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Dimitri Mitropoulous

Music Director, 1949–58


b. Athens, Greece, March 1, 1896
d. Milan, Italy, November 2, 1960

Dimitri Mitropoulos was Music Director of the New York Philharmonic from 1949 to 1958. He first conducted the Orchestra in 1940, and over a 20-year period led 764 performances around the world, from South America to Europe, as well as 40 American cities. For Mitropoulos, the highlight of his tenure was a 1955 visit to his native Athens, where he had not conducted since 1938. The reaction was overwhelming, with thousands camping out all night in front of the box office.

A passionate champion of contemporary composers, Mitropoulos conducted almost 50 World Premieres with the Philharmonic. He also introduced Mahler’s Sixth Symphony to American audiences, as well as important works by Schoenberg, Shostakovich, and Prokofiev. He presented vocal works and complete operas in concert, which he believed provided an advantage to the audience, “whose eyes are not distracted and whose ears can therefore focus on what they hear without competition or conflict.”

To expand the Orchestra’s audience and the players’ financial opportunities, Mitropoulos and the Philharmonic appeared at the Roxy Theatre, a New York City movie palace, for two-week stints on two occasions in 1950–51, playing four short programs of popular favorites before the featured films. Nearly 205,000 people attended the September showings, roughly the audience equivalent to 100 concerts at Carnegie Hall, which was then the Orchestra’s home. For his final concerts with the Philharmonic, Mitropoulos conducted 12 concerts at the first Mahler Festival in January of 1960.

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