C1777. DIMITRI MITROPOULOS Cond. NYPO: Fidelio - Overture (Beethoven); Also sprach Zarathustra (Strauss); w.PIETRO SCARPINI: Piano Concerto #22 in E-flat, K.482 (Mozart). (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-855, Live Performance, 6 Nov., 1955, Carnegie Hall. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“Conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos stood apart from the European traditions that dominated first-rank American orchestras for much of the twentieth century. After attending the Athens Conservatory, where he studied piano and composition, his opera BÉATRICE was presented there. The French composer Saint-Saëns was in the audience, and was so impressed that he arranged a scholarship that enabled the 24-year-old to study composition with the Belgian composer Paul Gilson and piano with Busoni in Berlin. Busoni persuaded him to abandon composition and concentrate on becoming a conductor.
From 1921 to 1925, Mitropoulos assisted Erich Kleiber at the Berlin State Opera and on Kleiber's recommendation, was appointed conductor of the Hellenic Conservatory Symphony Orchestra in Athens. In 1927, he became conductor of the Greek State Symphony Orchestra and in 1930 was engaged to conduct the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, where he instituted the practice of conducting from the piano.
In 1937 Mitropoulos succeeded Eugene Ormandy as musical director of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra. He became a U.S. citizen in 1946, and remained in America until 1959. After 12 years in Minneapolis, he was invited to share the conductorship of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra with Stokowski, becoming its conductor when Stokowski resigned in 1950. Mitropoulos resigned the post after sharing the podium with Leonard Bernstein, his co-principal conductor, in the Orchestra's 1958 tour of Latin America. From 1954, he was a dynamic force as Bruno Walter's successor at the Metropolitan Opera, where he introduced many new operas, including ones by Richard Strauss and Samuel Barber.
Mitropoulos never conducted his own works, but considered his best composition to be a Concerto Grosso written in 1929. He lived simply and took little part in social activities. His conducting style was passionate, highly-charged and demonstrative; he had a phenomenal memory and rarely used a baton. He programmed much modern music and particularly admired Schönberg and the Second Viennese School, such as Webern and Berg, as well as twentieth century American and British composers. His recording of Mahler's First Symphony made with the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra in 1941 was the first ever made in the U.S. of that work, and Mitropoulos was awarded the American Mahler Medal of Honor in 1950 for his work in promoting the composer's music. He died while rehearsing Mahler's Third Symphony with Toscanini's famous La Scala Orchestra.”
- Roy Brewer, allmusic.com
"A recital by Pietro Scarpini, the pianist who has placed his own art in the service of music from the 1900s, is always replete with stimulating modernity, even when the concert artist sits at the keyboard to play masterpieces of the past….in concerts held in Turin and Milan during a brief Italian tour, the apostle and divulgator of the piano works by Schönberg and Berg, by Prokofiev and Busoni….How did it happen that Pietro Scarpini became nearly the only pianist of his generation to systematically undertake the difficult path of contemporary repertoire? ‘It might be explained’, the pianist replies, ‘by the fact that I was born to be a composer and conductor, and then I became a pianist by chance’. Born in Rome in 1911 to a father who was a General [in the Italian Army before World War I] and music lover and to a mother who was a pianist, Pietro Scarpini already knew at age four how to play the piano and gave his first recital at six. What followed came in a life which moved at a record-breaking pace: granted a diploma in piano at age twelve (he was a pupil of Alfredo Casella), diplomas in composition and organ at eighteen, and two years later a degree in literature. But this was not enough: at twenty-two, Pietro fell in love with the young Austrian pianist Teresita Rimer, and married her.
His career seemed oriented towards leading an orchestra. Bernardino Molinari, his teacher, considered Scarpini as the most worthy successor possible and offered him invaluable advice until a fortuitous event changed his destiny. One day during a conducting lesson, Molinari asked who among his students wished to play, for better or worse, the solo part of a Rachmaninoff concerto which would serve as a run-through before a full rehearsal. ‘I came forward’ Scarpini recalls, ‘not because I wished to distinguish myself from the others but rather to please the teacher. While I thrummed on the piano under the direction of a fellow student, I noted that Molinari was following me with attention and growing amazement. At the end of the work he came up and slapping his hand on my shoulder, he said to me, ‘A good conductor, you could become but a pianist, rather, an excellent pianist, you already are’.
Following his teacher’s exhortations, Scarpini came forth again as pianist: he was invited to Berlin to give a series of concerts with the Philharmonic Orchestra under Furtwängler….With the great German conductor, Scarpini had repeated occasions on which to play, and each time Furtwängler praised him further, causing the young pianist’s cheeks to burn with emotion. Soon after, this pupil of Casella threw himself headlong into the study of 20th century repertoire of which he would become an impassioned and intrepid popularizer.
Good doses of courage and self-effacement were needed to present oneself to a biased public, to sit at the keyboard with certainty and arise at the end to a hurricane of whistles and boos. For many years Scarpini made his entrance into the concert hall with the spirit which an apostle of a creed would have when entering an arena of ferocious beasts about to tear him apart. For many years, he smilingly confronted a public which asked itself how was it that a pianist of his calibre persisted in playing ‘impossible’ music. Among those who asked himself such a question more than once was old Alfred Cortot, who greatly admired the young Italian colleague: each time when Scarpini played in Paris, even if Cortot understood nothing of what was played he applauded Scarpini and intimidated a public prone to hostility with his authoritative stance.”
- Giovanni Carli Ballola