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Ormandy - Minneapolis Symphony Eugene Ormandy

Ormandy - Minneapolis Symphony Eugene Ormandy

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Eugene Ormandy’s name is inseparably linked with Philadelphia and the orchestra he directed there for over 40 years. But before the advent of Ormandy/Philadelphia, there was another historic partnership: Ormandy/Minneapolis.

By a series of coincidences, indispositions, and opportunities, he found himself with the Minneapolis Symphony between 17–23 January 1934 and 5–16 January 1935 at Northrop Auditorium on the University of Minnesota campus. These long, intensive daily sessions yielded a bumper crop of recordings, encompassing a wide and adventurous repertoire which filled no fewer than 174 78-rpm sides.

“Ormandy was perhaps at his best during his Minneapolis days and in the early part of his long reign at Philadelphia”, wrote a Gramophone critic in 1991, and many have shared that opinion. Sony Classical is pleased to present the complete Ormandy/Minneapolis discography for the first time in a single collection. Many of these performances were never issued on LP, let alone CD.

The 11-disc set contains major symphonic works. The pioneering 1935 version of Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony dominated the record catalogues for nearly two decades, and it remains thrilling today. Ormandy and the Minneapolis SO were the first in the US to commit to disc Rachmaninoff’s Second (“Fervently played and grandly recorded” – Gramophone, 1936) and Sibelius’s First (“Mr. Ormandy seems to be squeezing every ounce of emotion out of it, and lovers of opulence will rejoice” – Gramophone, 1936), while their Bruckner Seventh was the first commercial American recording of any of that composer’s symphonies.

The new box set also contains the recording world premières of Kodály’s Háry János Suite, the string-orchestra version of Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht and Honegger’s Concertino for piano and orchestra, as well as American works such as Roy Harris’s When Johnny Comes Marching Home and John Alden Carpenter’s Adventures in a Perambulator. The electrifying performance of Enescu’s Romanian Rhapsody No. 1, an Ormandy showpiece, was the first one of that work to reach a worldwide audience, while the selections from Weinberger’s Schwanda – Ormandy’s ticket to fame – also made their recording début in Minneapolis.

The conductor’s only recording of Schumann’s Fourth Symphony is here, as is his first recording of Beethoven’s Fourth, plus Hungarian Dances by Brahms, dances and overtures by the Strauss family, Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik, excerpts from Smetana’s Bartered Bride, British folksong arrangements by Percy Grainger, and much more.


For those only familiar with Ormandy from his late RCA stereo recordings, this set will be a revelation. At this point in his career his idol was Toscanini, and the performances in this set feature fast tempos and lean textures.

-- Fanfare

Of the larger-scale works included, Sibelius’s First is impressive, a marginally swifter reading than two subsequent Ormandy recordings with the Philadelphia Orchestra... Bruckner’s Seventh harbours many wonderful moments, such as the sunny reprise of the symphony’s opening theme (with its rising trumpet overlay), and the Adagio’s second main idea, which is as beautifully drawn as most you’re likely to hear (portamento curlicues add expressive sustenance). As a matter of interest, the Adagio’s overall tempo is broader than Furtwängler’s and Klemperer’s by around three minutes. Ormandy includes the cymbal clash.

Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht is played for all its considerable emotional worth yet without sentimentality...Ormandy summons just the right level of intensity. This disc is filled with a well-engineered and brilliantly played seven minutes’ worth of Leonore No 3, a first release.

Unique to RCA (so far) are crisply dispatched Strauss family favourites, stylishly turned Rosenkavalier Waltzes, and the usual suspects by Delibes, Wolf-Ferrari, Gounod, Smetana, Drigo, Brahms, Paganini, Ravel and Tchaikovsky, as well as less familiar works by Roy Harris, Arnold Zemachson and JS Bach.

It’s a rewarding, enjoyable set that highlights the differences between an energetic new kid on the block and an older Ormandy who tended to luxuriate among the warmly cushioned tones of the Philadelphia Orchestra, though rarely without his signature musical intelligence.

-- Gramophone

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  • Release Specifications

    • Number of Discs: 11
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    • Label: Sony Masterworks
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