Sunday, January 02, 2011

The Vault of Walt: Stokowski

I'm putting this extended quote here to:
  • show you some of the nifty stuff in this book full of essays on "lost" stories about Walt Disney & the Disney films and parks...
  • give my friend, Jonathan, a bit of a birthday present (thought it is inexcusable that I crossed Stravinsky & Stokowski in my memory)
This comes from Jim Korkis' book, The Vault of Walt (available at fine booksellers everywhere!)...

When Leopold Stokowski was recording the music for Walt Disney's Fantasia with the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra, the complex recording system set up in the basement of the Academy of Music (also known as the American Academy of Music & is the oldest opera house in the United States still used for its original purpose) was declared a fire hazard & work was ordered stopped.

On the advice of friends, Stokowski called Joe Sharfain, then city solicitor for Philadelphia and an ardent music fan. Sharfian quickly withdrew the stop order & recording proceeded. Later, Stokowski expressed his gratitude and asked, "Now, what can I do for you?" Sharfain said jokingly that one of his greatest wishes was to be rich enough to engage Stokowski & the orchestra for a single performance at which he would be the sole audience. (The price at that time would have been at least $100,000.) [Note from Mark: run through an inflation calculator, we're talking $1,441,000+.]

Stokowski asked, "When did you have in mind?" Sharfain answered, "Oh, that's a long time away." Stokowski countered, "How about tomorrow at two o'clock?" The incredulous Sharfain appeared at the side door of the Academy of Music the next afternoon, to be escorted by a deputy of the maestro into the hall, empty except for the orchestra & conductor. The maestro turned to make sure Sharfain was there, raised his arms and conducted for four hours - all the music of Fantasia - just for Joe Sharfain.
Now, Jonathan, if you can just figure out how to make friends with a well-connected conductor... Happy Birthday!

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