The Philadelphia Sound

Marcel Tabuteau

Chopin: Mazurka in a minor

Philadelphia Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski (1927)

Sol Caston, muted Trumpet

so there would be no break at all in the sound of the string instruments in a phrase. He also had them play with luscious portimento or slides that would connect the sounds from one note to another and give a vocal quality to the phrases. He accomplished a similar effect in the woodwinds with staggered breathing and the development of a similar portimento where the players fingers would move from note to note very slowly to create the effect of the slide that the strings achieved. It is hard to say if that was Skokowski' solution or the work of Marcel Tabuteau (principal oboe) and William Kincade (principal flute). Fine examples of this technique can be heard in the recordings of the Philadelphia Orchestra in the 1920' and 30' and you can hear this well in the Lizst video on Harold Wright's page where, at the end of the phrase he uses this technique playing from D natural to Eb. These techniques alone, of course, did not totally define the Philadelphia Sound. Stokowski hired musicians who were capable of producing the sound concept that he had in his mind.

The Philadelphia Orchestra was founded in 1900 with Fritz Scheel and Carl Pohlig as it's  first two conductors. Leopold Stokowski became the third music director of the orchestra from 1912 to 1938. It was during Stokowski's tenure that the Philadelphia Orchestra ascended to international stature with lush sound and meticulous ensemble. The orchestra performed in the "Academy of Music" from 1912 to 2001. It was there, at the "Academy", that the fabled "Philadelphia Sound" was born. The acoustics in the Academy concert hall were extremely "dry" with very little reverb. Stokowski had the orchestra play with the most sustained quality they could muster. As for the strings, he had all the musicians play with FREE BOWING....

William Kincade  Walter Guetter  Marcel Tabuteau

            Daniel Bonade         Edwin Wolf

                                     @1926

Lully: "The Triumph of Love"

Philadelphia Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski (1930)

Leopold Stokowski

Sol Schoenbach               Mason Jones

                  Marcel Tabuteau           Ralph McLane

                                     @1944  

Strauss: Rosenkavalier Suite

Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy (1944)

Sibelius: "Berceuse"

Philadelphia Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski (@1937)

Rimsky-Korsakov Sheherazade Mvt 1 1927
Rimsky-Korsakov Sheherazade Mvt 2 1927
Rimsky-Korsakov Sheherazade Mvt 3 1927
Rimsky-Korsakov Sheherazade Mvt 4 1927
Stravinsky "Firebird" 1927 (incomplete)
Ormandy and The Philadelphia Orchestra @1945

This is not the Philadelphia Orchestra but notice how Stokowski has the string players use "Free Bowing" (video from "viamusic.com, youtube)

Letter from Robert McGinnis to Daniel Bonade after his Audition with Stokowski:
 
Dear Daniel: - 

 

Well I played for Stoky this morning. I thought I'd write you cause I couldn't hold it until Saturday. The reed still worked good and I played quite well and he was quite pleased and said he was petty sure I'd do. There are some catches in it tho cause he wants me to play again in 2 weeks and wants me to practice certain things. He said I must have first good tone, good phrasing and most important of all to do just as he signs without being talked to. For the next audition I must develop a vibrato for certain places, play much more freely and be careful not to go flat in crescendos. All I played was Don Juan, Unfinished Symphony, and Venusberg Music and Scheherazade. He made me play so loud that even a tuba would have gone flat under the pressure and I had an awful time trying to make a vibrato. And of course I must play more freely and flexibly. I think all that can be taken care of if I can only discover how to make a vibrato.
 
What makes me feel the chances are good is that he asked me if I knew anybody for 2nd or 3rd and so I told him about (James) Collis. He told me not to say a word to anybody about this and so I won't tell Collis but you could easily start preparing him without telling him for a while. I'll give you the details on Sat. when I see you and you better bring an extra vibrato with you. My best wishes to Mrs. Bonade and I'll see you soon.
 
Very Sincerely, 
Robt. McGinnis
 
Letter from "Shannons Blog"

Bruno Walter, Philadelphia Orchestra 2/12/1944

Brahms- "Tragic" Overture
The Philadelphia Sound