Thursday, February 28, 2013

Happy Birthday, Dimitri Mitropoulos!

Dimitri Mitropoulos
Tomorrow, March 1, is the birthday of the great Greek conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos (1896-1960), and so I present his first recording of a piece that was one of his specialties, the often-maligned "Scotch" Symphony of Mendelssohn. David Hall, in a supplement to his 1940 Record Book, confessed that this symphony was not a favorite of his among Mendelssohn's works, but that Mitropoulos' "arresting and revelatory reading" had forced him to revise his opinion!  And indeed Mitropoulos finds just the right blend of excitement and poetry in the piece:

Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 56 ("Scotch")
Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra conducted by Dimitri Mitropoulos
Recorded December 6, 1941
Columbia Masterworks set MM-540, four 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 86.58 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 39.98 MB)

This recording was made on the Saturday of that fateful weekend when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, drawing the USA into World War II; I'm sorry to say that this pressing was made under wartime conditions with recycled shellac, but I have done what I could with it.  Mitropoulos recorded the symphony again twelve years later, with the New York Philharmonic.

Cover design by Alex Steinweiss
(restored by Peter Joelson)

I was saddened yesterday to hear of the death of Van Cliburn, who had been suffering from bone cancer since last August.  His New York Philharmonic debut, in 1954, was under Mitropoulos' direction, and Cliburn is the only person I am aware of to repeat Mitropoulos' feat of simultaneously playing and conducting Prokofiev's Third Piano Concerto - once, at a concert memorializing Mitropoulos!

Cliburn's famous 1958 recording of the Tchaikovsky concerto, incidentally, appears to have been the last extended classical work ever to have been issued in a short-playing format - 3 extended-play 45s (RCA Victor set ERC-2252), with the first movement spread out over four sides just as it was in the days of 78s!


  1. Happy birthday Dimitri and unfortunately R.I.P Van Cliburn and Wolfgang Sawallisch....
    Do you have by any chance a recording for Bach-Mitropoulos Prelude & Fugue in B minor, BWV 869??
    We know that Mitropoulos recorded the BWV 542 orchestration and so did Leonard Slatkin for Chandos. But what about Mitropoulos' other orchestration?

  2. Ah! you beat me again Bryan! Good choice for a file download. I will offer my transfer on symphonyshare (from an Entre LP reissue) this weekend.

    Please keep them coming...

    - Bill

    1. Hey Bill - I bet your Entre LP sounds a lot better than the 78s anyway! Glad to hear you're still active.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. I deleted an earlier comment due to my poor typing!

    Barely active!! Family health and business issues have eaten up most of my time lately.

    I don't know it you are a member of symphonyshare, but if you (and others) are interested, here is the mediafire address of the Entre LP transfer:

    Keep your projects coming. Your site is a great source for 78 enthusiasts, and a template for how to layout an intelligent and informative blog!!