic strands] at faster-than-usual tempi while maintaining an intuitive proportion between their sections. You seem to hear more of the music in a shorter space of time.” His international fame began with a 1930 Berlin Philharmonic performance of the Prokofiev Third Piano Concerto, in which Mitropoulos appeared as both soloist and conductor. (He would repeat that tour de force a decade and a half later in Philadelphia, a performance included in this new set.) His American career was launched by sensational concerts with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1936, which promptly resulted in his appointment to succeed Eugene Ormandy as principal conductor of the Minneapolis Symphony (now Minnesota) Orchestra. He proceeded to bring that ensemble international fame through recordings which captured the force of his magnetic personality and electrifying musicianship. In Minneapolis, he enjoyed enormous success with critics and audiences, performing half of Mahler’s then still largely unfamiliar output (earning him American Mahler Society Medal of Honor in 1940) and commissioning numerous works by leading American and European composers to make the orchestra a bastion of modern music in the US.  Mitropoulos’s association with the New York Philharmonic, which he first conducted in 1940, was hardly less successful artistically, though it was ultimately tarnished by critical hostility having more to do with his sexual orientation than his musical interpretations. From 1949, he served as the orchestra’s co-conductor with Leopold Stokowski, then from 1951 as music director until, after a period of joint leadership with Leonard Bernstein in 1958, he “abdicated with joy” in favour of his protégé, supposedly to devote more time to opera. During his New York years, he was also a commanding presence at the Metropolitan. As Sony Classical’s massive new box set definitively demonstrates, Mitropoulos faithfully documented his eclectically wide-ranging repertoire on disc in Minneapolis and New York, even recording some favourite works in both cities. To cite a few highlights from the MINNEAPOLIS SYMPHONY years: there is the first-ever recording of Mahler’s First Symphony (1940), which “can still be counted among the finest the work has received” (Gramophone); Tchaikovsky’s Symphonies Nos. 4 (1940) and 2 (1946) as well as his First Piano Concerto with Arthur Rubinstein (1946) – “The soloist is in rare form, and this is an example of the grand manner in operation” (High Fidelity). Other symphonies for which Mitropoulos showed his special affinity in Minneapolis include the Borodin Second (1941; MusicWeb International: “The best performance of the Borodin symphony I’ve ever heard”), Schumann’s Second (1940) and “Rhenish” (1947), the Prokofiev “Classical” (1940) and Franck D minor (1940) – “Mitropoulos infuses his reading with un

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