Penn Library

Eugene Ormandy
A Centennial Celebration

Curated by Marjorie Hassen
Otto E. Albrecht Music Library
University of Pennsylvania

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Touring the United States and Latin America

A great symphony orchestra is a national, not merely a local asset. We regard it as a duty to travel to other cities, for although our recordings distribute our music to millions everywhere, it is still important to the life of an orchestra that it be seen and heard "living."
--Eugene Ormandy

Ormandy and members of the Philadelphia Orchestra before a concert
Carnegie Hall, New York, 17 November 1953
Since its founding in 1900 the Philadelphia Orchestra has been a traveling orchestra. Initially playing in nearby towns, both the distances between concert halls and the number of engagements scheduled away from Philadelphia each season quickly grew. Train travel gradually gave way to air travel as the preferred mode of transportation for longer distances, but each offers its own difficulties in transporting both the musicians and their instruments (for many years the Orchestra maintained its own specially-constructed baggage car, with regulated temperature and elaborate paddings and cushions to protect the instruments).

Souvenir Program
Ann Arbor Festival, 1984
Annual appearances in New York and Washington began in 1902 and continue today, as do regional tours--the first held in 1911. Eugene Ormandy led the Orchestra on five transcontinental tours between 1937 and 1962 and was responsible for the musician's participation in several annual music festivals, most notably the May Festival in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where the Orchestra appeared for 49 years from 1936-1984.


In June of 1966 the Orchestra embarked on State Department-sponsored ten-nation tour of Latin America. Audience response was staggering and the demand for tickets consistently exceeded availability. At one point, in fact, public demand was so great that Argentine Television agreed to broadcast one of the Orchestra's concerts.

Caracas, May 1966
The Orchestra included five world premieres and one western hemisphere premiere among its tour repertory, representing composers from Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay, Panama, and Brazil. The overwhelming success of the tour prompted then president Lyndon Johnson to write to Ormandy that "you and the Philadelphia Orchestra have reinforced our continuing effort to promote friendship and understanding between the United States and its Latin-American neighbors. For this outstanding service, I extend my sincere thanks."

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Last update: Thursday, 16-Jun-2011 14:00:09 EDT
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