The conductor with bare hands
Dimitri Mitropoulos is an internationally renowned musician, composer and pianist. He’s one of the most influential composers of the world. He conducted over 2.000 concerts and composed 40 works, like the opera Sister Beatrice, orchestra music, chamber music and works for piano and voice.
Born on February 18th, 1896, in Athens.
He studied piano and composition at the Athens Conservatoire and graduated in 1919 with excellence.
As an undergraduate, he had the opportunity to conduct the conservatoire’s Symphonic Orchestra on April 29th, 1915.
Moreover, he studied choir conducting and composition at the Athens Conservatoire and later in Berlin.
In 1924, he relocated to Athens and started working as the maestro of the Athens Conservatoire’s Symphonic Orchestra, while following his international career conducting eminent European ensembles.
His international debut was on February 27th, 1930, when he conducted the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, also appearing as a soloist playing the Piano Concerto No. 3 by Prokofiev.
He first visited the United States in 1936 to conduct the Boston Symphony Orchestra, accepting an invitation by director Serge Koussevitzky.
During the years from 1938 to 1949, he served the Symphony Orchestra of Minneapolis, establishing it as one of the most prestigious orchestras of the United States.
In 1949, he joined the New York Philharmonic as a co-conductor and later as the sole music director and artistic administrator up to 1957.
During the summer of 1955, he joined an extensive European tour of the New York Philharmonic, making a stop in Athens after a 17-year long absence.
He died on November 2nd, 1960, of heart failure, while rehearsing Gustav Mahler’s 3rd Symphony in the Teatro alla Scala of Milan.
– He was awarded the gold medal for his piano skills by the Athens Conservatoire, a distinction that the organization has awarded only five times in its history.
– He was well known for his photographic memory, as he was able to direct an orchestra without a score and also famous for his ascetic lifestyle originated from his deep Christian faith.
– A half naked photograph of Dimitri Mitropoulos, pictured in the act of studying, published in Life magazine on February 18th, 1946, made the head of the Boston Symphonic Orchestra Sergey Koussevitzky furious. This photograph together with the statement of Mitropoulos mentioning that, “The artist’s job is similar to the prostitute’s job; they both involve making others happy regardless of their own feelings”, forced Koussevitzky to reject the Greek musician as his future successor.
– While he was alive, Mitropoulos wished to be cremated and his ashes transferred back to Greece.