Leopold Stokowski was born in London of Polish/Irish ancestry in 1882 and showed such an early aptitude for music that he was able to enter the Royal College of Music at the tender age of 13, the youngest student at that time to do so. His first foreign tour took place in the spring of 1951 when, at the invitation of Sir Thomas Beecham, he took the Royal Philharmonic on a tour of England to coincide with the 'Festival of Britain' that year. It was during this tour that he also
made his first appearance with the BBC Symphony Orchestra in a Royal Festival Hall concert that included Beethoven's 7th Symphony and Stravinsky's Rite of Spring.
During the next couple of years Stokowski performed many works with the BBC Symphony in a Maida Vale studio programme which included two full-length radio broadcasts. One such broadcast on 5 May1954, consisting of Malcolm Arnold's Beckus the Dandipratt, Glière's Concerto for Coloratura Soprano and Orchestra, and the Enescu Romanian Rhapsody No. 1. We must be grateful that Richard Itter recorded the three short works from the first concert, in particular in the case of the Arnold and Glière works, Stokowski was performing both of them for the only time in his life.
It was Tchaikovsky's 5th Symphony that he played the most, having conducted it for the first time in Cincinnati in 1910. The performance heard here has a certain historical interest as it was the very last time he conducted the work. A packed Royal Albert Hall responded with great enthusiasm to the nonagenarian maestro and indeed to the youthful band of players on the platform.