PRIEST OF MUSIC by William R. Trotter


The Life of Dimitri Mitropoulos
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 A first-rate biographical study of one of the century's more important conductors, Dimitri Mitropoulos (18961960). Based on the research of late musicologist Oliver Daniel, music critic Trotter has created a comprehensive and neatly written portrait of Mitropoulos, whom he correctly calls the ``Forgotten Giant.'' Tracing his life from student days in Greece to his mature artistic career spent primarily in America (a decade in Minneapolis, where he created an ensemble competitive with the top US orchestras, followed in the 1950s by the music directorship of the New York Philharmonic), Trotter emphasizes that Mitropoulos approached music-making with the self-denying religious fervor that almost had led him as a young man to take a monk's vows. This otherworldly attitude may explain the genuinely tragic circumstances of Mitropoulos's later years: his relative lack of pretense about his own homosexuality at a time when other gay conductors advanced their careers (sometimes at Mitropoulos's expense) by remaining in the closet; his remaining in America instead of returning to Europe, where he was idolized, on the grounds that he could fulfill his missionary service to serious music better in the New World; his carelessness about his health, which led to his premature death of a massive coronary while rehearsing the La Scala Philharmonic in Mahler's Third Symphony. None of this is simple, and with the notable exception of Trotter's overemphasis on the effects of Howard Taubman's New York Times criticismreminiscent of the ``critics killed John Keats'' school of biographyhe avoids many of the potholes of oversimplification. Since Mitropoulos is an elusive conductor on disc, good hints toward a basic discography are included. Humanizing, a valuable panorama of US classical music culture, and an irresistible inducement to seek out the Mitropoulos performances left to us on records. (66 b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1995
ISBN: 0-931340-81-0
Page count: 532pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1995


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