The Philadelphia Sound (republished article)

(The below is a republished article from my now-locked LiveJournal.  It was original published on my LJ account on December 5, 2001.)

Recently, an article in the Inquirer Magazine caught my interest. It was entitled The Philadelphia Sound by David Patrick Stearns. In it was an attempt by the author to create a definition, if you will, of the magical sound the Philadelphia Orchestra has produced for the past 100 years. Since its origins in Leopold Stokowski, through the Ormandy years, and even now, in our current era of Maestro Sawallisch (and soon to be Christoph Eschenbach), the Philadelphia Orchestra prides itself on the unique style given to it by each of its conductors. Leopold Stokowski was the originator, the father of the Philadelphia Sound. He gave the city the birthright it so desperately longed for by many an orchestra. Bequeathed to him by Stokowski, Eugene Ormandy epitomized the Philadelphia Sound, carrying with it a certain flair for brilliance and an unsurpassed quality long sought after by many of the worlds fine orchestras and philharmonics. Ormandy made gave the orchestra the proper launch in the musical world; the proper man to conduct such an endeavor after Stokowski. Here are some excerpts from Stearns' article on the Philadelphia Sound, published December 2, 2001. I recommend reading the article in its entirety, since the passages I have selected do not provide proper credit to the article, or more importantly, the Philadelphia Orchestra.

"When Ormandy recorded Handel's Messiah, it was with none other than the vast Mormon Tabernacle Choir, in contrast to the small-scale baroque authenticity favored today. Legend has it that when the distinguished German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau arrived at rehearsal, the sound so flabbergasted him that he couldn?t sing. Ormandy's [sound] claims of ownership on the Philadelphia sound - and he indeed made them - are more easily verified than Stokowski's. Ormandy's requests that the woodwinds play out during their solos were an imperative, since he had no intention of holding back the rest of the orchestra in accompanying passages. More significantly, Ormandy tampered with orchestrations. Conductors commonly do some of this with great discretion: If an important viola line can?t be heard, second violins will be momentarily enlisted to help. That's particularly the case with the symphonies Beethoven wrote amid encroaching deafness. But Ormandy went further than most. Beethoven never intended his Symphony No. 5 to have a bass clarinet, but when Ormandy conducted it, it did, beefing up lower octaves. Because Ormandy's beat could be indistinct, the orchestra compensated with unflappable reliability. It could walk into a recording session without rehearsal and play a Tchaikovsky symphony in ways that wowed the critics. Student-teacher relationships within the orchestra were everywhere, since key players taught at Curtis Institute of Music. A magnet for the best music students in the world with its free tuition and world-class teachers, Curtis has enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with the Philadelphia Orchestra from the institute's beginning: Stokowski was one of the Curtis' founders in 1924, and inevitably spread his conception of sound to students. After all, he conducted concerts of the Curtis Symphony Orchestra, many of whose players later joined the Philadelphia Orchestra. Oboist Marcel Tabuteau, a seminal figure in the marriage of French and German style and the principal oboist from 1915 to 1954, was replaced by his student John de Lancie, a 1940 Curtis graduate who was principal from 1954 to '77 and who taught current principal oboist Richard Woodhams. Among clarinetists, Anthony Gigliotti (principal from 1949 to '96) taught Donald Montanaro, who joined the orchestra in 1957 and taught the current principal clarinetist, Samuel Caviezel. Hornist Mason Jones taught five of the current members of the horn section. Violinist Joseph de Pasquale taught eight of the current members of the viola section, including principal Robert Diaz."