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Philadelphia Orchestra
Origin Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Genres Classical
Occupations Symphony orchestras
Years active 1900-present
Associated acts Philadelphia Singers
Chief Conductor
Charles Dutoit
Conductor Laureate
Wolfgang Sawallisch
Associate Conductor
Rossen Milanov
Conducting Fellow
Shizuo Kuwahara
Former members
Fritz Scheel

The Philadelphia Orchestra is a symphony orchestra based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the United States. One of the "Big Five" American orchestras, it was founded in 1900. The orchestra's home is the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts where it performs its subscription concerts in Verizon Hall.

From 1900 to 2001 the Philadelphia Orchestra gave its concerts at the Academy of Music. The orchestra continues to own the historic hall and returns there once a year for the Academy of Music's annual gala concert. The Philadelphia Orchestra also has a summer residency at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center and performs an annual series of concerts at Carnegie Hall.

Currently the orchestra's music director post is vacant. The Chief Conductor is Charles Dutoit.



Official Philadelphia Orchestra logo


The orchestra was founded in 1900 by Fritz Scheel, who also acted as its first conductor. In 1907 Karl Pohlig took over the post and served until 1912. The orchestra had its beginnings with a small group of musicians led by F. Cresson Schell (1857-1942), pianist, who was the founding 'Father of the Philadelphia Orchestra.' "Etude Magazine", March, 1921.

In 1912 Leopold Stokowski became principal conductor, and brought the orchestra to national prominence. Under him, the orchestra gained a reputation for great virtuosity, and developed what is known as the "Philadelphia Sound." Stokowski left the orchestra in 1941, and did not return as a guest conductor for nearly 20 years.

In 1936 Eugene Ormandy joined the organization, and jointly held the post of principal conductor with Stokowski until 1938 when he took over the role full-time. He remained with the orchestra for a total of 44 years, after which he became Conductor Laureate. Ormandy conducted many of the orchestra's best-known recordings. He took the orchestra on its historic 1973 tour of the People's Republic of China, where they were the first Western orchestra to visit that country in many decades.[1] They were wildly popular in China, and have since returned for three more successful tours.

Riccardo Muti became principal guest conductor of the orchestra in the 1970s, and took over from Ormandy as Music Director in 1980, serving through 1992. His recordings with the orchestra included the symphonies of Ludwig van Beethoven, Johannes Brahms, and Alexander Scriabin, for the EMI and Philips labels.

Wolfgang Sawallisch then succeeded Muti as Music Director from 1993 to 2003. He made a number of recordings with the orchestra of music of Robert Schumann, Richard Strauss and Richard Wagner, among other composers, for the EMI label. However, the orchestra lost its recording contract with EMI during this time. Toward the end of Sawallisch's tenure, the orchestra released a self-produced set of recordings of the Schumann symphonies with Sawallisch conducting. In 2003, Sawallisch was named Conductor Laureate of the orchestra.

In 2003, Christoph Eschenbach became music director. This appointment was controversial because Eschenbach had not conducted the orchestra in over four years and there was a perceived lack of personal chemistry between him and the musicians prior to the appointment.[2][3][4] At least one early report tried to downplay this concern.[5] The orchestra returned to commercial recordings with Eschenbach, on the Ondine label. However, in October 2006, Eschenbach and the orchestra announced that his tenure as music director would end in 2008, at which time he will have served five years, the shortest tenure as music director in the history of the Philadelphia Orchestra, along with Pohlig.

In February 2007, the orchestra named Charles Dutoit to the newly created posts of chief conductor and artistic adviser for four seasons, starting in the fall of 2008 and running through the 2011-2012 season.[6][7] This move was made to provide an "artistic bridge" while the orchestra searched for its eighth music director.[8][9][10] Articles from August 2007 have indicated that the orchestra has devised a search process where each musician in the orchestra will have a say in the choice of the next Music Director, in contrast to past searches.[11][12]

Musicians from the orchestra were featured in a documentary film by Daniel Anker, Music from the Inside Out, which received theatrical release and television airings. The film has received both positive and negative criticism.[13][14]

The Philadelphia Orchestra's current concertmaster is David Kim.[15] The Associate Conductor of the orchestra is Rossen Milanov.[16] The resident chorus of the orchestra is the Philadelphia Singers.


The Philadelphia Orchestra boasts an extraordinary record of media firsts. It was the first symphony orchestra to make electrical recordings (in 1925), the first to perform its own commercially sponsored radio broadcast (in 1929, on NBC), the first to perform on the soundtrack of a feature film (The Big Broadcast of 1937), the first to appear on a national television broadcast (in 1948, on CBS), the first American orchestra to record the complete Beethoven symphonies on compact disc (in 1988), and the first major orchestra to give a live cybercast of a concert on the Internet (in 1997). In 2006 the orchestra was the first to began offering downloads of music from their website without a distributor,[17] but this was later abandoned[18] (see Recordings).

In other firsts, the Orchestra made diplomatic history in 1973 when it became the first American orchestra to tour the People's Republic of China, performing in Beijing's Great Hall of the People. In 1999, under Wolfgang Sawallisch, it became the first American orchestra to visit Vietnam. More recently, the orchestra appointed Carol Jantsch principal tuba as of 2006-2007,[19] and according to the announcement, it is possible that she is the first full-time female principal tuba player of an American orchestra.[20]

The Philadelphia Orchestra performs more than 130 concerts during its winter subscription season from September to May. In its summer season spanning June and July, it performs at Philadelphia's outdoor Mann Center for the Performing Arts, followed by a three-week residency in August at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in upstate New York. In July 2007, the Orchestra began a residency at the Bravo! Vail Valley Festival in Vail, Colorado.[21]


The Orchestra's first recordings were made in Camden, New Jersey, in 1917, when Leopold Stokowski conducted performances of two of Brahms's Hungarian Dances for the Victor Talking Machine Company. The historic first electrical recordings were also made in Camden, in April 1925, beginning with Saint-Saëns' Danse macabre. Then, in 1927, Victor began recording the Orchestra in the Academy of Music. Stokowski led them in experimental long-playing, high-fidelity, and even stereophonic sessions in the early 1930s for RCA Victor and Bell Laboratories. They recorded the soundtrack for Walt Disney's Fantasia in multi-track stereophonic sound in 1940.

Arturo Toscanini made a series of recordings with the orchestra in 1941 and 1942. Due to technical problems with the masters, the recordings were never issued on 78-rpm discs. Years later, after extensive electronic editing, all of the recordings were issued by RCA Victor on LP and CD.

The Orchestra remained with RCA Victor through 1942. Following a settlement of a recording ban imposed by the American Federation of Musicians, the Orchestra switched to Columbia Records in 1944, recording some of the dances from Borodin's Prince Igor. They returned to RCA Victor in 1968 and made their first digital recording, Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra, in 1979. The Orchestra has also recorded for EMI and Teldec.

In May 2005, The Philadelphia Orchestra announced a three-year recording partnership with the Finnish label Ondine, the Orchestra's first recording contract in 10 years. The resumption of a regular recording program was one of Christoph Eschenbach's stated priorities as music director. A number of recordings have been released since November 2005, to international acclaim.

On September 21, 2006 the Philadelphia Orchestra became the first major United States orchestra to sell downloads of their performances directly from the orchestra's website. While other American orchestras had downloads of their music on the internet, the Philadelphia Orchestra said it was the first to offer the downloads without a distributor.[17] In 2010 this practice was abandoned, and the orchestra formed a partnership with IODA, a digital distribution company with downloads available through a variety of online retailers, including iTunes,, Rhapsody, and emusic.[18]

Music Directors

†In 2008 Charles Dutoit was named chief conductor. Appointment of the orchestra's music director is expected in 2012.

Further reading

  • Ardoin, John (1999). The Philadelphia Orchestra: A Century of Music. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. ISBN 156639712X. 
  • Kupferberg, Herbert (1969). Those Fabulous Philadelphians. New York: C. Scribner's Sons. OCLC 28276. 
  • Kurnick, Judith K (1992). Riccardo Muti: Twenty Years in Philadelphia. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Orchestra. OCLC 25883790. 
  • Clark, Sedgwick (2003). The Philadelphia Orchestra Celebrates Sawallisch 1993-2003. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Orchestra. 
  • Marion, John Francis (1984). Within These Walls: A History of the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. Philadelphia: Academy of Music/Philadelphia Orchestra. OCLC 11404370. 
  • Peralta, Phyllis (2006). Philadelphia Maestros: Ormandy, Muti, Sawallisch. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. ISBN 1592134874. 

External links


  1. ^ Daniel Webster (1 February 2008). "Learning Chinese". Playbill Arts. Retrieved 2008-02-02. 
  2. ^ Doreen Carvajal (6 February 2001). "Musicians Are Gaining Bigger Voice In Orchestras". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-29. 
  3. ^ Peter Dobrin, "Orchestra has some lessons to consider". Philadelphia Inquirer, 29 October 2006.
  4. ^ Anthony Tomassini (23 November 2006). "Conductor Under Fire, Orchestra Under Pressure". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-04-11. 
  5. ^ Peter Culshaw (18 May 2004). "Chemistry lessons". Telegraph. Retrieved 2007-04-11. 
  6. ^ Tom Di Nardo, "Charles Dutoit to head orchestra". Philadelphia Daily News, 23 February 2007.
  7. ^ Peter Dobrin, "Orchestra's interim pick: Dutoit". Philadelphia Inquirer, 23 February 2007.
  8. ^ Daniel J. Wakin (24 February 2007). "The Philadelphia Orchestra Names a Chief Conductor". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-04-11. 
  9. ^ Peter Dobrin, "Which Dutoit will show up?" Philadelphia Inquirer, 25 February 2007.
  10. ^ Peter Dobrin, "Positivity on the podium". Philadelphia Inquirer, 3 March 2007.
  11. ^ Peter Dobrin (5 August 2007). "A measured search for Philadelphia Orchestra music director". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  12. ^ Kevin Shihoten (6 August 2007). "Philadelphia Orchestra Musicians to Have Bigger Say in Director Search". Playbill Arts. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  13. ^ Joshua Kosman (30 December 2005). "Documentary gets behind the music made by orchestral musicians". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-04-11. 
  14. ^ David Patrick Stearns, "The orchestra with no discord". Philadelphia Inquirer, 20 April 2005.
  15. ^ Tom Di Nardo, "Orchestra's concertmaster holds a key job". Philadelphia Daily News, 2 February 2007.
  16. ^ "Staff Conductors". Philadelphia Orchestra. Retrieved 2007-04-11. 
  17. ^ a b David Patrick Stearns, "Philadelphia Orchestra enters the ear-bud age". The Philadelphia Inquirer, 21 September 2006.
  18. ^ a b "The Philadelphia Orchestra - Recordings" at Retrieved 3 March 2010.
  19. ^ Peter Dobrin, "Breaking the brass ceiling."Philadelphia Inquirer, 26 February 2006.
  20. ^ (.PDF) Philadelphia Orchestra announces winner of principal tuba auditions. Philadelphia Orchestra. 27 February 2006. Retrieved 2007-04-11. 
  21. ^ "Where We Play". The Philadelphia Orchestra. Retrieved 2007-04-11. 


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