C1396. EUGENE ORMANDY Cond. Philharmonia Orch.: Classical Symphony #1 in D (Prokofiev); Symphony #2 in D (Sibelius); w.ARTHUR RUBINSTEIN: Emperor Concerto #5 in E-flat (Beethoven). (England) 2-Testament SBT2 1503, Live Performance, 1963, Royal Festival Hall, London. - 749677150327
“Longtime Philadelphia Orchestra conductor Eugene Ormandy (born Jenó Blau) developed what came to be known as the ‘Philadelphia Sound’. (He groused that it should be called the ‘Ormandy Sound’, even though its fundamentals had already been established during Leopold Stokowski's long tenure with the Philadelphia Orchestra.) Largely as an effort to overcome the dry acoustics of the orchestra's home, the Academy of Music, Ormandy emphasized lush string sonorities and, often, legato phrasing and rounded tone. He was lauded even by his own musicians for his ability to conduct everything from memory, even complex contemporary scores. Still, aside from the voluptuous tone, Ormandy's interpretations rarely bore an individual stamp. They were, however, highly polished, intelligently balanced, and well paced, always serving the scores honorably, and often with a dash of controlled excitement.
Ormandy initially studied violin with his father, and entered Budapest's Royal Academy of Music at age 5, falling under the tutelage of Jenö Hubay at 9. He received a teacher's certificate at 17, and served as concertmaster of the Blüthner Orchestra in Germany, also giving recitals and performing as a concerto soloist.
He moved to the United States in 1921 (taking citizenship in 1927), lured by the promise of a lucrative concert tour. That tour fell through, though, and Ormandy was forced to make ends meet by taking a back-desk job with the Capitol Theater Orchestra in New York City, accompanying silent films. Ormandy soon advanced to the position of concertmaster, and made his conducting début there in September 1924 when the regular conductor fell ill. By 1926 he was named the orchestra's associate music director, and made extra money conducting light classics on the radio. Important débuts soon followed: he conducted the New York Philharmonic at Lewisohn Stadium in 1929, and the following year became guest conductor of the Robin Hood Dell Orchestra in Philadelphia. On 30 October, 1931, came his first performance with the Philadelphia Orchestra.
The following year he was engaged as music director of the Minneapolis Symphony, with which he made several recordings, but he didn't remain long in the Midwest. In 1936 the Philadelphia Orchestra called him back as associate conductor, to share baton duties with Leopold Stokowski, who was being eased out. Ormandy became the orchestra's music director in the autumn of 1938, and held that position for 42 years, until his retirement at the end of the 1979-1980 season (whereupon he was named Conductor Laureate). He led the Philadelphia Orchestra on several national and international tours, including, in 1973, the first appearance of an American symphony orchestra in the People's Republic of China. Ormandy was knighted in 1976 -- Queen Elizabeth II's way of observing the American bicentennial.
Ormandy was always a proficient, well-prepared conductor, but he was most comfortable in Romantic and post-Romantic music; especially noteworthy were his performances and recordings of Richard Strauss and Sergei Rachmaninov. He established an especially close professional relationship with the latter in the 1930s, and premiered his ‘Symphonic Dances’. Ormandy also led the first performances of many works by American composers, and gave the U.S. premieres of several Shostakovich symphonies, among other works. In 1948 he led the Philadelphia Orchestra in the first symphony concert broadcast on American TV, beating Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony by 90 minutes. Ormandy and the orchestra recorded extensively for Columbia and RCA, especially during the stereo LP era; their discography ranged from the first recording of Shostakovich's thorny Symphony #4 to ‘easy listening’ treatments of recent movie music, harking back to his nights in the Capitol Orchestra.”
- James Reel, allmusic.com
“Warm, lyrical, and aristocratic in his interpretations, Arthur Rubinstein performed impressively into extremely old age, and he was a keyboard prodigy almost from the time he could climb onto a piano bench. He came from a mercantile rather than a musical family, but fixated on the piano as soon as he heard it. At age three he impressed Joseph Joachim, and by the age of seven he was playing Mozart, Schubert, and Mendelssohn at a charity concert in his hometown. In Warsaw, he had piano lessons with Alexander Róóycki; then in 1897 he was sent to Berlin to study piano with Heinrich Barth and theory with Robert Kahn and Max Bruch, all under Joachim's general supervision. In 1899 came his first notable concerto appearance in Potsdam. Soon thereafter, just barely a teenager, he began touring Germany and Poland.
After brief studies with Paderewski in Switzerland in 1903, Rubinstein moved to Paris, where he met Ravel, Dukas, and Jacques Thibaud, and played Saint-Saëns' g minor Concerto to the composer's approval. That work would remain a flashy Rubinstein vehicle for six decades, and it was the concerto he offered in his American début with the Philadelphia Orchestra in Carnegie Hall in 1906. His under-prepared American tour was not especially well-received, though, so he withdrew to Europe for further study. Rubinstein became an adept and sensitive chamber musician and accompanist; his 1912 London début was accompanying Pablo Casals, and during World War I he toured with Eugène Ysaÿe.
He gave several successful recitals in Spain during the 1916-1917 season, and soon toured Latin America. Along the way he developed a great flair for Hispanic music; Heitor Villa-Lobos went so far as to dedicate to Rubinstein his ‘Rudepoema’, one of the toughest works in the repertory. Although Rubinstein would later be somewhat typecast as a Chopin authority, his readings of de Falla, Granados and Albéniz would always be equally idiomatic.
Rubinstein's international reputation grew quickly, although he was by his own account a sloppy technician. In the mid-1930s he withdrew again and drilled himself in technique. By 1937 he reemerged as a musician of great discipline, poise, and polish - qualities he would mostly retain until his farewell recital in London in 1976, at the age of 89. Rubinstein's temperament had sufficient fire for Beethoven but enough poetry for Chopin; his tempi and dynamics were always flexible, but never distorted. His 1960s recordings for RCA of nearly all Chopin's solo piano music have been considered basic to any record collection since their release, and his version of Falla's NIGHTS IN THE GARDENS OF SPAIN is another classic, as are his various late collaborations with the Guarneri Quartet.
Rubinstein became a naturalized American citizen in 1946, but he maintained residences in California, New York, Paris, and Geneva; two of his children were born in the United States, one in Warsaw, and one in Buenos Aires. He had married Aniela Mlynarska in 1932, but womanizing remained integral to his reputation as an irrepressible bon vivant. He maintained that the slogan ‘wine, women, and song’ as applied to him meant 80 percent women and only 20 percent wine and song. Still, there was a serious side to his life. After World War II, he refused ever again to perform in Germany, in response to the Nazi extermination of his Polish family. Rubinstein became a strong supporter of Israel; in gratitude, an international piano competition in his name was instituted in Jerusalem in 1974. His honors included the Gold Medal of the Royal Philharmonic Society of London, the U.S. Medal of Freedom (1976), and membership in the French Legion of Honor.”
- James Reel, allmusic.com