Samaroff

Samaroff

Samaroff, Olga, 1882-1948, American pianist and educator, whose real name was Hickenlooper, b. San Antonio, Tex.; studied at the Paris Conservatory. Her American debut (1905) was in New York City. She taught at the Juilliard School of Music and at the Philadelphia Conservatory. She was music critic (1927-29) for the New York Evening Post and in 1933 founded the Layman's Music Course, Inc. She was the wife of Leopold Stokowski from 1911 to 1923. Her writings on music include The Layman's Music Book (1935) and A Music Manual (1936).

See her autobiography, An American Musician's Story (1939).

Olga Samaroff (August 8, 1880May 17, 1948) was a pianist, music critic, and teacher. Her second husband was conductor Leopold Stokowski. Samaroff was born Lucy Mary Agnes Hickenlooper in San Antonio, Texas, and grew up in Galveston, Texas, where her family owned a business later wiped out in the Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900. There being then no great teachers in the US, after her talent for the piano was discovered she was sent to Europe to study, first with Antoine François Marmontel at the Conservatoire de Paris, and later with Ernest Jedliczka in Berlin, where she married, very briefly, Russian engineer Boris Loutzky. After her divorce from Loutzky, and the disaster which claimed her family's business, she returned to the United States and tried to carve out a career as a pianist but soon discovered she was hampered both by her rather awkward name and her American origins. An agent suggested a change and her professional name was taken from a remote relative.

As Olga Samaroff she self-produced her New York debut at Carnegie Hall in 1905 (the first woman ever to do so), renting the hall, orchestra and conductor Walter Damrosch, and making an overwhelming impression with her performance of the Tchaikowsky Piano Concerto. She played extensively in the United States and Europe thereafter. Samaroff discovered Leopold Stokowski (1882-1977) when he was church organist at St. Bartholemew's in New York and later conductor of the Cincinnati Orchestra. At that time much more famous than he, Samaroff lobbied her distinguished contacts to get him appointed (in 1912) to the vacant conductor's post at the famed Philadelphia Orchestra, launching his international career. She married Stokowski in 1911 and their daughter Sonia was born in 1921. An unlikely anecdote has it that the couple met at a musician's promotional luncheon where the London-born Stokowski not knowing her real origin was introduced to her and expressed his relief at being able to talk to another Russian. Samaroff made a number of recordings in the early 1920s for the Victor Talking Machine Company.

In 1923, Stokowski left her for actress Greta Garbo in a scandal that made headlines. Samaroff never recovered from his infidelity and took refuge in her friends which included George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Dorothy Parker, and Cary Grant. In 1925 Samaroff fell in her New York apartment, suffering an injury to her shoulder which forced her to retire from performing. She worked primarily as a critic and teacher from then on. She wrote for the New York Evening Post until 1928, and gave guest lectures throughout the 1930s. Samaroff developed a course of music study for laymen and was the first music teacher to be broadcast on NBC television. She taught at the Philadelphia Conservatory and in 1924 was invited to join the faculty of the newly formed Juilliard School of Music in New York. She taught at both schools for the rest of her life. Called "Madam" by her students, she was a tireless advocate for some of them, supplying many of her Depression-era charges with everything from concert clothes to food, and pressing officials at Juilliard to build a dormitory - a project that was not realized for decades after her death. Her most famous pupil was concert pianist William Kapell who was killed tragically in a 1953 plane crash at 31.

Mme. Samaroff published an autobiography, An American Musician's Story, in 1939. Teacher to the end, she died of a heart attack at her home in New York on the evening of May 17, 1948 after giving several lessons that day.

Notable pupils

External links

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