Penn Library

Eugene Ormandy
A Centennial Celebration

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

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Orchestral Premieres: Roger Sessions' 5th Symphony

Audio excerpt of Ormandy conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra in the world premiere, recorded 7 February 1964, at the Academy of Music, Philadelphia
At Eugene Ormandy's request, the Philadelphia Orchestra commissioned an orchestral composition from the esteemed American composer Roger Sessions in October 1960, to be delivered by April 1963 for performance in early 1964. However, Sessions' work on the piece, which would be his 5th Symphony, was continually delayed and was not completed until the following December. Ormandy's mounting frustration with the composer is evident in a series of letters between the two, culminating in his last correspondence before the February 7th premiere, when he learned that Sessions would not be able to attend the performance. This, he notes, will make Sessions "the first living composer who has not attended his premiere" with the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Roger Sessions
Letter to Eugene Ormandy
December 1963

The letter above is one that Sessions enclosed along with the first installment of his score, which he sent to Ormandy in December 1963. With the remainder of the score and all of the orchestral parts yet to follow, Sessions writes, "I am not in any way trying to persuade you to perform the work this season. I only want to get it to you as quickly as possible, and I will absolutely accept this, as I would always have done. You have indeed been more than patient . . . for after all, it is written for you, and whether you perform it or not, or when, it carries with it my feelings of warm friendship."

Roger Sessions (1896-1985)
Symphony no. 5 (1964)
Holograph reproduction
Conducting score, marked for performance by Ormandy

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Last update: Thursday, 04-Apr-2019 11:42:56 EDT
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