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Eugene Ormandy
To the Artist Eugene Ormandy

Eugene Ormandy - The Stereo Collection 1958 - 1963


Following up on the success of Sony Classical’s recent large-scale Ormandy collections – his monaural discographies with the Minneapolis Symphony and Philadelphia orchestras – the label now presents the conductor’s stereo recordings from Philadelphia containing all recordings released from 1958 to 1963 (plus some fillers from later years) Eugene Ormandy took over the music directorship in Philadelphia from Leopold Stokowski in 1938 and held the position for 42 years. During that time his name and the orchestra’s became inseparable as he cultivated and further developed the voluptuous sound that originated with his predecessor. “Any conductor reflects clearly the instrument he played,” the Budapest-born Ormandy (1899–1985) once said. “My sound is what it is because I was a violinist.” As one commentator put it: “Every piece Ormandy touched was characterized by a ripened string tone around which the rest of the orchestra could glow.” Ormandy and his Philadelphians were among the most prolific recording artists of all time. Between 1944 and 1968 (preceded and followed by contracts with RCA Victor), they were associated exclusively with Columbia Masterworks. Ormandy was a committed recording enthusiast, working quickly and readily accommodating the company’s planning in order to produce best-sellers. Sony Classical’s new Ormandy/Philadelphia stereo box is filled with familiar and unfamiliar works by virtually every well-known composer (and many forgotten figures), spanning the centuries and covering the stylistic waterfront from Bach (the sons as well as the father) to Beethoven, Berlioz, Borodin, Bartók and beyond. It would be impossible (and pointless) to list them all. There are numerous CD premières in the new collection. Among them: Ormandy’s complete 1958 recording of Debussy’s Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien with soprano Hilde Gueden and Vera Zorina as the narrator; Bach’s B minor Mass and the Brahms Requiem from 1962; as well as symphonies by Haydn and other works by Borodin, Glinka, Wagner, Poulenc, Casella and American composers including Yardumian, Barati, Rochberg and Dello Joio. In 1963, Ormandy and the Philadelphians made the first US recording of Shostakovich’s Fourth Symphony. Surveying Ormandy’s stereo discography on Columbia recently, the ClassicsToday reviewer lauded his “voluptuous” Scheherazade, his “outstanding Vaughan Williams Fantasia on ‘Greensleeves’, his Bach transcriptions (“Wonderfully done, they highlight Ormandy’s gifts as a post-Stokowski Bach arranger, an important part of his legacy”) and his special affinity for Russian music, including “his glorious Tchaikovsky Fifth Symphony and Serenade for Strings, his magnificent Rachmaninov Second, and his classic Shostakovich Cello Concerto with Rostropovich coupled to an excellent First Symphony. The composer himself attended these sessions and was dazzled by both conductor and orchestra. These are all must-have recordings. Ormandy was also known during his lifetime as the best concerto accompanist in the business, and this coupling of Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn violin concertos shows his cordial collaboration with Isaac Stern operating at the very highest level.” Other listeners and commentators will have no hesitation in adding their own favorites to that brief selection of must-have Ormandy recordings. Indeed, for the conductor’s many enthusiasts and collectors, Sony Classical’s comprehensive new box set – all items presented in new or best available remasterings – is self-recommending.