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Eugene Ormandy (1899 - 1985)


Eugene Ormandy was born Jenő Blau into a musical Jewish family: his father, a dentist, was an amateur violinist, and he named his son after the Hungarian violin virtuoso Jenő Hubay. The boy soon showed signs of musical ability and from an early age was encouraged by his father to practise the violin. He studied at the Royal State Academy of Music in Budapest from the age of five, and with Hubay himself from the age of nine; other teachers included the composers Béla Bartók, Zoltán Kodály and Leo Weiner. Ormandy was the youngest-ever graduate of the Royal Academy when he received his diploma at the age of fourteen, going on to study philosophy at the University of Budapest from which he graduated when he was twenty, meanwhile also himself teaching at the Royal State Academy of Music from the age of seventeen. During 1917 he toured Hungary and Germany as soloist with the Blüthner Orchestra, and during 1920 France and Austria as a recitalist. Determined to do the same in America, Ormandy arrived there in 1921, only to find that a promised series of concerts had vanished. Down to his last twenty dollars, he auditioned for a place as a violinist in the orchestra of the Capitol Theatre in New York, which showed silent films, and within a year had been promoted to the position of leader of the orchestra. Ormandy’s first experience of conducting came at the Capitol Theatre when in 1924 he substituted for an ailing staff conductor. He continued in this role, for which he clearly had a gift, conducting the same work as often as

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