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This is Eugene Ormandy. There are no problems really in any way excepting if the conduct that is not good or the orchestra is no good. And then there are a lot of problems but you know I'm speaking as the head of one of the great orchestras in this country and probably the whole world. There are no artistic problem as the orchestra know that I demand the utmost from them. In fact the demand the same of themselves. Michigan State University radio presents the music makers. Today Eugene Ormandy is our guest in a series of conversations with prominent Americans whose art and business is music. Mr. Orme Ind. involvement with music dates from his earliest years. Born in Hungary he was recognised as a prodigy at three and a half became the youngest pupil at the Hungary and royal state academy at age 5 and 1 1/2 years at age 20 he was head of master classes at the Budapest State Conservatory of Music
and the following year he came to the United States. He substituted for Maestro Toscanini at Philadelphia and then moved to the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra in 1931. Since 1936 he has been conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra. In 1957 Mr Ormandy was awarded a citation for distinguished service in music from Boston University with Eugene Ormandy as host for these conversations. Pat Forde there are many hours the financial support of civic orchestra has been altered in the last 25 years and other word has the so-called wealthy patrons and patronesses of the arts largely disappeared. This is a very difficult question to answer is the fog. Because the civic orchestras as such have always been supported by the wealthy and by local. Government supporter and have also by
well foundations have supported them. But when you talk about civic orchestra this is difficult for me to talk about them as such because I don't know enough about them. I can only talk to you mostly about our large orchestras. The 12 or 15 it's all called major offices is fine but this is what your regular attention to this. Well each orchestra is run by a committee of board of directors. This board of directors is responsible for the financial health so to speak of the orchestra each orchestra. Some of our orchestras have foreseen years and years ago. The fact that salaries will go up with the seasons will lank food and the support that was forthcoming from either groups or individuals. Off people of very public minded citizens will eventually diminish or if they remain where they were the income will have to come from some some other source and they have stopped there stablished.
I think it was a first such orchestra Chicago was the second in Philadelphia was a third which established a foundation fund that the. From which day paid the musicians the income of which I supplied the. The amount that the musicians had to be paid for on some of these funds are as high as 10 million dollars. Ours is not that far but I think you coddle and here I can only say what I've heard has approximately 10 million dollars. Cleveland has been between 5 and 6 what they say and so has before mentioned Cincinnati. But even that isn't enough how much we have I really don't know because it changes all the time. But there's a maintenance fund and that has to remain and in could be increased. Now the sales of tickets record sales which is in the Philly case of the Philadelphia Orchestra is probably the largest in the world. And this is not said in
any sense of conceit. Just just stating facts. Now all that helps to pay for the expenses. But I first came to Philadelphia twenty seven years ago as music director. Our budget annually was between 750000 and a million dollars I think I would I think it was closer to 900000. It's two hundred to two million dollars now. So as you can see everything has grown tremendously and that money has to be found. That's why they have to go to public minded citizens who help as best as they could. But where I think is not enough being done is industry or industry has not done as much as it could and should. Detroit started it some 15 years ago I believe a gentleman named Also Ford like yourself has started it not Henry Ford but another Mr. Ford a very great industrialist. And I needed
$250000 and he got 25 very important citizens and each guaranteed for three years the amount of $10000 and that put the orchestra back on the map. It was absolutely out at that time they were going to disappear altogether. And to think to have Detroit without the symphony orchestra is just on think about. Now we don't have. Such $250000 coming in and I don't know of any other city although we should and all of us should. But the support has increased definitely doing the 25 years not as much as I would have liked to see it but it has increased and it has become spread over a larger number of persons than was the case and yes of course we have a situation in Philadelphia which I believe started in Philadelphia. Most other orchestras have it and it's called the Women's committees. Now we have a vice president or orchestra boards a Mr. Simon Rosenbaum who has been with the orchestra long before I have and he once said If you
want to save an orchestra call women Stevie. Give them a cookie and a couple of cups of tea to drink and you have a women's committee and the orchestra is saved. And what he said jokingly turned out to be something very seriously true. I think this is a concept it's probably applied most broadly in this this country and the support of civic groups and industrialists perhaps and women's groups. What does this do to the artistic freedom of the conductor Mr aunty. Now I think the conductor by the nature of his position in this country at least is fully in charge of his orchestra discipline and gauging and and heeding quotation disengaging music musicians. Of course this disengaging business is has gotten very difficult lately. But with the 65 year pension must
be in most orchestras Our problem is not a serious as it could be if we couldn't ever get rid of a man although as I said. Especially I myself I don't believe in letting men go for little or no reason. I believe to keep every man who is doing his best but he's capable still or not at least until he's 65. But otherwise the conductor makes his own programmes. Nobody interferes nobody is allowed to interfere. Oh of course you get a lot of letters from people when you play too much contemporary music or from other groups. The diehard modernists who say don't play enough contemporary music and you have to face that. But the conductor is fully in charge of his orchestra and he's really the book and he I always call him when it comes to program making the musical Sheff of an orchestra. I see that as that's a very good way to put it. I was interested in you what you said about
some people saying there isn't enough contemporary music being played I've heard this criticism also and I was wondering I suppose this is what was in the back of my mind when I asked the question about artistic freedom of a conductor. Some people in fact some some very respectable people have complained about the fact for instance American composers especially having difficulty in being performed in the repertory. It's unfortunately true. I for one believe that I have to please all people. Now I never forget the first letter of advise that I got when I was 36 years old and I came to Philadelphia as music director. And I received a letter from a very prominent lady and does what she says. Do you sir if you want to be a success. Stay away from those awful. At all music. And compositions now. What I do as a musical chef. I don't really give anybody indigestion. Musically speaking and I believe that about 25 percent of each program
unless the program itself is devoted to one particular composer should be contemporary music. But I feel that every conductors duty is to select a contemporary composition that is worthy of performance in other words merely to be contemporary doesn't make a composition good. The conductor must be able to evaluate its qualities and lacks of qualities and take pick only the ones that he thinks are perfectly acceptable musically. Even if the public at first does not accept except to work at once. Last year I started a novel idea that turned out to be rather successful. By inviting other members of our subscribers to the last rehearsal and if the composer is anywhere near Philadelphia or New York invite him over to Philadelphia. And one even came from ROOM. Just just to be present for it not to talk but to be
at the performance and they always willingly explain the pieces and a composition that otherwise would be. Well it would not be really hissed but certainly not applaud it or you would probably have come up here a couple of pieces but not like in Europe and people start to fight over the composition which happens in Paris all the time only last week it happened. But it is I must say that by talking to them explaining to them I start very difficult passages. Take them apart have certain groups play separate and put them together and you'll be surprised. But at the end of Friday afternoon performance comes people more than a plodding but a composer walks on the stage. They give him special applause warm applause just because they had a chance to hear and see how we put that very difficult. Complicated work together you're doing a good job than in educating the people but it's very responsibility also the education. It's one of the greatest sponsors of a conductor and something that has never been a book never considered that Luckily the present conductors you know can see that the New York Philharmonic the Boston
Symphony all have relatively young conductors but compared to be they all children but age wise but in Cleveland and Chicago but it there's a change there now a new conductor I suppose to do exactly the same thing. MARTIN Oh but all the other conductors Bernstein as you know is famous for his lectures on music and he speaks so intelligently and never down to the audience still on their own level. He doesn't talk to professional musicians because they are above that about their level but the public gets lies 99 percent just loves it and he explains so beautiful it to the people what music is all about and that particular music he's about to play that he teaches millions of people on television at the same time which is novels. Another aspect of the same cause is the young American composer I suppose the contemporary composer. How do we encourage in this country the way. Our success angles are set of how do we encourage young composers with real
ability because it is doing by asking them to write good compositions and it works well. I commissioned myself each year one major work which is $5000 commission. But you would be surprised that some composers have even thought that $5000 is not enough. I remember when they thanked me very much for a $1000 commission I have a $5000 commission to offer right now to a two American composer and a great one of course has it has to be. And I approached a Philadelphia born composer and he said to me this is why should I compose a piece for 5000 a film that is offering me 7000 and what do you say there. This is a problem then in coordination among the groups who are attempting to foster this kind of thing isn't it. I mean there really shouldn't be competition there should there. Well there should be no competition at all but if he has only so much time to write he is not known to be a fast writer which is very important that
he for him and for a performer to get a good composition. And if he takes six months to a year to write a composition $5000 is really not very much. But if you stop to think that only 10 or 15 years ago $1000 were enough for anybody to say thank you and I'll do it the best I can. And they usually do. It's things have junk that shows that the modern modern and contemporary composer has come into his own and the second eye which doesn't mean that. Everyone of let's say 100 contemporary composers today will get a $5000 commission. I would say at the most eight or ten will get it and they are already past 50 you see. Well speaking of prices going up and you introduced this problem a few moments ago so we may as well pursue it a bit now. What strengths and weaknesses are derived from union affiliations. Here we were talking about the musicians and as I say union
affiliations. They can only be helpful to help them in the orchestra men and women in the orchestra to help the conditions of substance to go a little bit too far in the demands but the summer holiday is always a compromise at the end. And in musicians as a rule benefit from it they all strive for a 52 week engagement. Only one orchestra has approached it even That's the Boston Symphony with its various. Prominent and other concerts and the Tanglewood concerts and quite a large number of them in about 65 do have 50 weeks engagement. In fact the whole orchestra could have it if they wish but many people don't want to work 50 to 50 weeks. I think they should be again a happy medium and about there should be about 45 weeks engagement eventually. Can it be done yet. Our orchestra is I think the third in the length of
engagement. As I said Boston is first the new film and it was below us until it jumped up because of the new affiliations at the Lincoln Center where they can give some accounts as an air conditioned hall our hall on fetch unfortunately and at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia is not air conditioned yet we hope to have it increases because after a while you cannot play that is too hot. But it's one of the great halls of the world as you probably know. Certainly the second oldest in the whole world believe it or not. One hundred and six years old and we hope that somehow all the major orchestras in fact all the so-called minor orchestras will eventually have anywhere between 40 and 45 weeks season in order to be able to live for 52 weeks. Pursuing this a little further what are some of the problems that exist between a musician and a conductor and you can perhaps talk in a general way about this artistically or personally or whatever you use a bad word if I may
say so use the word probably And let me eliminate it there are no problems really in any way except if the conductor is no good or the orchestra is no good. And then there are a lot of problems but in speaking as the head of one of the great orchestras in this country and probably the whole world there are no artistic problems as the orchestra know that I demand the utmost from them. In fact the demand the same of themselves they know and here I just quote them because it would sound awfully arrogant on my part if I said that. But they call themselves the greatest orchestra in the world and having conducted nine great European orchestras within the last seven weeks I can assure you of that there. They're not wrong when they call themselves the greatest. And these men know they prepare themselves just as something difficult to take at home. I mean the music and come as prepared as is possible and very seldom any
problems because. I as a conductor and every conductor today I'm sure will come prepared to his rehearsal. I mean he's prepared to conduct a concert at the first rehearsal. He knows the score as well. The men of course are going to be expected to know them especially contemporary. I must speak of Brahms Beethoven Mozart and Haydn and Bach and speaking of the contemporary works which are very complicated and everybody's too busy with his own bad and then we have to take it apart and put it together again. Before that he knows what's going on. But these men do lie upon their conductor to trust him to trust his judgment good judgment. And there is a very worrying on relationship. A very friendly relationship with mutual respect for each other. There is no first name calling. Nobody calls anybody Bay's first name on the stage. I don't call any of very seldom do I make a mistake and I apologize because I think we should call each other Mr So-and-so there is a great
orchestra in front of me and without that great orchestra which I often refer to as instrument a great instrument. I couldn't conduct India. Nothing would come out. So I'm dependent on them. And in a way they are dependent on me. And that applies to every great orchestra and this conductor. Speaking of the orchestras of foreign countries in many cases perhaps and in most cases the orchestras in foreign countries are subsidized or in some way supported nationally. Is this good does this lend a greater degree of autonomous more autonomous quality to the orchestra. Is this better than being dependent upon individual groups or personalities. It's not a difficult question to answer. If I had the choice between conducting. Orchestrate us that have absolute security and therefore became bureaucrats rather than artists. Then I want my American way of
conducting orchestras where I am the boss. And there is no minister of education above me or intendant who tells me who to engage in the orchestra whom thing is a soloist who to engage as a guest conductor because there is some friendship or relationship between them. I take no orders from anyone but days a very warm relationship between my board of directors who finally have the last word. I through my manager and we have a new manager of about whom I have heard a great deal. Mr Henry bell to you and to him I am going to put in a list of soloists. The list is always larger than I and then they can possibly engage all the board fees that they are really fulfilling at a duty a function not only sitting there and yes in Mr Ormandy because that's wrong too. We are running the orchestra from every point of view very much on a democratic basis and a manager prepared us gives a list of guest conductors.
Contemplated large scale choral works and solos and everything and then from that list the board makes a choice and I get that choice back. It puts me in a very easy position with the soloist who otherwise would expect me to engage them when I say well I will put your name up. They think they're already engaged and each time I say it's not the final word is not mine. I can only recommend it has been a very good position with them because sometimes I cannot succeed in gauging Everybody I want and sometimes I wished I didn't they didn't didn't OK it and usually don't want certain people. But this is very individual. No not every conductor in this country has the same privilege I think to your fellow money Boston Symphony and Cleveland and Chicago I think are the only orchestra where probably Pittsburgh is a wonderful orchestra very much under-rated orchestra. I think it's just as great as almost all the others. It's not as Roger unfortunately has a great
conductor and the orchestra is in very good artistic shape. Now. I can only speak for these six but I think the other orchestras are very much in the same position. The conductor can have the full buses of his orchestra that is no use for him to beat it. Because he has to run them not being run by others. Still the board of directors have the last word in everything. As we look at some parts of the country New York City for instance we see Lincoln Center going up and Philharmonic Hall and we think this is a tremendous indication of civic pride and so forth and that theres a great future for the Performing Arts there and we look at other parts of the country and we see where one symphony orchestra major symphony orchestras and a great deal of trouble they think they may not even have a season next year because of difficulties theyre having. I'm just wondering if you could do a bit of crystal ball gazing for us and leave us with some of your thoughts on the future of performing arts especially music in this
country for the major orchestras. It's another difficult question to answer because I have many thoughts on the subject but each city has its own problems. What is difficult and perhaps very bad in our country is that not everybody who doesn't like symphonic music thinks that the symphony orchestra is a great asset to the city. And that's where the trouble lies. If the people would realize as they have for instance in Philadelphia where they is has been a lot of crime as you well know and never never forget once it was a very bad scandal there and I apologize to a visiting friend from New York a very famous critic and composer. I said I hate to see you arrive here just when this front page story appears it's all Philadelphia's famous for that this is you know that is a but it's also a more famous phrase Liberty Bell and still and just as famous for its great symphony orchestra. So you have nothing to apologize for.
People could realize that their cultural lives actually begins at its universities and on the university and on symphonic level. And by giving money whether they like music or not symphonic music whether they understand it or ever a plan to attend it realizing that a symphony orchestra is due to the Poles the musical poles the cultural poles of a city and are willing to supported even though they are not necessarily music rather us. Then there is no danger. Now I know what you're referring to I know that. Just read it since I came back to Detroit is in trouble financially. August is good through Detroit has been in trouble before and it came out on top. It's outrageous in an unfortunate that any orchestra should any musician in an orchestra in a great orchestra at Heathrow it has a great orchestra should be afraid that but it is going to have a job next year or not.
That's awful it's terrible and those are the disadvantages of not being around by governmental force. But I think there's advantages that always work at work themselves out somehow and I'm convinced today as I can be that there will be a Detroit Orchestra next season and there is little danger because that that August has to just has to go on. They may have to find money and heaven knows a lot of money in Detroit if people would only be willing to dig into their pockets. And that's the one criticism I have of some very wealthy people who sit on that money and refuse to give it for for a symphony orchestra because they don't like symphonic music. We seem to be so success dollar success oriented in this country that perhaps there are many people who feel that since symphonic orchestras can't pay their own way they must be you know it must not be any good because if they were they would certainly be six. Do you know any museum that can run yourself as the wind. You know
any university in the land itself and it's income. A cultural institution has to be run by people who help them lead a movie. A great moving picture pay for itself three or four times its cost. That's something because it has a great public interest appeal. But to me the symphony orchestras cannot be expected. And let's stick to a utopian situation. Do you realize that Italy for instance which is not exactly a very rich country at present all do it that it is wealthier today than it was 20 years ago after the war. But in Italy and even during the war they always found three to four million dollars. To support last cholera. Do you realize that a ticket costs one or two dollars for the last car and the stars are getting twice as much as the Metropolitan Opera. And they don't pay income tax. I mean the secure its all the government is doing that so it has tremendous advantages. And
but again I can say that the minute they are becoming bureaucrats a certain percentage of the musicians will lay down on the job because he cannot be fired. And it's bad now I don't say that that you know a country can be fiat but at least I can talk to him and tell him the look on the ass you are forcing me to does doesn't stop. In Europe I can say that because he knows I'm just bluffing here. I couldn't do anything to him unless he did something dishonest anymore. But. Generally our own system is far better at least for me as an American and I am one with my all my heart and. Give me the American system at any time. Thank you very much Mr Ahmed It's a pleasure Mr. FORD. That was Eugene Ormandy today's guest on the music makers a series of conversations with prominent Americans whose art and business is music host for these conversations is path forward. This is can be chill or inviting you to be with us
again next week for a conversation with John Look Laurie director of Columbia masterworks. These programs are produced by Pat Ford at Michigan State University Radio under a grant from National Educational radio. This is the national educational radio network.
The music makers
Eugene Ormandy
Producing Organization
Michigan State University
WKAR (Radio/television station : East Lansing, Mich.)
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program focuses on conductor and violinist Eugene Ormandy.
Series Description
Distinguished Americans discuss their profession of music, from composition to criticism; the business of music and its current place in our national culture.
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Interviewee: Ormandy, Eugene, 1899-1985
Interviewer: Smyth, Henry De Wolf, 1898-1986
Producer: Ford, Pat
Producing Organization: Michigan State University
Producing Organization: WKAR (Radio/television station : East Lansing, Mich.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 66-6-6 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:37
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Chicago: “The music makers; Eugene Ormandy,” 1966-01-14, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 8, 2023,
MLA: “The music makers; Eugene Ormandy.” 1966-01-14. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 8, 2023. <>.
APA: The music makers; Eugene Ormandy. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from