120 cd later, the legacy of a conductor is still uncertain.


something weird happens when you arrive 28th disc Sony’s expansive, informative, sometimes exaggerated 120-CD Box Set Recorded by Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. The box covers a period when the ensemble was considered little less than a miracle—”America’s Finest Orchestra”, as The New York Times put it in 1954.

For the first four tracks, you hear Ormandy and his “Magnificent Philadelphians” honking their familiar sound on Haydn’s Symphony No. 101, their energetic, fast playing perfectly in a recording from 1949 with their signature corpus of fat. Despite. Cream in strings.

Then something different comes. It’s still Hayden, this time his symphony number 92, and it’s still 1949. But the sound is louder, the proportions more formal, the atmosphere more careful, yet appealing to it. Sure it can’t be Ormandy and Philadelphia, and it isn’t: it’s George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra making guest appearances on the disc, as they did on the original LP.

Although both performances are convincing in their own ways, listening to them in succession, you may find yourself reiterating the assessment with which history has judged Ormandy.

Ormandy, a gaudy, opulent Hungarian American, may have presided over Philadelphia for an astonishing 44 years—from 1936 to 1980—in The Times, inheriting a fine ensemble and calling it “perhaps the greatest virtuoso orchestra ever built” made. Confirmed in 1964. He may have been the first to lead an orchestra on television in 1948, and dominated record stores so much that it was claimed that more people had heard his band than any other.

But Ormandy’s undeniable achievements come with an asterisk. To some listeners, his successes were shallow, carefree, commercial – whatever oratory abilities he possessed were dissolved in the same charming sea of ​​vocals. “Sears Roebuck of Musical Performance Values”, as a critic (in praise), offered some insight of a szel or Charles Munch – let alone his idol, Arturo Toscanini.

Michael Steinberg of The Boston Globe wrote in 1964, “Ormandy lacks the ability to tell the difference between one piece and another.” Five years later, Steinberg denounced his “goofy orgy” of the sound. Another critic ridiculed that Ormandy’s interpretations contained “the intellectual stability of porridge”.

Even his advocates extolled the thesaurus entry for the sake of credibility, if not mediocrity. “He has a straight mind and a straight musical style,” wrote Virgil Thomson in 1942. “Honest,” “sensible,” “satisfactory”: Even at Ormandy’s death in 1985, the adjectives did not suggest a motivation for the defense.

The public loved him; Critics, some of them at least, despised him. If you liked him, some people would think you were a fool; If you hated him, some people would think you were a badass. Either way, Times critic Harold Schönberg hoped that history would be kind, Writing in 1967 that this “perfect worker” could trust that his “extraordinary craftsmanship and musical dedication” would give him “an honorable place among the gods”.

A place in the Pantheon? Sure. honored? Not for me.

Sony’s new set is one of the most significant forays into archival excavation that major labels have yet to offer. It speaks to Ormandy’s peculiarly precarious posthumous stature that few of these 120 CDs have performances that have been available in the digital age: 152 recordings appear on disc for the first time, and 139 from original sources as their first official release. is received. If all is not well then all is redone; Each comes in a basic jacket.

Yet this magnificent tribute, weighing 14 pounds, is far from a complete representation of Ormandy’s vast legacy. Nothing dates back to his time with the Minneapolis Symphony (today the Minnesota Orchestra) in the 1930s, when he made the most of that ensemble, taking advantage of a quirk in the players’ contracts. producer in country. Nothing like his first six years in Philadelphia, when he set records for Victor, can be heard today. Ancient Classic. nothing from the stereo era, of which there is evidence other, small set.

The six score CDs would represent the work of a lifetime for most (Herbert von Karajani aside), but this box covers less than a third of Ormandy’s career from 1944 to 1958, though arguably the climax.

Ormandy’s competitors had neither their numbers nor their nearly unfathomable range. szel’s equivalent Summary The Cleveland Orchestra accompanies the Central European Titans, while Munch accompanies the Boston Symphony. flourished In the French repertoire. But with an alert memory and zeal for efficiency he had cultivated at the top of radio shows like “Jack Frost Melody Moments” Ormandy could go by. albenizo To yardumian, from frankly gaudy transcripts of his own, bach and the handle for the tasks American contemporariesMILF Philadelphia Prefers harl macdonald, louis gesensway and Vincent Persichetti from them.

If it was difficult to identify Ormandy, his seminal tastes were late Romantic and later. rachmaninoff and prokofiev were preferred, and done with aplomb; Although there is no Mahler, Bruckner or Shostakovich here, despite the advocacy of all three musicians, they made their way. brahmus and Tchaikovsky. Sensitive accompaniment for soloists of caliber rudolf circin and zino francescati On the one hand, Ormandy has very little musculature here Beethoven, and his mozart Limited to one, brilliantly lit symphony. He commanded the “pop” himself, spooning some oddly sugar-free servings Wave And this Straussbut having great fun Victor Herbert.

Through all of this, Ormandy’s interests are about sounding brilliant rather than intriguing interpretation – such a perfect match for the conservative, consumerist Cold War culture that Eisenhower and Nixon used him and his orchestra to represent Europe, the Soviet Union and the Soviet Union. Union and China.

Listen for more structure, and you hear a somewhat more spontaneous, melodic approach to the line. He can catch fire in the right piece and on the right day, as in a blatant, brutal account Tchaikovsky’s “Pathetic” Symphony since 1952, or in stimulating taping of Sibelius, a real feature. But that approach did not spark works that demanded a precise ratcheting of harmonic stresses, as one would on Earth Beethoven’s ninth [from1945-46andoneinnocent[1945-46सेऔरएकनिर्दोषBrahma’s first Since 1950.

What’s there is that lush, legato sound, its flowing phrases spread over its rhythmic details, a singular vision of what all music should be like. Actually, that voice was Explanation. “Philadelphia sound, c’est moi,” Ormandy liked to say, taking credit for what was right, but indulging himself in the process.

He was often accused of polishing the Technicolor legacy left behind by his predecessor, Leopold Stokowski, with whom he shared the Philadelphia stage from 1936 to 1938 before emerging as music director. But Ormandy’s voice was different.

Born Geno Blau in Budapest in 1899, he was named after Geno Hube, a violinist his dentist father beat up to emulate him. Young Geno was a truly prodigious talent, having entered the Royal Academy of Music at 5, joined Hube’s classes at 9, and began teaching at the age of 17.

It was as a solo artist that he moved to New York in 1921, lured by an insidious promise of concerts. And it was as a violinist that he began a new life, becoming the practical musician he became while leading and eventually conducting the Capitol Theater Orchestra—four times a day, seven a week. Day – in light classics, symphonic movements and silent film accompaniment. He caught the attention of agent Arthur Judson, who threw him on a date no one would take, covering for Toscanini in Philadelphia in 1931. Ormandy was immediately assigned to Minneapolis.

“I had an idea of ​​how to play the violin,” Ormandy Remembered that in 1980. “When I started to conduct, I tried to get the same sound out of the orchestra.”

Results – obtained through huge arcs of bending, the richest of vibrato and a Taste for Score Rewriting To emphasize melodic lines – can still be fooled in works like Strauss’s “Ein Heldenleben,” In a spectacular performance of 1954. But the obscenity charge has little support; Ormandy simply did not take such risks.

The sound she gave was huge, but it’s not as intimidating as Karjan’s Berlin Philharmonic; His phrasing may be gentle, but it seldom likes of John Barbiroli; He can whip up a storm, as if Berlioz’s “Symphony Fantastic” in 1950, but he never got close to this deformity Accounts Like those from Munch. Virgil Thomson described the ensemble in 1944 as an “impersonal, almost botanical aesthetic”.

The problem with Sony’s set is that you can’t really hear it. Columbia, the original label for these albums, was slow to start recording in more than one channel; Its technology was never so advanced; And late in the box the sound is often smoky, and sometimes distracting pulsing. if Fist of remastering That Paranormal restorers Mark Obert-Thorne and Andrew Rose have produced some similar recordings on Pristine suggesting that Sony’s sources have much more to offer, in fact, not much more to be done.

Thomson once wrote that the Philadelphians’ voices were so intense that they made other ensembles “sound like replicas, like gramophone recordings of themselves”. The same thing applies here as well. Even the ear material with mono taping is similar to that from Ormandy’s 1954 “Heildenleben” impediments that he composed. Stereo in 1960; The jump makes a significant difference in a way that was not the case for conductors less obsessed with pure sound.

Even after 120 CDs, an absolute reckoning with Ormandy – and his absolute devotion to his Philadelphian, jealous in the era of jet-setting conductors – will have to wait until Sony releases, dare I say, much more. .



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