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Coming to the Small Screen: Ormandy on Television
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Ormandy on TV Unitel Concerts (Part 1)
First Concert View from the right balcony Home Viewers Home Viewers Home Viewers Home Viewers
 
First Televised Concert, 1948
Control Booth during Unitel Filming   Photographer unknown   Late 1970s

By the early 1970s, the commercial networks had all but abandoned prime-time broadcasts of classical music, leaving public television to fill the voidwhich they did with some success. Funding from Exxon and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting allowed the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) to launch the Great Performances , which featured theatrical and classical music performances. Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra were showcased in several installments in the series, but even on public television the spotlight continued to be trained on musical life in New York City through such series as Live from Lincoln Center. An exception was Evening at the Symphony, a PBS series debuting in 1973 that featured concerts by the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

During this period, some of the most innovative telecasts of classical music performances were being produced in Europe, where governments provided greater support for arts programming and the public was more receptive to classical music broadcasts. In 1966, Leo Kirch, the head of a corporation in Munich that produced films for theater and television, founded Unitel, a company devoted exclusively to filming and distributing classical-music programs.

Kirch had the foresight to use cinema-quality stock for filming concerts, and his production crews developed imaginative camera and editing techniques based on a thorough knowledge of the music being performed. One of the earliestand most famousUnitel productions was the filming of a 1965 La Scala performance of Giacomo Puccini's La Bohhme, staged by Franco Zeffirelli and conducted by Herbert von Karajan.

Kirch enlisted Klaus Hallig of the International Television Trading Company as the executive producer for Unitel projects in the United States. By early 1977, Hallig had reached an agreement with Ormandy for an initial taping session at the Academy of Music.