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Today in Music History
A Daily Look at Music History For Violin Students
A Look at What Happened on Today's Date
Long, Long Ago . . . Or Maybe Just Last Year
March 20
Can You Guess?
We read of Eugene Ormandy's playing with the Capitol Theater Orchestra in New York. They were an important part of entertainment in early movies.  Can You Guess  what the Capitol Theater Orchestra did?

Look at the Bottom of the Page for the Answer.
What Else
1843 - Debut of 14 year old pianist Anton Rubinstein at a Philharmonic concert attended by Tsar Nicholas I, in St. Petersburg.

1898 - Premiere of Antonin Dvorák's symphonic poem The Wild Dove Op. 110. It is also known as The Wood Dove.

1908 - In New York, Beethoven's Fidelio opened at the Metropolitan Opera.

1928 - The New York Symphony Society and the New York Philharmonic Society unite to become the Philharmonic-Symphony Society Orchestra of New York.

1929 - Premiere of Bela Bartók's String Quartet No.4. Waldbauer Quartet, in Budapest.

1935 - "Your Hit Parade" made its debut on radio.

1936 - Benny Goodman and his orchestra recorded "Christopher Columbus" in Chicago.

1956 - Premiere of Samuel Barber's Summer Music Op. 31, at the Detroit Institute of Arts by the Detroit Chamber Music Society of principal wind players of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

1961 - Ricky Nelson recorded Hello Mary Lou.

2000 - Vivian Fine, US composer, died in Bennington VT at age 86.
Eugene Ormandy
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On March 20, 1948 Eugene Ormandy conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra in the first symphony concert to ever be televised in the US,  the US premiere of Rachmaninoff's rediscovered First Symphony, beating Toscanini and the NBC Symphony's broadcast by ninety minutes.
Eugene Ormandy was born Jen? Blau in Budapest, Hungary, November 18, 1899.  His father was a dentist and amateur violinist.  The boy was named after Hungarian violin virtuoso Jenö Hubay,At age 3 he received his first violin.  His father made sure he practiced. By age 5, he entered Budapest's Royal State Academy of Music.  He started violin studies under Hubay at 9. His other professors included composers Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály. At age 13 he became the academy's youngest graduate ever.  At 17 he accepted a teaching position at the Academy while studying at the University of Budapest. He graduated from the university at age 20 with a degree in philosophy.

In 1917 Jenö toured Hungary and Germany as soloist with the Blüthner Orchestra.  In 1920 toured France and Austria playing solo recitals.  Some time during this period Jenö changed his last name to Ormandy.  In 1921 Jenö arrived in New York to give a series of concerts, but the concerts never came about.  Deciding to remain in America, he Americanized his first name to Eugene.  Having only $20, Eugene Ormandy auditioned to play violin at the Capitol Theater in New York City.  Within the week he became the orchestra's concertmaster.

Ormandy loved America.  He became an American citizen 5 years, 90 days after his arrival -- the minimum time period possible at the time.  Ormandy would later state that he "was born in New York City at the age of 22."

Once at the Capitol Theatre Ormandy filled in at the last minute for the regular conductor who was ill. Finding himself a better conductor than violinist, Ormandy became the orchestra's conductor. With famed impresario Arthur Judson's support,  Ormandy became a conductor with the CBS radio network.

In 1931 the Philadelphia Orchestra found itself with no conductor for a concert, Arturo Toscanini was sidelined with bursitis.  Judson booked Ormandy as a last-minute replacement. The audience was surprised and thrilled with his performance. This exposure led to an invitation to conduct the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra in 1931.

In 5 years Ormandy built the Minneapolis Symphony into an orchestra with an international reputation.  Thy made several recordings.  In 1936 Ormandy became Associate Conductor for the Philadelphia Orchestra, then became the organization's Music Director (succeeding Leopold Stokowsky) in 1938.  Where Stokowsky had been flamboyant and a supporter of "new music," Ormandy was quiet and conservative, choosing only 1/4 of his program from "new" works (down from Stokowski's 1/2). 

Ormandy began transforming the orchestra into his vision immediately, but respectfully.  By 1941 Stokowsky had made the last of his guest appearances and Ormandy was in control.  The transition had been almost seamless.

Stokowski had developed the "Philadelphia sound," distinguished by clear phrasing and warm, full sound. Ormandy continued in the same vein.  He moved even more emphasis to the orchestra's phenomenal string section and reintroduced uniform bowing, which gave the orchestra a more consistent sound.

Over the next 40 years the reputation of Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra only grew.  Ormandy admitted his debt to Toscanini in developing his sound, but said that the difference between the two men was that Toscanini was a cellist whereas Ormandy was a violinist.

Ormandy put the intent of the composer ahead of himself and the orchestra. Bartók, Shostakovich, Sibelius and Rachmaninoff all regarded Ormandy's performances of their works as unrivaled. Rachmaninoff even dedicated his Symphonic Dances to Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra.

While composers held Ormandy in high regard, virtuoso soloists flocked to Ormandy and the Philadelphia to perform with them. Pianists Arthur Rubinstein, Vladimir Horowitz, and Robert Casadesus and violinists Isaac Stern, Joseph Szigeti, and David Oistrakh all worked with him.  They felt that Ormandy was able to communicate with the orchestras almost without words.  In violinist Dylana Jenson's words, Ormandy "was incredibly supportive. . . . The Philadelphia Orchestra had built up such a rapport with him after so many years, so he didn't have to do very much with his conducting to get the orchestra to totally respond to what he wanted--he got an immediate response."

Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra were prolific in their recordings, working with RCA Victor, from 1936 to 1942, Columbia Records from 1944 to 1968, then returning to RCA from 1968 through 1980.  Besides recording, the orchestra toured, soom becoming the most traveled orchestra in the world.  In 1970, President Richard Nixon presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Ormandy for his efforts in using music to spread American goodwill, and in 1973 Ormandy and the orchestra toured Communist China in conjunction with Nixon's policy of openness with the Mao regime.

In 1980 Ormandy named Italian conductor Riccardo Muti as his successor for music director. Ormandy continued to perform as Conductor Laureate, a position he held until his death, marking the longest unbroken association between a conductor and a major orchestra. His last concert was with the Philadelphia Orchestra at Carnegie Hall on 10 January 1984.

Eugene Ormandy died in Philadelphia on March 12, 1985.
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Did You Guess?
The orchestra played as accompaniment to silent films, since at the time movies had no sound.

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