Greek-born Conductor and composer Dmitri Mitropoulos showed talent as a boy, and after studying at the Athens Conservatory went on to Brussels and Berlin, studying under Italian pianist, composer and conductor Ferruccio Busoni. At the age of 25, he became an assistant to conductor Erich Kleiber at the Berlin State Opera, before making his debut in the U.S. 15 years later with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. By 1945, when he was nearly 50, he settled in the U.S., where he became the conductor for the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra. From there, he moved on to work with the New York Philharmonic in 1949, first as co-conductor with Stokowski, then as music director – the most prized conducting position in the U.S. – from 1951-1957.
Mitropoulos was known for energetic conducting style and his photographic memory – he never used scores, having seen them once he knew them by heart. He didn’t use a baton either.
In contrast to his conducting style, Mitropolous’ life was spartan and devoted wholly to his music. And he didn’t bother to hide his homosexuality with what he called “a cosmetic marriage.” His protege and successor Leonard Bernstein is one of the men with whom he is said to have had a relationship.
Mitropoulos died in 1960 of a heart attack in Milan while rehearsing Mahler’s 3rd symphony.