Friday, December 22, 2023

How Great Spiritual Figures of Greece Helped Form the Renowned Conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos

Dimitri Mitropoulos (center) with St. Nektarios (left) and Alexandros Papadiamantis (right) and the Metochion of the Ascension in Vyronas of Athens in the background.

Perhaps the best known relationship of the renowned composer and pianist Dimitri Mitropoulos was his constant betrayer and eventual successor: Leonard Bernstein. Bernstein first heard and saw Mitropoulos as a recent émigré from Greece when he had given a Boston Symphony Orchestra concert in 1938 which electrified the Harvard graduate student. Mitropoulos took Bernstein under his wing, though the ambitious Bernstein later repaid his kindness by angling to replace him as the head of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. It was Mitropoulos, after all, who is primarily responsible for inspiring Bernstein to become a conductor. Another friend of Mitropoulos, Herbert von Karajan, also was entranced by the way in which music seemed to flow through the Greek conductor and communicate itself to both players and audiences. At Karajan's behest, Mitropoulos became a welcome return guest at the Salzburg Festival in the last years of his life. Mitropoulos exercised a formative influence on the two most dominant conducting egos in the second half of the 20th century.