Artur Rodzinski was one of the most important conductors in the United States during his time.
His father was an army surgeon. Artur received his early musical training in Lwow. He found himself attracted to a career in music, but he studied law Vienna, at the same time pursuing musical studies privately, including conducting with Franz Schalk.
After World War I military service he returned to Lwow as a choral conductor. In 1920 he conducted at the opera, debuting in Verdi's Ernani. In Warsaw he gave the Polish premieres of Strauss' Rosenkavalier, Ravel's L'heure espagnole, and Wolf-Ferrari's I gioelli della madonna. He also conducted orchestral concerts.
Leopold Stokowski invited him to come to Philadelphia to guest conduct in November 1925 and hired him as assistant conductor starting in 1926. Rodzinski at the same time joined the faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music as head of the opera and orchestral departments.
He was appointed music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1929, and of the Cleveland Orchestra in 1933, beginning its rise as a top-rank ensemble. He made some notable recordings, particularly of Shostakovich symphonies, and gave the American premiere of the same composer's opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk in 1935. He made sensational appearances with the New York Philharmonic, and in Salzburg and Vienna.
In 1937 the NBC Broadcasting Network formed its own symphony orchestra and hired Arturo Toscanini to lead it. Rodzinski was given the job of actually choosing, assembling, and training the musicians. Rodzinski understood that Toscanini, who was stepping down from his leadership of the New York Philharmonic to take the NBC job, would see Rodzinski appointed as his successor.
But the manager, Arthur Judson, had his own candidate, John Barbirolli, who got the job. A faction of the orchestra and audience (not to mention critics) who favored Rodzinski made Barbirolli's tenure unusually difficult. Barbirolli left at an urgent request to take over Manchester's Hallé Orchestra, and Rodzinski was hired at the Philharmonic in 1942. His first action was to fire 14 members of the orchestra, including the concertmaster. When his contract was up in 1947, he raised some issues of policy that he knew Judson would oppose, then confronted the board with the proposition that it was him or Judson. While this was going on, word got out that he was secretly negotiating to take over the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the board had no trouble choosing Judson.
He only conducted in Chicago for one season. The board there fired him for arbitrarily making last-minute program changes causing confusion and expense and doing opera concerts, with the additional unauthorized expense of bringing in the singers. However, one of these was a Tristan that was legendary and brought Kirsten Flagstadt back to the U.S.
After he was dismissed, he guest conducted, especially in Latin America, but ill health curtailed his activities. He is credited not only with building the Cleveland Orchestra, but immediately restoring the New York Philharmonic and Chicago Symphony from periods of decline.