Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Ormandy was born as Jenő Blau in Budapest (Hungary) and studied at the conservatoire there. In 1921 he moved to the United States of America (taking his name from the ship on which he travelled, the Normandie), where he worked first as a violinist and later conductor of the Capitol Theater Orchestra in New York City, a group which accompanied silent movies.
Dr. Ormandy was appointed conductor of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra from 1931, where he served until 1936. During the darkest days of the Great Depression, RCA Victor commissioned Ormandy to conduct the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra through several recordings including famous reading of Bruckner's Symphony No. 7 in E. The excellence of these records contributed to Ormandy's reputation as an exceptional musician.
Dr. Ormandy's 48-year tenure with the Philadelphia Orchestra is the source of much of his current reputation and fame. Dr. Ormandy was appointed as the Philadelphia Orchestra associate conductor (alongside Leopold Stokowski) from 1936, and in 1938 was appointed music director and conductor until his retirement in 1980, when he was made their Conductor Laureate.
Dr. Ormandy shaped the Philadelphia Orchestra's famous lush, legato style particularly in terms of string bowing and tone. His style which attracted praise for its opulent sound but also was criticized for a purported lack of any real individual touch. In recent years, revisionist music critics have tended to downplay Ormandy's life achievements and impact, even though Ormandy enormously raised the bar for musical performance standards. He demonstrated exceptional musical and personal integrity, and will be forever remembered for his exceptional leadership skills.
He always conducted the orchestra from memory. Interestingly, many web sites feature stories about Dr. Ormandy's humor and occasional awkward lapses in English-language usage while preparing musicians in rehearsal at Philadelphia's Academy of Music auditorium.
Eugene Ormandy was particularly noted for late Romantic and early 20th century works. He was a champion of Sergei Rachmaninoff's music, conducting the premiere of his Symphonic Dances . Dr. Ormandy also directed the US premiere of several symphonies by Dmitri Shostakovich, as well as the premiere performances of several works by American composers.
Dr. Ormandy led his orchestra through many performances in New York and other cities around the United States. He also led his orchestra through many foreign tours. Among the most famous foreign were a 1955 tour of Finland where all of the orchestra's members visited the elderly composer Jean Sibelius at his obscure country estate, and a 1973 tour of the People's Republic of China where the orchestra performed to enthusiastic audiences who had been isolated from Western classical music for many decades.
Dr. Ormandy also appeared as a guest conductor with other orchestras, and in the late 1960s recorded a highly memorable and idiomatic rendition of Dvorak's "New World" Symphony with the London Symphony Orchestra. In 1950 he directed New York's Metropolitan Opera in a fondly-remembered production of Johann Strauss' Die Fledermaus, which also was recorded. Nonetheless, his overriding loyalty for 48 years had been to Philadelphia.
From 1936 until his death, Eugene Ormandy prepared literally hundreds of recordings with the Philadelphia Orchestra spanning almost every classical-music genre. Curiously, very few of these recordings were undertaken in the orchestra's performing venue at Philadelphia's Academy of Music, because record producers believed the somewhat dry acoustic environment didn't produce optimum sound quality for records. Many Philadelphia Orchestra recordings were taped at Philadelphia's Broadmoor Hotel or Town Hall, which furnished a more resonant and bright acoustic environment for impressive-sounding "high fidelity" recording techniques. Recordings were produced for the following record labels: RCA Red Seal (1936 to 1942), Columbia Masterworks (1944 to 1968), RCA Red Seal (1968 to 1977) and EMI/Angel (1977-on). A few albums were also recorded for Delos and for Telarc.
Among the Ormandy/Philadelphia recordings which are widely-regarded as "cream of the crop" include:
Sibelius - Symphony No. 4 (1955, Columbia Masterworks) Carl Orff - Carmina Burana (1960, Columbia Masterworks) Dmitri Shostakovich - Symphony No. 13, "Babi Yar" (with vocalists and the Mendelssohn Choir of Philadelphia, 1969, RCA Red Seal) Rachmaninoff - Symphonic Dances (1960, Columbia Masterworks) Tchaikovsky - Symphony No. 6, "Pathetique" (1960, Columbia Masterworks) Holst - The Planets (1976, RCA Red Seal) Sibelius - Four Symphonic Poems from the Kalevaka (1978, EMI/Angel) Tchaikovsky - Violin Concerto in D (with Itzhak Perlman, 1979, EMI/Angel)
Dr. Ormandy was also renowned throughout his career as being an unfailingly sensitive concerto collaborator. His recorded legacy includes numerous first-rate collaborations with Artur Rubinstein, Rudolf Serkin, David Oistrakh, Isaac Stern, Leonard Rose, Itzhak Perlman, Emil Gilels, and countless others.
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