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Saturday, March 05, 2016

O dear maestro...

O dear maestro, what overwhelmingly lovely music you gave us. Those of us that really "got it" know the truth and have have never been swayed by those who speak of you disparagingly, mainly out of jealousy but also out of their exceeding arrogance that purports to know everything when the truth is that their very attempt to dictate how a piece is to played betrays their claims of promoting creativity. The great music of the centuries requires some fairly close adherence to what the composer intended, for sure, but also requires some innovation, imagination, and creativity that encourages new interpretations of timeless classics, provided the conductor remain true to the original intent of the composer.

Ormandy was willing to branch out and try some creative and innovative ways of playing the old symphonies while at the same time remaining true to the traditional interpretations. And if, after presenting some of these new interpretations he changes his mind and comes to the conclusion that he went too far, you will note that in time he reverts back to more of a faithful adherence to tradition. He was equally adept at both. He was, in addition, ever willing to present the works of new composers who could never get a break until Ormandy took note of their enormous talent and genius. At least two of these readily come to mind -- Jean Sibelius of Finland and Sergie Rachmaninoff of Russia. Ormandy put both of these exceptionally talented composers on the map, making their works worldwide sensations.

The latter of these, Rachmaninoff, was of special interest to Ormandy given that the Russian composer's works seemed to have broad popular appeal. Ormandy even gave Rachmaninoff pointers as to how certain sections in his works could be tweaked to sound better.

Interestingly, one section from one of Rachmaninoff's symphonies was used as the basis for a popular top 40 radio hit called, "Never Gonna Fall in Love Again," by Eric Carmen in 1975. Little did most radio listeners know that the melody to that tune came directly from one of Rachmaninoff's symphonies. Below you will hear it for yourself as Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra play that symphony live at the old Academy of Music concert hall where for nearly a century the orchestra presented its concerts each Friday evening. Later when the Academy was renovated, Ormandy and some of the musicians used to complain that the acoustics in that building were never the same and were below par. The orchestra does not play there today but in a magnificent, modern structure built just for them. But even there the acoustics leave something to be desired.

This composition below is another in which he was given to deep expressions of pure emotion. I have not posted the entire composition but the part that contains the melody used by Eric Carmen in his hit song in the 1970s.

It is clear watching Ormandy conduct this piece, especially the section I am showing you below, that the maestro had a deep emotional connection to the music. This is made clear by the look in his eyes and the expressions on his face. The musicians must have noticed it too by the look on their faces. It was as if they were on holy ground, playing something entirely sacred although the subject matter is that of loss and sadness. Ormandy knew a great deal in his personal life about those subjects as most of us do. But he could draw it out of the musicians without flamboyant antics as most conductors today. He didn't need such vulgarity. He was dignified and the perfect gentleman both on and off the stage. And this is a deeply moving piece of music that fits Ormandy and the Philadelphians perfectly.

On a personal note, to this day there is something comforting and reassuring about seeing Ormandy up on that podium. I remember feeling it when I saw it in person, and I still feel it when I see him conduct this piece on video. Back then there was much uncertainty but one came away feeling that as long as Ormandy was up on that podium everything would be alright. There is a great amount of uncertainty in my life right now. But seeing Ormandy on that stage, especially near the end of this section in question, once again gives me a sense of reassurance, that everything is going to be alright. One sequence in particular shows the maestro against a backdrop of darkness as he conducts the ending of this section of the piece which is especially and particularly poignant, where one gets the feeling that no matter how deep the darkness of this world becomes, Ormandy is ministering to you with this music to reassure you, and no matter how frightening, uncertain, and difficult things may become. And as long as the maestro is up on that platform creating this thing of beauty, you can rest assured that he is right there with you, frightened along with you, facing uncertainty and difficulty along with you while at the same time encouraging you with his soothing music.

O dear maestro, as along as God gives me breath, I will not allow conductors, critics, and professors with ill intent disparage your good name. I will challenge them at every turn, reminding the masses of how once just a few decades ago we were awed and spellbound by your music. We remember the encouragement and hope we felt. Rest assured as you rest in peace, O dear maestro, that we remember, that I remember. The sequence I discussed begins at 24:26. Scroll to it at the bottom of the video.  Or go directly to YouTube.

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