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Violinist and Conductor Eugene Ormandy Died On This Day in 1985

Mr Ormandy was the Music Director of The Philadelphia Orchestra for 42 years – conducting 100-180 concerts per year.


Hungarian-born violinist and conductor Eugene Ormandy died on this day in 1985 – aged 85.

Born named Jenö Blau on November 18, 1899, Blau's musical talents were evident from a very young age. He began learning the violin from his father when he was just three and a half years old. By the age of five, he enrolled in the Royal National Hungarian Academy of Music, making him the youngest student ever admitted up to that point. Under the tutelage of Jenő Hubay, Blau continued to develop his talents, passing his violin and chamber music finals in the spring of 1915.

Starting in 1917, Blau began touring Hungary and Germany, and served as concertmaster of the Berlin Blüthner Orchestra. Blau also briefly held a professorship of violin at his alma mater in 1918. During this time, from 1917 to 1920, he also pursued a degree in philosophy.

In 1921, Blau emigrated to the United States. At the time of his arrival in America in 1921, he was using "Jeno Blau", but by 1925 he changed his name to "Eugene Ormandy".

Arthur Judson, a highly influential manager in American classical music during the 1930s, first encountered Ormandy as a freelancer conducting at a dance recital at Carnegie Hall featuring Isadora Duncan. Judson, who attended the recital expecting to see a dancer, was struck by Ormandy's conducting skills. Reflecting on the experience later, Judson remarked, "I came to see a dancer and instead heard a conductor." This encounter likely played a significant role in Ormandy's rise to prominence in the American classical music scene.

At Judson's instigation Ormandy substituted for the indisposed Arturo Toscanini with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1931, which led to an appointment as musical director of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, which he held from 1931 to 1936.

In 1936, he resumed his position in Philadelphia, sharing the conductor's role with Leopold Stokowski. Within two years, he assumed sole responsibility as the orchestra's music director, a position he held for an impressive 42-year span from 1938 to 1980. Following this tenure, he transitioned to the role of conductor laureate. Throughout his leadership, he led the Philadelphia Orchestra on numerous national and international tours and served as a guest conductor with orchestras across Europe, Australia, South America, and East Asia.

Passing away from pneumonia at his home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on March 12, 1985, Maestro Ormandy is remembered as one of the finest conductors of the 20th Century.



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