Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Two Symphonies from Philadelphia

This week I present two recordings of symphonies from the earliest part of Eugene Ormandy's 44-year long career as conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra (a post he held from 1936 to 1980).   First is Schumann's Second Symphony in a dynamic, virile reading which makes one regret that Ormandy never did a Schumann cycle - the only other Schumann symphony he recorded was No. 4, with the Minneapolis Symphony in 1934 (a recording I haven't heard).  This version of No. 2 was made during Ormandy's first two recording sessions with the orchestra:

Schumann: Symphony No. 2 in C, Op. 61
Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy
Recorded December 13, 1936 and January 9, 1937
Victor Musical Masterpiece set DM-448, five 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 78.13 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 37.55 MB)

The other work is a comparative rarity: the First Symphony of Colorado-born Harl McDonald (1899-1955), entitled "The Santa Fé Trail."  It's picture-postcard music with a slightly Impressionistic hue; not great music, perhaps, but fun and well-made, and superbly played by the "Fabulous Philadelphians" in a recording made in 1940:

McDonald: Symphony No. 1, "The Santa Fé Trail"
Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy
Recorded October 20, 1940
Victor Musical Masterpiece set DM-754, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 44.99 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 23.68 MB)

McDonald, at the time this and other recordings of his orchestral works were made, was the business manager of the Philadelphia Orchestra.  This prompted Irving Kolodin, in his 1950 "New Guide to Recorded Music," to comment rather sarcastically on the "subtlety in the art of perpetuating one's writings that hadn't occurred to such men as Copland, Barber, or Piston."


  1. dear Bryan,

    thanks for these 2 posts; I'm a big fan of Ormandy.........an outstanding conductor......and not only for concertos accompanments !
    you may find Schumann4 at: http://vinylfatigue.blogspot.com/search/label/Schumann


  2. ooops! sorry Bryan! My apologies. I nhad Satyr's site open on another tab.

  3. Hi Bryan - Kolodin's comment made me laugh. I have presented a couple of McDonald's Philadelphia recordings on my blog, both times with the cynical thought that he had an "in" with the organization. On the other hand, both Stokowski and Koussevitzky programmed his music (and I think Reiner also may have done so), so maybe it's better than my snap judgments, which I think were "not very good" and "inoffensive."

  4. Centuri - thanks for the Vinyl Fatigue link. I confess I grew up taking Ormandy for granted; it's only recently I've begun to realize how great a conductor he really was.

    Fred - to be mistaken for Satyr, that's high praise indeed!

    Buster - I love Kolodin's writings; he and B. H. Haggin are my favorite critics not because I agree with them (often I don't!) but because they're funny. Did Stokowski program McDonald anywhere other than Philadelphia? When I get time I'll download your McDonald transfers; thanks for calling my attention to them.

  5. Bryan - Agree with the thought about taking Ormandy for granted. He has risen in my esteem thanks to people like you, Larry Austin and Joe Serraglio. (I am sure his legacy is ensured now that I am on board! Ha!)

    Don't know where Stoki programmed Harl, sorry.

    Speaking of funny, whatever happened to Manuela Holterhoff?

    Here is the link to the McDonald recordings on my blog:


  6. Thank you for such wonderful, rare and valuable recordings!

  7. I'm so looking forward to the Schumann, whose symphonies I love, and the performance of whose 4th symphony performed by Ormandy with the Minneapolis Symphony I found sterling. Many thanks for posting this. I'm curious about the MacDonald, which I don't know.

  8. Thank you for making both recordings available. I've been listening to the McDonald today, enjoyable if a bit Hollywood sounding.

    Looking forward to hearing one of the two symphonies Schumann withdrew from performance.

  9. Thanks for making the Schumann 2nd available. I had it on 78 but my cassette transfer became unplayable decades ago. It's one of my favorite Ormandy recordings. I heard him many times 1969-83 but don't recall him ever performing any Schumann - a real loss.