Sunday, September 2, 2012

Ormandy's Beethoven Ninth

Cover design by Alex Steinweiss
Here's another treat for you Ormandy fans out there - the first of his two recordings of the Beethoven Choral Symphony, recorded only two weeks after V-E Day in 1945 (incidentally, at the same time as the Prokofiev Alexander Nevsky Cantata I uploaded earlier).  It features the Westminster Choir, directed by John Finlay Williamson, and soloists Stella Roman, Enid Szantho, Frederick Jagel, and Nicola Moscona.  This recording boasts two "firsts" - it was the first commercially-available recording of the Ninth made outside of a German-speaking country to have the vocal portions sung in the original German, and it was the first available on LP (in 1949).  It's also one of the few 78-era recordings to take the second repeat in the Scherzo - the only others I'm aware of are the two by Albert Coates (acoustical and electrical).

Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125
Soloists, Westminster Choir and Philadelphia Orchestra
Conducted by Eugene Ormandy
Recorded May 20 and 21, 1945
Columbia Masterworks set MM-591, eight 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 147.71 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 80.87 MB)

This is one of the few Columbia 78 sets to circulate with two distinct Steinweiss covers.  The other one looked like this:

(Please excuse the poor scan; it was lifted from an eBay ad.)  I suspect that this graphic illustration of "alle Menschen werden Brüder" was thought too hot to handle in some markets, although I once had a copy of the set with this cover, and the price sticker inside revealed that it had originally been purchased at Rich's Department Store - in Atlanta!

UPDATE (July 3, 2017): Since writing the above, I've found one source that seems to indicate that the blue cover was actually a replacement for the pink cover - see this article called "Beethoven in a Pink Cloud" in the Saturday Review of Literature (October 30, 1948).


  1. Thanks, Bryan!
    I'm a big fan of Ormandy's recordings from the 1940's & 50's.
    I really appreciate the wonderful transfers you are providing.

  2. A variant of that second alternative cover, with the four hands representing different races/cultures, was found on one pressing of the early fifties' version of the Dvorak New World LP by Ormandy, as I recall...

    Steve - retired engineer, SJ, CA.

  3. Thanks, Bryan - somewhat nostalgic for me because I had the second Ormandy recording as a young Buster. (I quite liked it!)

  4. I, too, was a big a fan of Ormandy's second recording of the 9th and have always wondered how his first account of it turned out. Thank you for posting it.

  5. A beautiful transfer of a wonderful performance. Thanks again.

  6. Hi guys my father gave me a box of records and this record is in his collection. Just wondering if you guys know how much its worth?

  7. I have the 8 record set mm-591 Columbia masterworks. I don't think they have ever been played. Any takers? Dan

  8. I have a good set with rhea latter cover. I also have a large collection of other 78 rpm recordings in good condition I acquired from my parents estate

  9. Did anyone end up fetching any money for this set (mm-591)? I'm wondering how much they're worth

    1. Did you find value of set? I have one for sale!!