Eugene Ormandy - The Columbia Legacy

Album cover art for upc 194397574821
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Catalog: 19439757482
Format: COMPACT DISC

Eugene Ormandy, The Philadelphia Orchestra

Granting a long-held wish of many record collectors, Sony Classical is issuing the complete monaural American Columbia discography of Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra in a vast box set of 120 CDs, all in new remasterings. Almost all of this material will be appearing for the first time on CD on Sony Classical. Indeed, 152 of these recordings have never been released at all on CD before now.Ormandy took over the Philadelphia’s music directorship from Leopold Stokowski in 1938 and held the position for 42 years. During that time – in which his name and the orchestra’s became inseparable – 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.” The American composer and critic Virgil Thomson described Ormandy’s “Philadelphia sound” as “pungent and mellow like the smell of fall fruits. No other instrumental assembly has quite the quality of impersonal, almost botanical, beauty that this one possesses; and none of the other conductors who appear regularly before us has quite Eugene Ormandy's way of offering really excellent workmanship without personal insistence.”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 American Columbia. Ormandy was a committed recording enthusiast, working quickly and readily accommodating the company’s planning in order to produce best-sellers. His frequent tours with the orchestra were aimed not just at added exposure but also at boosting record sales. The Philadelphia’s UK tour in 1949 marked the first time an American orchestra had performed overseas since before the war.Over the years, Ormandy was sometimes criticized for his increasingly conservative, crowd-pleasing programming, but he was also responsible for numerous premieres in Philadelphia, championed the music of Bartók (a personal friend), and was the favored interpreter of Rachmaninoff. His 1952 Philadelphia recording of Honegger’s oratorio Jeanne d’Arc au Bûcher (the only previous version was a Belgian performance from 1943) was hailed by Gramophone as “a beautiful American performance (in French) on finely engineered records... Vera Zorina [as Joan of Arc]...caught me off guard and moved me greatly”. As amply demonstrated in this massive new Sony Classical edition, the conductor frequently performed 20th-century composers in Philadelphia and premiered many works by American composers including Samuel Barber, Aaron Copland, Howard Hanson, Roy Harris, Vincent Persichetti, Walter Piston and Virgil Thomson and Richard Yardumian, all represented in the new box.One of Ormandy’s earliest Columbia recordings, dating from 1944 and never before transferred to CD, is a wartime rarity, the patriotic four-movement Symphonic Suite My Country at War by the Leipzig-trained Harl McDonald (1899-1955), who was also the Philadelphia Orchestra’s general manager. The Latvian-born composer Louis Gesensway was a violinist in the orchestra. His “symphonic poem for large orchestra, narrator and street-criers” Four Squares of Philadelphia (1948-51) evokes the four famous expanses of grass and trees laid out in 1681 by William Penn, founder of the “City of Brotherly Love”. Other recordings of American repertoire in the new set making their CD debut include William Schuman’s Third Symphony and four works commissioned by the orchestra from the Philadelphia-based composer Richard Yardumian: his Armenian Suite, Desolate City, the Second Symphony “Psalms” for tenor and orchestra, and the Violin Concerto (with soloist Anshel Brusilow).Sony Classical’s new Ormandy/Philadelphia box is filled with familiar and unfamiliar works by virtually every major composer from Bach to Beethoven to Brahms to Berg to Bartók to Bernstein and beyond. It would be impossible (and pointless) to list them all, but just citing s