29. Eugene Ormandy, Philadelphia Orchestra, 1975

Holst - The Planets (Ormandy, Philadelphia Orchestra, 1975) (Classical Navigator)

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This is a great reading. Unfortunately, the sound quality is bad, bad, bad. I was initially excited (no, it doesn’t mean that I was excited by the initials “E.O.”), because “Mars” starts off magnificently. It starts off with the storm clouds of war brewing in the distance, as if in a mist, and you can’t quite make out what’s slowly coming towards you. Unfortunately, it stayed that way. However, I can say that I got used to the sound quality on this disc by the 10-minute mark, and then it was no big deal. (I guess my criticism of the sound quality at the start – calling it “bad, bad, bad” – may have been a little strong, strong, strong.)

I really hope this has been remastered, because Ormandy’s Planets is excellent. Definitely Top 10 material. Apart from the sound quality. And the clarinet in “Saturn” (at 3:41).

Update: When I first listened Euge’s Planets, it was on this 1993 CD

Holst - The Planets (Ormandy, Philadelphia Orchestra, 1975) (Basic 100)

Then I listened to it on this 1994 CD:

Holst - The Planets (Ormandy, Philadelphia Orchestra, 1975) (Classical Navigator)

When I listened to it again I didn’t mind the sound quality as much. I actually didn’t mind it at all. So you can forget about my not-especially-charitable words about the sound. It’s not that bad.

Another Update: Ormo’s recording was remastered by Sony in 2011. The cover of the 2011 CD looks a little like this…

Holst - The Planets (Ormandy, Philadelphia Orchestra, 1975) (remastered)

And it sounds like this…

The sound quality is definitely different. It sounds a lot “airier”, if you know what I mean (i.e., the soundstage is spread out more, and you can hear between the instruments – and I hope that makes sense). But I don’t know if that qualifies as “better”. A lot of people on Amazon.com certainly prefer the new sound quality. Not me. I actually like the earlier sound more. It may not be great, but the new one sounds like it has a hole in the middle of the soundstage.

And Another Update: (Note to self: Just how many updates are there, Peter?) As I’m typing this I’m listening to Eugenie In A Bottle’s “Saturn”. I reckon this is one of the best “Saturn”s you’ll ever hear. It’s fabulous. Apart from that clarinet.

Bonus Concert

Here’s Eugene with the Philadelphia Orchestra in concert in 1977, playing a so-good-you-won’t-believe-it’s-on-YouTube version of Them Planets:

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3 thoughts on “29. Eugene Ormandy, Philadelphia Orchestra, 1975

  1. John R. Lewis III March 2, 2015 / 4:38 pm

    I agree that Ormandy’s Planets belongs in the Top Ten. I’m a Philadelphian, so may be biased. Ormandy is usually criticized for failing to put any stamp of originality on his interpretations. That may be so, but the orchestra itself was so voluptuous-sounding during his tenure, with easily the best string section in the world (including Berlin and Vienna) that it would have been a tragedy if they hadn’t had a go at Holst’s richly orchestrated score.

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    • Peter March 2, 2015 / 11:13 pm

      I’ve recently been enjoying Eugene Ormandy’s recordings more and more. For a long time I thought his interpretations were aural wallpaper (i.e., bland). Unfortunately, that thought was put there by a multitude of sniffy critics who held the opinion that anyone who recorded that much music couldn’t have been any good. (In England, Sir Neville Marriner endured the same sniffiness from critics.) But once I actually got around to listening to Eugene’s recordings I thought, “Hey, these are good!”

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  2. wonderboy September 20, 2016 / 5:24 pm

    hm, i’m not a fan of Ormandy, but maybe …

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