LEOPOLD STOKOWSKI: A Profile by Abram Chasins


Email this review


I never knew a man who told me less of the truth about himself."" So, even though author-composer Chasins collaborated with the legendary Maestro, this modest, chatty biography provides few insights into the man behind that incredible face and that ridiculous accent. But Chasins, with help from two Stokowski wives (Gloria Vanderbilt isn't talking), does bring musical savvy and an open mind to a thorough rundown on London-born Stoki's 75-year career: the audacious emergence from inexperienced obscurity to conduct the Cincinnati orchestra--which he dumped to go to Philadelphia; the iconoclastic shaping of that great Philadelphia sound and that docile (for a while) Philadelphia audience; the U.S. premieres of Wozzeck, Mahler's Eighth, the Rite of Spring ballet; the lure of Hollywood and the Fantasia triumph; the All American Symphony; the postwar years as a musical ""nomad,"" and the final decade of international glory. Chasins acknowledges Stoki's incomplete training and his ""deaf-spots"" (the neglect of Mozart and Haydn), presents both pro and con on his tamperings with scores (including Chasins' own), and stresses Stoki's devotion to new music and his enthusiastic (sometimes comic) role in the development of music recording. As for the private life, Chasins is candid but sketchy, touching on the affairs with young students (Stoki was ""sporadically impotent"") and the open marriage with wife Evangeline--which failed only when Stoki's affair with Garbo disturbed the children. And, despite the first-hand accounts of Stokowski in rehearsal (with one sad glimpse of senility at 94), there's no attempt to understand the drive beneath the manic genius. Unfocused, then--but the fullest Stokowski profile yet and a solid enough mix of admiration and demythification.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1979
Publisher: Hawthorn