Today's Classical Music Video

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Stokowski Conducts Bach in the Big Broadcast of 1937

After spending decades building the Philadelphia Orchestra into one of the world's great ensembles Leopold Stokowski stunned the music world in 1936 by announcing his resignation. Stokowski was tired of fighting with the board and eager to try something new. He headed to Hollywood to broaden the audience for classical music and to become even more famous than he was already.
His first film was The Big Broadcast of 1937 which featured radio stars of that era. Stokowski conducted Bach's Little Fugue in G minor in his own orchestration. As you will see, Stokowski was obviously in love with his own image at the time. Nonetheless, the film was far ahead of its time in attempting to find new ways to present an orchestra and its conductor on the screen. The shots of Stokowski's hands and the dramatic lighting for individual musicians were highly innovative. These techniques were to be developed even further in the Stokowski-Walt Disney collaboration on Fantasia a few years later.
Incidentally, Stokowski's interests in Hollywood were by no means confined to film-making. During the making of The Big Broadcast of 1937 Stokowski met Greta Garbo and they soon began an intense relationship. The gossip columnists went crazy trying to keep up with their latest exploits. Battalions of reporters and photographers pursued the couple all around Europe in 1938. The relationship broke up Stokowski's marriage but he never married Garbo.
- Paul E. Robinson



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