Eugene Ormandy's 44-year tenure as music director of the world-renowned Philadelphia Orchestra remains the single longest affiliation between conductor and orchestra. Though Ormandy passed away in 1985 at 85 years of age, the enormous body of work he left behind continues to resonate. Though he also recorded for RCA Victor, EMI, Telarc, and Delos, his most long-lasting label association was with Columbia Records. Between 1944 and 1968, Ormandy surveyed a broad swath of the classical repertoire for Columbia, setting down many definitive renditions with the Philadelphia Orchestra. (Appropriately, his final recording - released in 1983 with Yo-Yo Ma on cello - was also for Columbia.) On Friday, April 9, Sony Classical will revisit the earliest period of the great conductor's Columbia works with a massive 120-disc box set, The Columbia Legacy. This will be the second-largest box in Sony Classical history after the complete Arthur Rubinstein set of 142 CDs released in 2011.
The Columbia Legacy, fully authorized by the Philadelphia Orchestra, is dedicated to Ormandy's mono recordings made for Columbia Records through 1957; his subsequent stereo albums beginning in 1958 number over 200. While Columbia parent Sony has released various boxes of Ormandy material over the years, this is the first large-scale effort to chronologically collect all of his Columbia recordings with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Philadelphia "Pops" Orchestra in order. (Some years back, Sony Japan surveyed a few dozen of his stereo LPs in remastered editions.) The set is in "original album" format, and Sony has also retained the material from the original albums even when Ormandy wasn't conducting; hence, the inclusion here of a number of recordings conducted by Andre Kostelanetz, Bruno Walter, George Szell, and others. (Note that the 1954 album of Schumann's Concerto in A Minor for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 129 featuring cellist Pablo Casals and the Prades Festival Orchestra is absent. Ormandy conducted the orchestra but was uncredited on the LP.)
These seminal works represent the flowering of Ormandy's Philadelphia Sound, well-known for its lush strings. While the advent of stereo was a boon for classical orchestras, bringing an even more lifelike sound and splendor into living rooms everywhere, these earlier interpretations are favored by some Ormandy enthusiasts for their energy and power. (For two Ormandy classics in shimmering stereo, look no further than Second Disc Records and Real Gone Music's 2019 release The Complete Columbia Christmas Albums.) Additionally, some of the compositions weren't re-recorded by Ormandy in stereo.
All of the original album jackets, many of which feature the recognizable artwork of designer Alex Steinweiss, have been scanned and restored for this project. Similarly, the original label designs have been retained for the individual CDs. The hefty box contains a hardcover book of around 200 pages with an introduction, historical essay, credits/discography for all discs, composers/work index, photographs, and memorabilia; all told, the box weighs in at nearly 13 pounds.
In the image below, you'll find the album listing for the box set. Much of this material hasn't previously been released in the digital domain and has been newly mastered for this release by acclaimed, Grammy-winning engineer Andreas Meyer. For more information, we recommend visiting Tower Records Japan (here's an English translation) as well as many of the classical groups around the Internet including The Classical Music Guide.
Eugene Ormandy and The Philadelphia Orchestra's The Columbia Legacy arrives from Sony Classical around the world this Friday, April 9, and is available for pre-order now from Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada as well as classical outlets including the U.K.'s Presto Music.
One great thing about these giant classical boxes is that they double as histories of album cover art. I see a lot of excellent Alex Steinweiss designs in there.
Justin Cole says
My favorite artist! If you don't have the Taschen book devoted to his work, it is an essential purchase.
Mark H. says
Less than $2.50 per disc.
I’m budgeting about 20 hours to rip the discs onto my music server. Will enjoy every second of it- what a collection!
Does anyone know how the official annualized CD sales reports record or tally a box set like this? Does it count as one single CD (because it’s a box set) purchase or register as 120 CDs in that count. I am so skeptical of these numbers and wonder if combined vinyl/CD sets only register the vinyl portion as well- feeling my preferred format is unfairly represented and the goal is to cheer on the decline of compact discs by the industry.
I am going to have to assess my finances to see If I can get this. I am reminded when I worked in a record store we had artists divider cards with the artists names in Dymo labeling tape. Someone messed up on Eugene Ormandy and spelled his last name as "Ormangy". Nobody ever corrected it and it always made me chuckle to see it.
Dr Stewart Gooderman O.D. says
ImportCDs is advertising it for $208.44. Sure you have to pay shipping, but even with the estimated $20 to $25 shipping, it costs at least $50 less than amazon, which is a significant difference.
Dr Stewart Gooderman O.D. says
As a follow up, the shipping came to $16
Leigh Francis says
Thanks for the tip! Just purchased this on ImportCDs and saved an additional 10% by joining their mailing list. Total bill including shipping was < $210. Saved over 75 bucks!
Max Strong says
I am really looking forward to finally hearing his take on Gliere’s 3rd....I hope though that it is not cut.
Bruce Kimmel says
I'll just say as simply as I can: This is the box set of the year. I'm already on disc eighty and the pleasures are many, the mono sound is incredible, especially with the change of recording venues, but it's Ormandy - snobs have denigrated people like him for decades and now appear rather stupid for having done so. He was a key force in making classical musical both popular and accessible. Never fussy, no-nonsense, and never imposing himself on the music and simply letting the music do its job. I can't say enough about it. When I was in the eighth grade circa early 1960, my music appreciation teacher played us The Moldau and that is the piece that began my love of classical music. I went up after class and asked what album it was so I could purchase it and it was, of course, Ormandy. That night, I made my parents drive to a record store in Beverly Hills to buy it for me, which they did, after dinner at the Ontra Cafeteria. Most of what I bought back then, classical-wise, was Ormandy. Now, bring on new remasters for the stereo years.
Richard Yaklich says
CD 103 - last track is 8:56 long cuts off at 8:52 this is the Ravel Tzigane with Issac Stern.
I hope this problem is not on other cds. I am listening out of order and this is cd 20
Sony is aware of the issue and will send a replacement disc. Contact them at ines. firstname.lastname@example.org
Note for above:the "ines." is part of the address.
FYI that disc is only one with problem
Craig Pilant says
Thanks for your helpful posting. The Stern/Ormandy recording was one of my favorite violin recordings for many years, and introduced me at a very young age to works of which I had at that point never heard. The Tzigane recording particularly remains my favorite version.
Craig Pilant says
The individual handling these calls was very helpful, and sent the replacement disc (from Germany) within 3-4 weeks. I was very pleased with the response.
Sony is aware of the problem and is offering a replacement disc. I cannot leave the address here, but there is a you tube video from David Hurwitz titled Review Update: Ormandy Edition Problem Fixed,
Craig Pilant says
I inquired about whether or not the stereo volume of Ormandy's post-monophonic Columbia recordings would ver be compiled and released. If I hear anything, I will post it here.
Gary Engler says
Hmmm...I don't see the mono recording of Grofe/Grand Canyon Suite, a "light classics" piece that is quite beloved by many. The mono recording was superior to the later stereo recording - and highly desired by collectors. Have I missed something? (Or have they 😉
I will take a stab at the reason the Grofe was not included. It was recorded on Dec 23, 1957. There is a notation that it was recorded on two tracks. There are two catalog numbers for this recording. A mono record ML 5286 and an early stereo catalog number MS 6003. I am guessing that they did not consider this recording as true mono, but a hybrid. I could be way off here though..
Richard Kaplan says
No, the Grand Canyon Suite was recorded in mono and stereo, and issued both ways simultaneously; this makes it a stereo recording, and thus outside the purview of this set.
Benedict R Radecki says
Has Sony given any hints about when a 200-CD follow-up box set of Ormandy's stereo recordings might be forthcoming?