Penn Library

Leopold Stokowski:
Making Music Matter

Curated by Marjorie Hassen

Otto E. Albrecht Music Library
University of Pennsylvania


American Premiere of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 8 ("Symphony of a Thousand")
Leopold Stokowski Conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra
Academy of Music, Philadelphia
2 March 1916

"Mahler Mania," as it came to be called, swept Philadelphia in 1916 with the Orchestra's American premiere of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 8 ("Symphony of a Thousand"). Stokowski had been present in Munich at the work's first performance in 1910 under the composer's baton, and considered it "one of the greatest compositions of the twentieth century." He appealed to the Philadelphia Orchestra board for support of the massive undertaking and his persuasiveness resulted in a $14,000 allocation for the extra performers and stage alterations necessary to accommodate them. The forces used included an (augmented) orchestra of 110, two choruses of 400 each, a 150-member children's chorus, and eight soloists. Ten sold-out performances were presented--including one in New York's Metropolitan Opera House. The event earned Stokowski, the Orchestra, and Philadelphia national attention on a grand scale, and brought the thirty-three-year-old conductor to the forefront of his profession.


Soloists for the American premiere of Mahler's Symphony No. 8

Left to right: Margaret Keyes, contralto; Susanna Dercum, contralto; Inez Barbour, soprano; Clarence Whitehill, bass; Leopold Stokowski; Alexander Van Rensselaer, president of the Philadelphia Orchestra; Florence Hinkle, soprano; Reinald Werrenrath, baritone; Adelaide Fischer, soprano; Lambert Murphy, tenor

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