Eugene Ormandy

Eugene Ormandy KBE (born Jenő Blau; November 18, 1899 – March 12, 1985) was a Hungarian-American conductor and violinist, best known for his association with the Philadelphia Orchestra, as its music director. His 44-year association with the orchestra is one of the longest enjoyed by any conductor with a single orchestra.[1] Under his baton, the Philadelphia Orchestra had three gold records and won two Grammy Awards.[2]

Ormandy conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Early life

Ormandy was born in Budapest, Austria-Hungary, as Jenő Blau, the son of Jewish parents Benjamin Blau, a dentist and amateur violinist, and Rozália Berger.[3][4] His musical talents emerged early. He was proficient enough as a violinist to enter the Royal National Hungarian Academy of Music at the age of five. Two years later he began studying with Jenő Hubay and the age of 14 he graduated with a master’s degree. After performing as first violin of the Blüthner Orchestra in Berlin and as a soloist on tours of central Europe, he was appointed professor of violin when he was aged 17.[5]

Between 1922 and 1925, Jenő Blau adopted the name to "Eugene Ormandy", "Eugene" being the English equivalent of "Jenő".[6][7] The origin of the surname "Ormandy" is uncertain. Speculation that it was either his middle name[8] or that of his mother[9] appears to be unfounded.[3][10] His father changed his surname to "Ormándi" on March 22, 1937, a few weeks before emigrating to the United States.[10][11]

Arthur Judson, the most powerful manager of American classical music during the 1930s, first heard Ormandy when he conducted (as a freelancer) for a dance recital at Carnegie Hall by Isadora Duncan; Judson later said, "I came to see a dancer and instead heard a conductor".[12]


On 8 August 1922 Ormandy married Stephanie Goldner (1896–1962).[13] “Steffy” Goldner had come to New York in 1921 from her native Vienna, where she had attended the city's Academy of Music. Soon after arriving in New York she took a position at Capitol Theatre where Ormandy was a violinist. For more than a decade she was harpist for the New York Philharmonic, the only woman on its roster.[14] The two later did broadcast performances on WABC radio, where Ormandy was one of the staff conductors.[15]

In the fall of 1946, the couple parted. “There is no talk now of divorce…It’s just a separation,” Mrs. Ormandy reported.[16] However, she later filed for divorce, decreed 4 August 1947 “on grounds of extreme mental cruelty.[17] Following the divorce she joined the faculty at the Philadelphia Music Academy while announcing plans to resume her performing.[18]

On 15 May 1950 Ormandy married Margaret Frances Hiltsch (1909–1998) in a civil ceremony in Philadelphia.[19] In a statement released by the Philadelphia Orchestra Association, the two were described as “family friends for many years….Mrs. Ormandy came to the United States about 12 years ago from Vienna….shortly thereafter she became an American citizen. During the war years Mrs. Ormandy became a licensed pilot in preparation for the WASP training program. However, as the unit was then disbanded, she enlisted in the U.S. Navy and for two years was then stationed at Norfolk, VA., in operations work at the Naval Air Station.” [20]

The couple remained wed until his passing in 1985. Later that year the U.S. Congress and President Reagan declared that November 18 “Eugene Ormandy Appreciation Day,” with a recognition ceremony held on that date at the Academy of Music.[21]


At Judson's instigation Ormandy substituted for the ailing Arturo Toscanini with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1931. This led to an appointment as musical director of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, a post he held from 1931 to 1936. In this post he became nationally known in the US through his recordings, which included the first versions on disc of Kodály's Háry János suite and Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht.[5] In 1936 he returned to Philadelphia as joint conductor with Leopold Stokowski. After two years he became the orchestra's sole music director; he held the post for 42 years (1938–1980), before stepping down to be its conductor laureate. He took the Philadelphia Orchestra on several national and international tours, and appeared as a guest conductor with other orchestras in Europe, Australia, South America and East Asia.[5] Donald Peck, principal flute of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, reports that a fellow flutist was won over when Ormandy conducted the Chicago in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony; he told Peck that it was the greatest Ninth he had ever heard.[22] The conductor Kenneth Woods ranked Ormandy 14th of the "Real Top 20 of Conducting," saying,

Critics hate Ormandy. It must be the first "fact" they teach at critic school – always work in an Ormandy slam into every article you write. Record collectors hate him, too. I just don't get it. The film of him looks pretty impressive – classical and classy conducting technique, not at all showy. His Philadelphia Orchestra was the only real rival to Karajan's Berlin for sonic beauty in the 50s–70s, but was also a tighter and more versatile band.[23]
Ormandy visited Finland several times. Here he is seen in 1951 with Jean Sibelius (left) and Nils-Eric Ringbom in Sibelius' home, Ainola.

Guest appearances

He also appeared as a guest conductor with many other orchestras. On 14 August 1944, in a free concert for service personnel, he conducted the Brisbane Symphony Orchestra in the Brisbane City Hall. This concert was organised by the Australian Broadcasting Commission.[24]

Awards and honors

  • In honor of Ormandy's vast influence on American music and the Philadelphia performing arts community, on December 15, 1972 he was awarded the prestigious University of Pennsylvania Glee Club Award of Merit.[25]
  • Appointed by Queen Elizabeth II an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) in 1976 [26]
  • He was a recipient of Yale University's Sanford Medal.[27]


Ormandy died of pneumonia at his home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on March 12, 1985, at the age of 85.[28] His papers, including his marked scores and complete arrangements, fill 501 boxes in the archives of the University of Pennsylvania Library.


External audio
You may hear Eugene Ormandy conducting Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 in A major, Op. 92 with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1945 here on

Ormandy's first digital recording was a performance of Béla Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra for RCA in 1979.[29]

His recordings of Camille Saint-Saëns' Symphony No. 3 'Organ' were considered the best ever produced by Fanfare Magazine which remarked of the recording with the organist Virgil Fox: "This beautifully played performance outclasses all versions of this symphony." The Telarc recording of the symphony with Michael Murray is also highly praised.[30]

External audio
You may hear Eugene Ormandy conducting Sergei Prokofiev's Symphony No. 1 in D major ("Classical"), Op. 25 with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1950 Here on
External audio
You may hear Eugene Ormandy conducting Johannes Brahms' Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 77 with Joseph Szigeti and the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1945 Here on
External audio
You may hear Eugene Ormandy conducting Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Russian Easter Festival Overture, Op. 36 with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1950 Here on


  • Night Song (1948)


  • Ardoin, John (1999). The Philadelphia Orchestra: A Century of Music. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. ISBN 1-56639-712-X.
  • Kupferberg, Herbert (1970). Those Fabulous Philadelphians. New York: C. Scribner's Sons. OCLC 28276.[31]
  • American Record Guide: Eugene Ormandy. Washington: Heldref Publications. November–December 1999. p. 68. OCLC 23874797.
  • Yaklich, Richard (2017). The Orchestral Scores of Eugene Ormandy: Creating the Philadelphia Sound. Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellen Press. ISBN 9781495505843.


  1. Jones, Robert L. "Ormandy, Eugene". American National Biography Online. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
  2. Townsend, Dorothy (13 March 1985). "Philadelphia Orchestra's Eugene Ormandy, 85, Dies". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2014-01-01.
  3. Birth Record of Jenő Blau (translated). Budapest, Kerület VII, Születtek, 1899, No. 3873: Reported November 22, 1899, born November 18, 1899, Jenő, male, Israelite, son of Benjamin Blau, Israelite, 29, occupation fogmüves (dentist), b. Pósaháza (Bereg county, now Pavshyno, Ukraine), and Rozálie Berger, Israelite, 23, b. Budapest, res. Budapest VII, Erszébet Körút 7. Signed, Benjamin Blau, Sándor Török, deputy registrar.
  4. Betz, P.R.; Carnes, M.C.; American Council of Learned Societies (2005). American National Biography: Supplement 2. Oxford University Press, USA. p. 418. ISBN 9780195222029. Retrieved 2014-12-12.
  5. Bowen, José A. "Ormandy, Eugene", Grove Music Online, Oxford University Press, 2001. Retrieved 2 July 2021 (subscription required)
  6. Manhattan, New York Marriage Licenses, vol. 9, No. 22338: 3 August 1922, Jeno Blau and Stefanie Goldner.
  7. New York State Census, June 1, 1925: New York County, City of New York, Assembly District 22, Election District 24, p. 268, line 20: No. 467, West 157th Street, Ormandy, Eugene, head of family, white, male, age 25, native of Hungary, in this country for four years, alien, occupation musician.
  8. Ewen, David (1943). Dictators of the Baton. New York, Chicago: Alliance Book Corporation. p. 200.
  9. Rodriguez-Peralta, Phyllis W. (2006). Philadelphia Maestros: Ormandy, Muti, Sawallisch. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. p. 149.
  10. Marriage Record of Benjámin Blau and Rozália Berger (translated): Budapest, Kerület VII, Házasultak, 1899, No. 123: Married at Budapest, February 5, 1899, Benjámin Blau, fogmüvesmester (master dentist), Israelite, b. Pósaháza (Bereg county), October 14, 1869, residing at Budapest VII, Erzsébet körút 7, son of Lipót Blau and Mina Weinberger, and Rozália Berger, Israelite, b. Budapest, June 17, 1876, residing at Budapest VI, Landen (?) utca 1, daughter of József Berger and Emilia Parnizsofsky, witnesses Sándor Fuchs, Budapest VII., Kerepesi út 14, Mór Fischer, Budapest VI, Király utca 14. Signed, Sándor Fuchs, witness, Mór Fischer, witness, Benjámin Blau, groom, Rozália Berger, bride, Dr. Gáspár Ormay, deputy registrar. Remarks: the groom's name was changed to "Ormándi", March 22, 1937. Signed, Dr. Király Kemere (?), deputy registrar.
  11. Passenger List of the S.S. Bolougne-Sur-Mer, New York, June 3, 1937: Benjamin Ormandi, 68, Hungarian, b. Poschaza, Tschechoslowakei... Rose Ormandi, 61, Hungarian, b. Budapest... nearest relative in country of origin, Joseph Berger, father-in-law/father, Budapest... going to join son, Eugene Ormandi, Bronx, N.Y.
  12. Herbert Kupferberg, liner notes for a 1981 recording of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6, by the Philadelphia Orchestra and Ormandy, Delos 3016.
  13. “What Do You Want To Know?” Philadelphia Inqurer, 18 September 1938.
  14. Hoffman, Catherine. “Mrs. E. Ormandy Musician-Adviser.” Paterson (NJ) Jewish Post, 19 November 1936.
  15. ”Radio Programmes: Hello, Tara!” Brooklyn (NY) Standard Union, 18 April 1931.
  16. “Mrs. Ormandy Parts From Conductor Husband.” New York Post, 8 October 1946.
  17. “Reno Divorce Won By Mrs. Ormandy.” Philadelphia Inquirer, 5 August 1947.
  18. “Mrs. Ormandy to Teach.” New York Post, 3 September 1947.
  19. “Orchestra Leader Weds Woman Flier.” Buffalo (NY) Evening News, 16 May 1950.
  20. “Ormandy Marries Ex-Wave in Surprise City Hall Rites.” Philadelphia Inquirer, 16 May 1950.
  21. “Posthumous honor for Ormandy.” Nyack (NY) Journal-News, 19 November 1985.
  22. Peck, Donald (2007). The Right Place, the Right Time. Indiana University Press. p. 83. ISBN 978-0-253-34914-9.
  23. "VFTP exclusive: The real Top 20 of Conducting. Part Three: 11–15". March 26, 2011.
  24. Australian War Memorial, AWM52 8/5/1/28 - May - August 1944
  25. "The University of Pennsylvania glee Club Award of Merit Recipients". Archived from the original on 2012-02-09.
  26. "Ormandy Given Knighthood". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. June 21, 1976.
  27. "Leading clarinetist to receive Sanford Medal". Archived from the original on 2012-07-29. Retrieved 2014-12-12.
  28. "EUGENE ORMANDY IS DEAD AT 85 IN PHILADELPHIA". The New York Times. Retrieved 2020-04-23.
  29. "Discography of Eugene Ormandy (1899–1985)". Archived from the original on 2009-10-25.
  30. Russell Lichter. "Music Review". Retrieved 2020-04-23.
  31. Kupferberg, Herbert (1970). Those fabulous Philadelphians: The life and times of a great orchestra. ISBN 9780491003940.
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