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Leopold Stokowski (1882 - 1977)

Leopold Stokowski’s father was a cabinet-maker of Polish descent, and his mother was of Irish origin. As a child he learnt to play the violin and piano, sang in a church choir, and discovered the organ when he was eleven years old. He became a student at the Royal College of Music in 1896, where his tutors included Stanford and Walford Davies. Two years later he enrolled at the Royal College of Organists, gaining his diploma in 1900. In that year he became choirmaster and organist at St Mary’s Church, Charing Cross, two years later moving to a similar post at the more prestigious St James’s Church, Piccadilly. While there he was a student at Queen’s College, Oxford, gaining his Bachelor of Music degree in 1903; in addition he conducted small orchestral concerts in London. On the recommendation of one of his former teachers, Sir Hubert Parry, he was appointed in 1905 as choirmaster and organist at St Bartholomew’s Church, New York, whose parishioners included the wealthy Vanderbilt and Morgan families. Here Stokowski, as well as developing the musical prowess of the church, inaugurated a series of organ recitals, often including in the programmes his own transcriptions of works by composers such as Elgar, Tchaikovsky and Wagner.



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