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Musical Encounters: Maestro Esa-Pekka Salonen and Matías Tarnopolsky meet Leopold Stokowski, Eugene Ormandy, and Marian Anderson in the Penn Libraries

Posted on by John Pollack

On Saturday, February 16, 2019, world-renowned conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, in town to guest conduct the Philadelphia Orchestra, squeezed in some time for a visit to the Lea Library at the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts before his evening concert. Maestro Salonen was keen to examine some of the scores once owned by another illustrious conductor, Leopold Stokowski, and annotated by him for performance. Maestro Salonen was accompanied by Matías Tarnopolsky, the President and CEO of the Philadelphia Orchestra, himself a trained conductor. John Pollack, a curator in the Kislak Center, along with Liza Vick, Head of Penn’s Otto E. Albrecht Music Library and Eugene Ormandy Music and Media Center, and Penn undergraduate music major Lara Balikci (COL ‘19), pulled some gems from the collection and served as a small but admiring audience.

A native of Finland, Salonen first delved into a box containing four Stokowski scores of symphonies by the famous twentieth-century Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. As Russell Platt wrote in a 2017 New Yorker profile, Salonen “was born to conduct Sibelius.” He examined the score of the Symphony no. 1 (Sinfonie Nr. 1 e-Moll, opus 39) with particular attention.

Looking inside the folder containing the score and orchestral parts, Matías spotted two remarkable photographs. One shows Sibelius smiling (“he never smiled!” noted Matías) and has the composer’s signature; the other shows Sibelius and Stokowski shaking hands. According to Stokowski’s biographer Oliver Daniel, these photographs date from 1953, when Stokowski conducted the Helsinki City Symphony.

Salonen studied Stokowski’s score to Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra, on the program for that night’s performance, along with that of another famous Philadelphia conductor, Eugene Ormandy, whose collection also resides at the Penn Libraries. The contrast between the two maestros’ styles is striking. Compared to the bright red crayon markings on Stokowski’s decidedly flamboyant and highly visual score, Ormandy’s score is minimally marked. Salonen noted that Maestro Ormandy had a photographic memory and therefore, did not need to write much down.

Maestro Salonen also pointed out that Stokowski’s scoreof Ein Heldenleben (opus 40), a first edition printed in Leipzig in 1899, has revisions by Stokowski in red pen on the first page of the score.

Salonen hypothesized that Stokowski may have made this reorchestration to follow suggestions made by Strauss. Note also Stokowski’s name stamp with “München,” Munich, where he summered before World War 1. According to Stokowski’s biographer Oliver Daniel, Stokowski conducted Ein Heldenleben with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1913, in his second season (1913).

Turning to Stokowski’s score of Sibelius’s violin concerto (Violinkonzert, Op. 47), Salonen noted that Stokoski’s writing of “CAM” might had been for television, and therefore, a note to himself to smile for the camera.

Many orchestras found it difficult to accept Stokowski’s unorthodox reorchestrations and his willingness to radically rewrite pieces, and Maestro Salonen shared a story that the San Francisco Symphony (where he will become Music Director in 2020) refused to be conducted by Stokowski after rehearsing his revised version of Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony, which introduced a prominent bass clarinet part. The copy in the Stokowski collection, used in performance with The Philadelphia Orchestra, does include the second bassoon part rewritten for “contra bass clarinet.”

Stokowski seems not to have favored Béla Bártok’s viola concerto, orchestrated after the composer’s death by Tibor Serly and performed by the Orchestra that evening with Choong-Jin Chang playing viola: no scores of this concerto are in the collection. Stokowski did perform Bártok’s The Miraculous Mandarin(Csodalatos mandarin), a piece that Salonen has recorded twice (with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and the Philharmonia Orchestra, London) and which he conducted that evening with power and passion. Maestros Salonen and Tarnopolsky also had a few moments to examine other Penn Libraries musical treasures, including the manuscript of Bártok’s String Quartet no. 3, submitted for a 1927 prize competition sponsored by the Musical Fund Society (the manuscript is described in more detail by former Music Librarian Marjorie Hassen here), and even a clipping of Paganini’s hair that also belonged to the Musical Fund Society.

After finishing in the Lea Library, Maestro Salonen had a photo-op on Stokowski’s podium, made famous in his performance in the Walt Disney film Fantasia (1940). Salonen and Tarnopolsky also examined Eugene Ormandy’s baton; a cabinet that belonged to Beethoven; and an exhibition of photographs, performance programs, and memorabilia documenting the extensive travels of the world-famous Philadelphia contralto Marian Anderson, all part of the Penn Libraries collections. Anderson’s long-time accompanist was the Finnish pianist Kosti Vehanen.

The conclusion of the visit was a brief tour of the current Music Library exhibition highlighting another important collection: “Musical Partnerships at Play: The Marlboro Music Festival.”

The Penn Libraries are grateful to Maestros Salonen and Tarnopolsky for their visit, a chance to reinforce the deep bonds of friendship between the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Penn Libraries.

More about the Stokowski Collection

More about the Ormandy Collection

More about the Marian Anderson Collection

Musical Treasures at the Penn Libraries

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