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The Barnes/Stokowski Festival: Music, Art, and Theater Events Spotlight Two Local Arts Titans

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Albert C. Barnes and Leopold Stokowski

In the early 20th century, Leopold Stokowski was transforming The Philadelphia Orchestra into a major force in classical music, while roughly 6 miles away in the nearby suburbs, Albert Barnes was amassing his now world-famous art collection. How did they intersect? That's the theme for this week's Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert broadcast.

The orchestra brings this relationship to life along with music of Debussy, Chuasson, Paletrina, Stravinsky, Poulenc, and Milhaud.

The Philadelphia Orchestra combined music, theater, and art in innovative concerts that provided historical context to the music in October.

Check out The Philadelphia Orchestra's blog posts about Barnes and Stokowski here.

Chemist and businessman Albert Barnes made his fortune creating and marketing a silver nitrate antiseptic called Argyrol used to treat eye infections. In 1911, he gave his old high school friend, artist William Glackens, $20,000 to go to Paris to buy paintings to launch his now world famous art collection. English conductor Leopold Stokowski made his debut as Music Director of the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1912. 

Both men, pioneers in bringing new art and music to their respective institutions, were aware of the larger cultural milleau in which they played their parts. Barnes hosted small private musicales and attended Orchestra concerts conducted by Stokowski. Stokowski spoke at the dedication of the Barnes Foundation in 1925.

The Philadelphia Inquirer's Peter Dobrin wrote about the relationship between Barnes and Stokowski.

I researched their lives, listened to music, created a play, and found a way to weave it through the music selected by the Maestro. -Didi Balle

Orchestra concerts at Verizon Hall conducted by Stéphane Deneve featured a "symphonic play" by playwright and director Didi Balle. Theatrical scenes integrated within the concert format, with actors portraying Barnes, Stokowski, and Glackens, and Deneve narrating some scene changes.  During the theatrical scenes, the orchestra played music that illustrated the storytelling, and the drama, in turn, contextualized the orchestra's performances of pieces on its program.  Projections of archival photos and art from the Barnes collection framed the stage.

Susan writes and produces stories about music and the arts. She’s host and producer of WRTI’s TIME IN online interview series, and contributes weekly intermission interviews for The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert series. She’s also been a regular host of WRTI’s Live from the Performance Studio sessions.