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Coming to the Small Screen: Ormandy on Television
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Ormandy on TV The First Televised Orchestra Concert
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First Televised Concert, 1948
Philadelphia Orchestra during the First Televised Orchestra Concert    
 Photograph by Jules Schick    20 March 1948

At 5:00 p.m. on 20 March 1948, the Philadelphia Orchestra made broadcasting history as the first American orchestra to perform on network television. The hour-long concert, produced by WCAU-TV, the Philadelphia affiliate of the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), was broadcast live from the Academy of Music at the corner of Broad and Locust Streets. The broadcast followed close on the heels of an agreement between the American Federation of Musicians, led by James Petrillo, and the networks, which ended a three-year ban on live music performances on television. Once the agreement had been reached, the networks jockeyed for the distinction of being the first to televise an orchestra concert. Soon after the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) had announced plans to telecast an hour-long all-Wagner concert by the NBC Symphony Orchestra under Arturo Toscanini at 6:30 p.m. on 20 March 1948, CBS countered by scheduling a concert by the Philadelphia Orchestra for the same evening, ninety minutes earlier.

The Philadelphia orchestra performed two works: the overture to Carl Maria von Weber's opera Der Freischutz and the recently rediscovered Symphony no. 1 by Sergei Rachmaninoff, which had received its United States premiere by the orchestra the previous evening.