Sunday, April 26, 2015

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 (Ormandy)

In 1937, the name of Leopold Stokowski must have seemed inextricably bound with that of the Philadelphia Orchestra, as far as record buyers were concerned, for it had appeared so for nearly 20 years on Victor Records. The set I present today heralded a new order, for it was the first-issued recording by the Orchestra under its new music director, Eugene Ormandy (he and Stokowski were actually co-conductors there during his first two years), just arrived from Minneapolis:

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74  ("Pathétique")
Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy
Recorded December 13, 1936, and January 9, 1937
Victor Musical Masterpiece set DM-337, five 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 98.34 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 68.09 MB)

This recording, as well as that of Schumann's Second Symphony, was made during Ormandy's first two sessions with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the first two of over 400 sessions he would undertake with them over the next 46 years. Information about these comes from a marvelous new volume by Richard A. Kaplan, "The Philadelphia Orchestra: An Annotated Discography" - published just this year by Rowman & Littlefield. Kaplan believes that the Philadelphia Orchestra's move to Columbia in 1943 was more than anything else a strategic move on Ormandy's part, and indeed the evidence shows that Victor was not particularly interested in promoting him. Stokowski continued to record with the Orchestra through 1940, even after Ormandy had become the sole music director, and then there was Toscanini's ill-fated series of sessions with the Orchestra in 1941-42. Small wonder that Ormandy jumped at the chance to move to Columbia, where he quickly became the star attraction.

The evocative cover design pictured above was not original to the set, but a wartime reissue. I have borrowed the image from Ken Halperin's marvelous site Collecting Record Covers, for my own copy of DM-337, a slightly worn pre-war edition, has a generic cover.


  1. Alternate links:



    1. Thank you for the transcription of this beautiful music and cover.

  2. Any chance of a re-up? I have tried 3 times but the zip file won't compress properly. Cheers :-)

  3. Thanks! This is such a beautiful piece especially the first movement