Academic journal article Notes

Marking the Way: The Significance of Eugene Ormandy's Score Annotations

Academic journal article Notes

Marking the Way: The Significance of Eugene Ormandy's Score Annotations

Article excerpt

The art of conducting consists in large measure of elements hidden from the general audience. Other than participating musicians, few people get to witness the rehearsal technique of conductors and understand how their musical goals are communicated. Even fewer see the process involved in preparing musical scores for performance. Fortunately, many conductors leave behind a written legacy in the form of markings entered on the scores they use for study or performance. While the entire realm of mental preparation cannot possibly be revealed through these annotations, such markings can offer substantial information about many aspects of a conductor's preparation process. Therefore, a study of conductor score markings has the potential to increase our understanding of the art of conducting in general and the specific techniques of individual conductors.

One conductor whose collection of scores is remarkably intact and well-preserved is Eugene Ormandy (1899-1985). Ormandy was the renowned music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra for forty-two years (1938-80), not counting the two years (1936-38) he spent as co-director with his predecessor Leopold Stokowski (1882-1977), and his work as conductor laureate until his final performance with the orchestra at Carnegie Hall in 1984. Ormandy's extraordinarily long association with a major orchestra is unheard of by today's standards. Faced with the daunting task of succeeding Stokowski in Philadelphia, Ormandy managed to improve the playing of the orchestra and brought it to world acclaim. The critical reception of Ormandy's body of work has never been unanimously favorable, but the duration of his tenure with the Phila delphia Orchestra and the extent of his conducting repertoire both stand as testaments to an outstanding career. (1)

The Eugene Ormandy Collection of Scores, housed in the Walter H. & Leonore Annenberg Rare Book and Manuscript Library of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, offers a wealth of revealing examples of how score markings can provide insight into a conductor's practices. The collection totals approximately 1,186 scores, 183 sets of scores and parts, and 46 sets of parts without scores. Almost all of the scores in the collection are either marked by Ormandy or bear inscriptions from composers to Ormandy.

Ormandy's collection of scores was donated to the University of Pennsylvania in 1987 by his widow, Gretel Ormandy (1909-1998). The major part of the collection was originally housed in the library of the Philadelphia Orchestra. (2) These scores were deaccessioned by the orchestra and transferred to the University of Pennsylvania. A smaller part of the collection is comprised of scores that were kept in the Ormandy home. Some of the latter contain markings and inscriptions but most are unmarked.

The Eugene Ormandy Collection of Scores is neatly complemented by the Eugene Ormandy Oral History Collection, also at the University of Pennsylvania. It contains interviews with orchestra members, soloists, conductors, administrators, and others. Ormandy's personal and professional papers, as well as a collection of his sound recordings, are also housed at the library.

A closely related collection at the library is the Leopold Stokowski Collection of Scores. This collection of more than nine hundred scores was given to the university in 1997 by the Curtis Institute of Music. Its present location at the University of Pennsylvania allows for side-by-side comparisons of the markings of Ormandy and Stokowski. Future comparative studies of conductor score markings might also be expanded to include the marked scores of George Szell (Cleveland Orchestra's George Szell Memorial Library), Arturo Toscanini (Toscanini Legacy Collection at the New York Public Library), Serge Koussevitzky (Boston Public Library), Fritz Reiner (Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Samuel R. and Marie Louise Rosenthal Archives), and Leonard Bernstein (New York Philharmonic Archives). …

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