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

Oct 10, 2018

In the early 20th century, Leopold Stokowski was transforming The Philadelphia Orchestra into a major force in classical music, while roughly 6 ½ miles away in the nearby suburbs, Albert Barnes was amassing his now world-famous art collection.

The Philadelphia Orchestra is now combining music, theater, and art in innovative concerts that provide historical context to the music from October 11th to 21st.

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

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 feature a 'symphonic play' by playwright and director Didi Balle. Theatrical scenes are integrated within the concert format,  with actors portraying Barnes, Stokowski, and Glackens, and Deneve narrating some scene changes.  During the theatrical scenes, the  orchestra plays music that illustrates the storytelling,  and the drama, in turn, contextualizes the orchestra's performances of pieces on its program.  Projections of  archival photos and art from the Barnes collection frame the stage.

Correspondence between Stokowski and Barnes, are on display along with photos and programs in the Kimmel Center lobby during the Festival run.

In the pioneering spirit of these two arts leaders, chamber concerts October 16 at the American Philosophical Society and October 18 at the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral will present premieres of works by living composers, performed by SoundLAB, a contemporary music ensemble.

A panel discussion at the Barnes on October 13 at 3 pm, "Stowkowski, Barnes, and Matisse" will explore the history and legacy of these arts titans.