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Philadelphia Orchestra: 4 Highlights between 1904 and 1916

The Philadelphia Orchestra was founded in 1900 and shaped cultural life on the American East Coast from the very beginning. The world stars of classical music enjoyed coming to the young orchestra. Four particularly significant Philadelphia Orchestra concerts took place between 1904 and 1916.

What you will read in this article:

A veteran...

In 1904, the Philadelphia Orchestra was just 4 years old – in November 1900, Fritz Scheel had conducted the orchestra’s very first concert.

It is all the more astonishing that in 1904 the young orchestra was conducted by a real world star: Richard Strauss was in America. As part of his extensive tour, the then 40-year-old conducted not only the Philadelphia Orchestra with a program of his own works, but also the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall.

...a virtuoso...

Two years after Strauss’s guest appearance, a young Pole came to Philadelphia to showcase his pianistic skills for the first time in America: Arthur Rubinstein. For the just 19-year-old, Philadelphia was the starting point of an extended concert tour. The collaboration between Arthur Rubinstein and the Philadelphia Orchestra was to last for over 70 years.

...a jack of all trades...

In November 1909, a concert took place in Philadelphia that combined two sensations: first, Sergei Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Symphony was performed for the first time in America; second, the composer himself appeared in a double role: Sergei Rachmaninoff not only conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra, but also shone as a pianist with three of his own Préludes. (Such mixtures of orchestral and piano music in one concert seem exotic to us today, but were quite common in the past).

...and two magicians of sound playing together.

Seven years after Rachmaninoff’s concert, a monumental event took place in Philadelphia: The Philadelphia Orchestra and then music director Leopold Stokowski performed Gustav Mahler’s 8th Symphony for the first time in America.

By the way, a performance of Mahler’s 8th Symphony is always monumental and a recommended experience – a huge orchestra and a massive choir are combined in this 80-minute work. Just seeing those crowds on stage is worth it. See for yourself – there is even a photo of Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra:

Philadelphia Orchestra Stokowski 1916
The Philadelphia Orchestra with Leopold Stokowski. Preparations for the American premiere of Gustav Mahler's 8th Symphony (March 1916).

Leopold Stokowski made the orchestra famous beyond America’s borders. Today, the Philadelphia Orchestra is one of the five most important orchestras in the USA, the so-called ‘Big Five’, just like the orchestras in New York, Cleveland, Chicago and Boston.

Jonathan Stark – Conductor
Jonathan Stark – Conductor

Hello! I'm Jonathan Stark. As a conductor, it is important to me that visits to concerts and operas leave a lasting impression on the audience. Background knowledge helps to achieve this. That's why I blog here about key works of classical music, about composers, about opera and much more that happens in the exciting world of music.

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