Music: A Transformation in Philadelphia

Muti has made the orchestra his own, but at what cost?

For almost a half-century, the sound of the Philadelphia Orchestra under Conductor Eugene Ormandy was one of the most gloriously distinctive in music. Inheriting a spirited ensemble from his flamboyant predecessor, Leopold Stokowski, Ormandy refined it until the strings turned to silk, the woodwinds to amber, the brass to gold. If Ormandy's interpretations of safe repertory standards such as Beethoven and Brahms symphonies were not always individual, the ravishing tonal beauty of his orchestra was often reward enough. "The Philadelphia sound -- it's me!" Ormandy said proudly, and it was less a boast than a statement of fact.

After an extraordinary...

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