Eugene Ormandy oral history collection
Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Eugene Ormandy (1899-1985), was a violinist and conductor, best known for his 44-year association with the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Ormandy was born Jenö Blau in Budapest, Hungary to Rosalie and Benjamin Blau. He was a musical prodigy; beginning his violin studies at the age of five at the Royal Hungarian Academy of Music, he had his first concert at 7, and graduated with a master's degree at the age of fourteen. His first musical engagement upon arriving in the United States in 1921 was as a violinist at the Capitol Theatre in New York. The orchestra played concerts and provided live musical accompaniment for silent movies. Ormandy quickly became concertmaster and eventually conducted the group.
Ormandy first conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1931 when Arturo Toscanini, a famous Italian conductor, fell ill and a last-minute replacement was needed. This opportunity led to Ormandy's first major appointment as the conductor of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra (now Minnesota Orchestra), where he served until 1936. Ormandy joined the Philadelphia Orchestra as associate conductor under Leopold Stokowski and became music director in 1938. He served as lead conductor until his retirement in 1980 when he was appointed conductor laureate. Ormandy's conducting style was known to produce a particular "Philadelphia Sound" and he was alternately praised and denounced for it by critics. Under Ormandy's direction, the Philadelphia Orchestra often performed in other American cities and internationally in locations such as Finland, Latin America, and China. Though he retired in 1980, Ormandy occasionally appeared as a guest conductor for the Philadelphia and other orchestras. His last concert was in 1984 at Carnegie Hall, conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra. He died in 1985.
For a more complete biographical note, please see Eugene Ormandy papers, 1921-1991, Ms. Coll. 91.
This is a collection of oral history interviews conducted with Eugene Ormandy and others connected to him and to the Philadelphia Orchestra during his tenure there. The interviews were conducted between 1969 and 1997 (bulk: 1990-1993) and interviewees include Philadelphia Orchestra musicians, administrative staff, and board members, as well as composers, conductors, critics, music producers, and other professional colleagues, in addition to family and friends.
These interviews (a total of 90 interviews with 87 individuals, some of whom were interviewed together) were conducted by Sharon Eisenhour, John Bewley, Herbert Kupfeberg, Morris Henken, George Diehl, and Marjorie Hassen. The oral histories cover a wide range of topics including the relationships between musicians, composers, conductors, trustees, etc.; the personal histories and experiences of individuals both at the Philadelphia Orchestra and elsewhere; Ormandy's personal and professional characteristics; Ormandy's impact on the Philadelphia Orchestra and the "Philadelphia Sound;" the transitions in leadership from Leopold Stokowski to Ormandy and from Ormandy to Riccardo Muti; and opinions and anecdotes about other prominent people in the music world. The audio cassettes of the interviews are currently restricted, but all recordings have been transcribed and most transcripts are available for access. Researchers interested in the audio should contact the Kislak Center for more information.
- University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
- Finding Aid Author
- Rayna Andrews
- Finding Aid Date
- 2017 February 8
- Access Restrictions
The bulk of this collection is open for research use, however, access to some interviews (box 1, folder 13; box 2, folders 7-9; box 3, folder 5; box 6, folder 5; and box 7, folders 12-13) is restricted. Researchers interested in the content of these folders should contact the Kislak Center for further information.
The audio cassette recordings of the interviews are currently restricted. However, all recordings have been transcribed and most transcripts are available for access. Researchers interested in the audio should contact the Kislak Center for more information.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.