Stricken unexpectedly as he was driving to the beach for an afternoon of recreation, Walter Henry Rothwell, leader of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, conductor of Hollywood Bowl concerts, and internationally famed as a musician, fell dead in this automobile yesterday morning at Ocean View avenue and South Grandview street. He was 55 years of age.
Mr. Rothwell's widow and two children are in New York and the musician was alone in his car at the time of the seizure. Apparently he had warning of the attack, as he drove his car to the curb and shut off the engine less than a minute before he fell lifeless across the seat.
Noticed By Motorist
Frank A. Pelley, a collector for The Times, was driving south on South Grandview street, when Rothwell's machine crossed in front of him going east on Ocean View avenue. Pelley saw the car roll slowly to the curb and stop, as he turned his own automobile east into Ocean View avenue. As he glanced aside at the parked car, Pelley was startled by the sight of a man in the front seat, sprawled backward, his head hanging over the back of the seat and arms outflung.
FULL COVERAGE: Inside the L.A. Philharmonic
Pelley stopped his car, got out and ran to the parked machine. He found the driver apparently dead. Mrs. O. M. McTaylor of 292 South Grandview street came to Pelley's aid and the two tried vainly to revive the stricken man. An Automobile Club card in his pocket gave Rothwell’s name and home address 429 South Coronado street.
Leaving Mrs. McTaylor and other working over Mr. Rothwell, Pelley summoned Miss E. M. Foraker, the conductor’s secretary, who hurried to the scene in a taxicab.
Meanwhile, police surgeons had arrived in a Receiving Hospital ambulance. They reported Mr. Rothwell had died almost instantly and the body was turned over to the Coroner, who immediately permitted it to be removed to the Breese Brothers funeral parlors at 855 South Figueroa street.
Dr. R. B. Jenkins, Mr. Rothwell's personal physician, expressed the opinion the conductor had died of a defective heart weakened by years of intensive work.
Squire Coop, director of the Philharmonic Chorus, a part of the Symphony Orchestra, was one of the last persons to talk to Mr. Rothwell. He met the conductor yesterday morning and held a short conference regarding the Beethoven memorial concerts to be given by the orchestra soon.
Stating that he believed Mr. Rothwell would have desired the concert to be given despite his death, Coop announced that the chorus will have a scheduled rehearsal in Philharmonic Auditorium this afternoon.
Mr. Rothwell was an honor student at the Vienna Conservatory, touring Europe as a pianist before becoming assistant conductor to Gustave Mahler in Vienna, and later taking the baton of the Royal Opera at Amsterdam. He was brought to America to conduct the national tour of the Henry W. Savage Opera Company and both Puccini’s "Madame Butterfly" and Wagner's "Parsifal," had their first American performances under him.
Later he conducted the St. Paul Symphony Orchestra for several years until it was disbanded during the World War. He then lived and taught in New York City, where many of the now famous young composers were his pupils. He conducted the first summer concerts at the New York Stadium and was guest conductor for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
Eight years ago W. A. Clark Jr., brought him to Los Angeles to organize and conduct the Philharmonic Orchestra, which he brought to a high state of perfection. He was guest conductor at the Hollywood Bowl several summers and last year was invited by Leopold Stowkowski to conduct the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Sesquicentennial Exposition for two weeks.
Mr. Rothwell was respected by the greatest musicians of the day, not only for his gifts as a symphony and an operatic conductor, but also for his unswerving devotion to the highest ideals of musicianship. No sacrifice was too great for him to make for these ideas and, although he had been warned by his physicians to give up some of his work, he insisted on giving his utmost to the last.
One of the finest performances the orchestra has given in this city took place at the symphony fair last week when the Brahms First Symphony, a work beloved by Mr. Rothwell, was played.
The Los Angeles Opera Company had engaged him for "Tristan and Isolda" for the fall season and he was scheduled to conduct at the Hollywood Bowl this summer.
Mr. Rothwell was born in London educated in Vienna and achieved his greatest musical triumphs in America. Besides his widow he leaves a brother in San Francisco, a sister and mother in Vienna, and two children, Claire Leisle, 10, and Walter Henry, Jr., 5.
He had written a piano concerto, two piano sonatas, incidental music to Maeterlinck's "Mort de Tintagiles," a bacchanale to a poem by Louis Untermeyer, who was one of his personal friends, and many songs, several of which recently have been published.