Olga Samaroff (1880-1948).

  • Profession: Pianist.
  • Relation to Mahler: Worked with Gustav Mahler.
  • Correspondence with Mahler:
  • Born: 08-08-1880 San Antonio, Galverton, Texas, America.
  • Died: 17-05-1948 New York, America.
  • Buried: Cremated.
  1. 1910 Concert New Haven 23-02-1910.

Also: Lucy Mary Olga Agnes Hickenlooper, Olga Samaroff-Stokowski.

One of the most influential American musicians in the first half of the 20th century, artist-teacher Olga Samaroff Stokowski (1882-1948) nurtured the musical expression and discipline of many pianists at the Philadelphia Conservatory and the Juilliard School of Music from 1924 to 1948.

Texas born Olga Samaroff studied as a child with her mother and grandmother. Additional studies in Paris (with Elie Delaborde), Berlin (with Ernst Jedliczka) and Baltimore (with Ernest Hutcheson) were followed by extensive touring and performances with orchestras. Samaroff was the first American woman admitted to study at the Paris Conservatoire. When Samaroff moved to Berlin in 1898 she met Richard Strauss, the conductors Felix Weingartner, Artur Nikisch, Karl Muck (1859-1940), and other leading musicians.

In Munich she was present while Bruno Walter rehearsed with Mahler the première of his Eighth Symphony. Samaroff soon befriended the composer and later appeared in New York as soloist in several performances of Grieg’s Piano Concerto under Mahler’s direction. Born Lucie Hickenlooper, she changed her name to the more marketable name of Olga Samaroff. She gave joint recitals with Fritz Kreisler and Efrem Zimbalist. In 1911 she married Leopold Stokowski, divorcing him in 1923. From 1927 to 1929 she was music critic for the New York Evening Post, and from 1928 to 1929 for The Philadelphia Record.

She was on the faculty of the Juilliard Graduate School (1928-1948) and the Philadelphia Conservatory of Music. In 1928 she gave a recital at the White House, and in subsequent years spent her time promoting the development of the Atlanta and National Symphonies. From 1930 she gave numerous master-classes, appeared in two radio series, and was a pioneering television artist. Among her students were Augustin Anievas, William Kapell, Vincent Persichetti, Thomas Schippers, Claudette Sorel, Rosalyn Tureck, Alexis Weissenberg and William Corbett-Jones. Samaroff began recording as early as 1908 when she made some piano rolls for the Welte firm.

Her recorded legacy includes works by Griffes, Moszkowski, Liszt, Chopin, and Debussy. In her concerts and as a teacher she always championed music of the post-1900 period. Her 1930 recording of Ernesto Lecuona’s Malagueña shows her clear, liquid tone and bravura style.

Leopold Stokowski developed a musical reputation in New York, and met a number of leading personalities, including his future wife, Olga Samaroff (1882-1948), who was born Lucy Mary Olga Agnes Hickenlooper in Texas.


The American pianist, music critic, and teacher, Olga Samaroff (born: Lucy Mary Agnes Hickenlooper), grew up in Galveston, Texas, where her family owned a business later wiped out in the great hurricane of 1900. There being then no great teachers in the USA, after her talent for the piano was discovered she was sent to Europe to study, first with Antoine Francois 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 USA 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 USA and Europe thereafter. Samaroff discovered Leopold Stokowski 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 Leopold Stokowski in 1911 and their daughter Sonia was born in 1921. Anecdote has it that the couple met at a musician’s promotional luncheon where Leopold 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 1920’s for the Victor Talking Machine Company.

In 1923, Leopold Stokowski left her for actress Greta Garbo in a scandal that made headlines. Olga 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 1930’s. Samaroff was also 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 adoring students, she was a tireless advocate for 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.

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