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Eugene Ormandy conducts 20th Century Classics [Box set]

Eugene Ormandy Audio CD

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Eugene Ormandy conducts 20th Century Classics + Eugene Ormandy Conducts Tchaikovsky + George Szell Conducts Beethoven Symphonies & Overtures
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Product details

  • Audio CD (1 Oct 2012)
  • SPARS Code: ADD
  • Number of Discs: 12
  • Format: Box set
  • Label: Sony Music Classical
  • ASIN: B008BOWG68
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 134,937 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Product Description

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  23 reviews
38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Improved Remastering of Some Old (New) Favorites 22 Oct 2012
By E. Weed - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Ormandy's recordings introduced me to a fair bit of 20th Century orchestral music in the 1970's: Debussy's La Mer, Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra, Hindemith's Mathis der Maler, Ive's Three Places in New England. All of those remain among my favorite pieces of orchestral music today, and I feel a sense of loyalty to Ormandy for his committment to this music.

However, as hi-fi sound has improved over the years, Columbia and later RCA recordings have not weathered very well among audiophile types (and I guess I'm one of them, though not always happily). '60's Columbia's and '70 RCA's that seemed good enough back in the day now often sound rather bright and dry, both on vinyl and CD -- although this is variable -- and you don't often encounter recordings of either period among the "serious" audiophile vinyl or CD/SACD reissues at outfits like Acoustic Sounds or Music Direct or on the "must have" recordings lists, such as that of Absolute Sound (among others).

Yet in 2009, Sony both remixed AND remastered Leonard Bernstein's complete Mahler Symphonies under the "Carnegie Hall Presents" name, and the results were very close to astonishing. And even before, in the mid-late 1990's, Sony produced a modest series of reissues under the "Masterwork Heritage" name that brought unexpectedly rich sound from older recordings out of the Columbia catalog. So one can't help but think that there must be good sound buried in at least some of the master tapes within the very significant recording libraries of these companies during the years in question.

So I was certainly curious to see what had been done with Ormandy's recordings that I remembered so favorably, but that had not seemed very impressive to the extent subsequently released on CD. And I concur with all reviewers that the remasterings in this set represent an improvement over previous reissues that I've heard. In some cases, the sound is quite nice -- the Debussy/Ravel disc (CD 1), the Berg/Webern (CD 9), for example. The Hindemith Mathis (CD 9) is good, but not knockout, and the Bartok Concerto for Orchestra (CD 8)(the RCA version) is about the same. (Indeed, as with the Ives Three Places, also RCA, I'm not sure I wouldn't rather have had Ormandy's earlier reocrding -- in going back and listening to Ormandy's RCA LP's from that period, I notice they seem to be a bit bass-shy, with somewhat aggressively miked strings -- I don't think I've been able to sit all the way through any of the three RCA Ormandy LP's I've tried.)

But what can I say -- I've gotten to that audiophile point where I have a system that is great at letting one hear all kinds of detail -- some of which I really don't want to know about, frankly (sometimes!) -- and, as those of you familiar with audiophile gear know, heaven forbid that we have a tone control! So some of this is self-inflicted. But, overall, I'd have to say that, for my taste at least, these remasterings do not quite rise to the level of the Carnegie Hall Presents Bernstein Mahler box or the Masterwork Heritage reissues.

Putting all of this together, I'd say that, if you're like me and grew up with some of these performances of these pieces, go get this set (at a modest price, too) and have some fun remembering how you got where you are. If you are a hard core audiophile, frankly, there are probably some different choices you'd like better. If you are somewhere in-between, these remain fine introductions to some great music, and to a conductor that was committed to bringing this music out for us to hear. There is little to lose and a lot to be gained by grabbing this set while it's around.
42 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Performances in Remastered Sound 4 Sep 2012
By bob flagg - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Eugene Ormandy is one of the all time great conductors and this set confirms it. Having merged, Sony and Bmg can now draw on his recordings for both companies and although it took a long time, this set largely selects the best versions that Ormandy recorded for those companies (I would have used the Columbia Pictures at an Exhibition--more momentum and much better sonics--available on the Original Jacket Ormandy set, and Enescu Rhapsody but otherwise I agree with their choices). Ormandy was a master of rhythmic pacing and evoking each composer's individual sound with one of the world's all time greatest orchestras. Many performances are definitive here if you like Ormandy's forthright virtuosic approach that focuses on the music and not his own persona. Some of the highlights, with all the recordings receiving the best sound incarnation they have ever had, are the intense and searing Shostakovich 5th, the brilliant Bartok Concerto for Orchestra, shimmering Ravel Daphnis & Chloe and Debussy's La Mer, a dramatic Holst's Planets, and a dazzling and sensual Scriabin Poem of Ecstasy. The mono Stravinsky Rite of Spring comes in good sound and proves Ormandy could handle its complicated rhythms. The "ugly duckling" Academy of Music recordings from the late 1960's are sonically transformed such as Copland's Appalachian Spring and Falla's Nights in the Gardens of Spain(with Rubinstein). This set is also a great bargain with 12 cds included in the set. Personally, I would have preferred sets emphasizing one composer or a few linked composers. Hopefully a set of the Ormandy Tchaikovsky recordings will follow and a Rachmaninoff set (with Horowitz and Entremont instead of the Ashkenazy and Cliburn versions included here). Ormandy devotees should also know that the complete Beethoven and Brahms symphonies are now available from Sony Japan via Amazon ( I would supplement the Beethoven set with Ormandy's later Symphony #3 "Eroica" from RCA via Archiv or Amazon Japan as it is more dramatic overall and has an overwhelming Funeral March). Another great Masters set is the Rudolf Serkin plays Beethoven set of Concerti and sonatas, including Piano Concertos 1, 2, & 4 with Ormandy. It is good to see this great conductor being acknowledged.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ormandy and the Philadelphia Sound 22 Sep 2012
By oldfolks - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
It is impossible to separate Eugene Ormandy from the Philadelphia Orchestra, and vice versa. He conducted the orchestra for almost fifty years, with forty-two of those years as Music Director. The orchestra was brought to national prominence by Leopold Stokowski in the 1920's and 30's, but Ormandy continued to refine the sound after taking the helm of the orchestra in 1938, until it became one of the pre-eminent orchestras in the world. The orchestra became known for the "Philadelphia Sound". Actually, the "Philadelphia Sound" started when Stokowski had the violins bow freely rahter than in unison, in order to compensate for the very dry acoustics of the Academy of Music, the orchestra's concert hall. Ormandy further refined the sound by doubling certain instruments, and by retouching the orchestration of pieces he conducted.

Eugene Ormandy as an interpreter was conservative, and very much middle-of-the-road. It's not that he was unexciting, but rather that he was only as exciting as the score dictated. There were few surprises in his conducting. What he was, however, was an excellent orchestral tactician, with a superb ear for balance. He also had a lengendary memory for memorizing new music.

The music on these discs are, for the most part, works that were a standard part of Ormandy's repertoire. He had a very large repertoire, but he was at his best in Russian music, particularly Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Prokofiev, and Shostakovich. He was also a very fine Sibelius conductor.

As I have stated, this box contains mostly Ormandy standards, and most of them are re-makings of music that Ormandy had recorded in stereo for Columbia in the 1950's and 60's. There are a few curious selections, however. The Columbia recordings of the Barber Adagio for Strings, the Prokofiev "Classical" Symphony, and the Strauss Rosenkavalier Suite were chosen, even though those recordings were remade for RCA in the 1970's. I also find the inclusion in the set of Stravinsky's Petrouchka Suite and the Rite of Spring to be a bit puzzling. Ormandy never recorded the complete ballet Petrouchka, as most conductors did, and he never recorded the Rite of Spring in stereo, even though he led the orchestra for another twenty-five years after this recording. There should also have been a way to include the entire Das Lied von der Erde, instead of just two movements. I personally would have passed on the Stravinsky for a complete Das Lied. This also would have left room to include perhaps Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, another Philadelphia Orchestra staple. Technically, "Prelude" is not a 20th century work (it was written in 1892-93), but it was written by who most people consider to be a 20th century composer, and the work is newer than the included Rimsky-Korsakov Capricio Espagnol, written in 1887.

Other works that I would have liked to have seen included in this set are Rachmaninov's Symphony #2, a work long associated with this conductor, some Sibelius symphonies, and maybe some Respighi tone poems. Also nice would have been Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky, Mahler's Symphpony #2 "Resurrection", and the last three Shostakovich symphonies. Ormandy made the American recording premiere of these last named works, and all were recorded or remade by RCA in the 1970's. Perhaps Sony will see fit to follow this box with another one.

Recordings of the Philadelphia Orchestra have always been known for their great sound, and these 20-bit remasterings have further enhanced these recordings. This is especially noticeable on the older Columbia recordings. The remasterings are a definite upgrade to those that were issued in the Essential Classics series.

By the way, Ormandy smokes the Rite of Spring. The performance is really too fast and is rather breathless, but is very exciting nonetheless. The 1955 mono sound from the Academy of Music is very good.
24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ormandy Conducts Mostly 20th Century Classics by G. Dollinger 7 Sep 2012
By Juanita Dollinger - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Overall, this is a wonderful release, although I'm a bit surprised to see Capriccio espagnol, a work written in 1887, in a set dedicated to "20th Century Classics". It is also odd and disappointing to get only two movements of Das Lied von der Erde. Such a fine performance of one of Mahler's most profoundly moving masterpieces warrants inclusion in its entirety. These complaints aside, the performances range from very good to superb and it is great to finally have Ormandy's 1955 mono Le Sacre du printemps available commercially on CD in the U.S.

These recordings have never sounded better and this very generous compilation demonstrates this conductor's amazing versatility in a wide range of repertoire. Incidentally, whether it's a 20th Century Classic or not, Ormandy's version of Capriccio espagnol is one of the best.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's about time! 9 Sep 2012
By Dave - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Beside the RCA-Japan survey of the Ormandy post-1960's recordings, this is an extremely welcome survey of Ormandy and the Philadelphians at their best from both the Columbia and RCA years. One advantage to their prolific and extended history in the recording studio is the ability for one to select their best outings on some repeatedly recorded favorites. While the Columbia years tended to shine above the RCA years, there were 'bests' recorded over those years. The Holst, Copland, Britten, Rachmaninoff 3rd among them.

Sony, please, graze thorough the vaults and bring forth other chestnuts of other periods/composers, ...Mendelsohn, Brahms, Nielsen,.....

Thanks for this treasure! A bargain to boot!
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