Stokowski on contemporary music

Leopold Stokowski was a champion of contemporary music. He conducted music without judgement, believing judgement to be the public’s job.

During the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra’s 1915-16 season,he programmed orchestral suites from Stravinsky’s Firebird and Petrushka, Richard Strauss’ Alpine Symphony, Scriabin’s Poem of Ecstasy, and Schoenberg’s Kammersymphonie No. 1.

“This last, very cerebral work, although not atonal, proved unbearably dissonant, and the Academy’s audience loudly voiced its displeasure during the performance. I was told that in the middle Stokowski strode off the stage in a fury. When quiet was restored, he returned and started it again from the very beginning. At its conclusion an intimidated audience, fearful of a third repetition, offered some dutiful applause.”

Source: Chasins, Abram (1979) Leopold Stokowski. London: Robert Hale, p. 85-86.