Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Gabrilowitsch, Ossip

Born in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1878, Ossip Gabrilowitsch toured as a pianist before turning to a career in conducting. While touring as a concert pianist, he met and married Clara Clemens, the daughter of author Samuel Clemens, perhaps better known as Mark Twain. From 1910 to 1914, Gabrilowitsch was the conductor of the Munich Konzertverein, later the Munich Philharmonic. Following the instigation of World War I, Gabrilowitsch was named an enemy alien and he and his family were forced to leave Germany. After settling in the United States, Gabrilowitsch was appointed conductor to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in 1918. In 1919, Gabrilowitsch threatened to quit unless the DSO leaders built a home venue worthy of their orchestra. Nearly five months later, the new Orchestra Hall was built on Woodward Avenue at Parsons Street.

Under Gabrilowitsch, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra was a trendsetter. In 1922, Gabrilowitsch conducted the first complete symphony concert on radio on station WWJ, and inaugurated the first regular radio series by a symphony in 1934, the “Ford Sunday Evening Hour,” which was nationally syndicated on CBS in 1936. Concerned that music become available to the youth of the city, he began a series of concerts for youth. There were a many as 10 concerts per year that were free to students.

Gabrilowitsch and Clara were involved with high society life in Detroit, and experienced the city during one of its most exciting and prosperous eras. On September 14, 1936, Gabrilowitsch died from stomach cancer.



Photograph of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra at Orchestra Hall, c.1925 – 1977.074.014

Calling card for Ossip Gabrilowitsch, 1930

View all items related to Ossip Gabrilowitsch