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192 This Isn’t the Philadelphia Orchestra Chapter 7 I STILL REMEMBER THE HUSH WHEN the lights went down. The Philadelphia Union League was packed with its members and friends, coming out to a private concert, to see something new. It was September 30, 1966, and my Chamber Symphony of Philadelphia was on its home turf, after two initial concerts out of town. As if to make room for us, the big orchestra had gone on strike. I was feeling my elbow room. The concertmaster had tuned the players, taken his bow, and been welcomed by the audience. I walked on and enjoyed their enthusiastic applause too. Soloist Gary Graffman began Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto. I kept the orchestra with him wherever he chose to take us. The slow movement began. Then a strange sound, a deep resonant D, came from somewhere and intruded upon Beethoven. A startled look crossed Gary’s face, but he regathered his focus and kept going. The sound merged passably with his notes and, in any case, was dying out. Before it was gone, the D came again, this time clashing with Gary’s notes. Now I placed it. Just up the street was the PNB Building with its massive Founder’s Bell. It was eight o’clock, and we had six more gongs to go. This Isn’t the Philadelphia Orchestra ■ 193 Comprehension swept over the audience in the form of rustling , coughs, whispers. Gary was cool—in fact, I suspected him of being amused. Gary and Naomi Graffman think I voiced the word “Ormandy,” which was hilarious to those who heard it. I don’t remember that. But everyone knew the animosity the man felt toward me and my chamber symphony. If anyone did suggest Eugene Ormandy’s somehow being able to ring the Founder’s Bell during our concert, I can believe it would have struck a chord. In the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, James Felton had described our forming as “the birth of a second permanent professional orchestra in Philadelphia.”1 In the long run, that was the material point. One powerful man felt there shouldn’t be two orchestras in the City of Brotherly Love. It was caviar in a silver dish to me when the group of supporters had offered me my own chamber symphony. My previous Philadelphia Chamber Orchestra had performed five times per year, each of which annoyed Ormandy like a bee sting. My new chamber symphony would have a full season of thirty-four weeks, just as most big orchestras had then. This would be a whole nest of hornets in Ormandy’s back yard. Chamber symphonies at that time were part-time, calling members out to rehearse for a certain number of performances annually, but not attempting to schedule a full season of concerts or employ anyone full-time. Our plan was different. During our preparatory year, I procrastinated about things like getting new concert clothes, but I had three priorities. First, I went to Theo Pitcairn myself to see if he was as excited as my backers said he was. I knew he was angry at the Philadelphia Orchestra board on my behalf and had himself tussled with C. Wanton Balis over the moonlighting issue. The Pitcairn support of the big orchestra came to a halt with my resignation. 1. “City’s New Chamber Symphony Unveils First Season Plans,” February 20, 1966, 7. 194 ■ Shoot the Conductor Theo loved the new idea. The sale of his El Greco painting Saint John the Baptist brought in $67,620 for the chamber symphony. The next year he would sell one of Monet’s earliest Impressionist paintings , La Terrasse à Sainte Adresse, for $1.4 million, setting a new record for an Impressionist painting.2 A good bit of that also came to us. Theo spoke publicly about our vision and called it “a milliondollar project.” A board of savvy and committed men and women came together easily, with Feodor Pitcairn as president. My second priority was recording. From my new office on Broad Street, I telephoned Roger Hall in New York, head of RCA Red Seal Victor Records. We’d become friends when he was manager of the Philadelphia Orchestra. “Come up here and tell me what you’re doing,” he said. I drove to his office in New York. “Ormandy will squash it,” was Roger’s first comment. “You know me,” I said. “Am I going to pick mediocre players? We’ve got the Academy of...


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