On this day in 1966, the Philadelphia Orchestra begins its annual SPAC residency
On August 4, 1966, the world-renowned Philadelphia Orchestra took up residence at the Saratoga Springs Performing Arts Center (SPAC) for the very first time under the direction of Maestro Eugene Ormandy. The maestro helped make SPAC the perfect venue for such a performance and brought the orchestra great success throughout his 44 years as a conductor.
56 years later, the orchestra continues to provide audiences with classic entertainment with its programming and performances.
On the first Saturday in August, on a clear night, about 5,100 attendees gathered inside the newly opened SPAC for the first show and about 2,000 more on the center lawns. The performance marked a first for the venue. The New York City Ballet performances in July of that year went brilliantly, but how would the sound of the SPAC amphitheater hold up with an entire symphony inside?
According to New York Times, who reported on the show at the time, the performance and acoustics held up well and the enthusiastic crowd accepted. Maestro EugÃ¨ne Ormandy has chosen an entirely Beethoven programme: the Ninth and Eighth Symphonies and the Overture âConsecration of the Houseâ in C major. The opening, with a march and lots of fanfare, made the perfect party music for an opening night. Despite the distant sound interference of a freight train breaking off during the Eighth Symphony, the rest of the concert seems to be a great success.
The concert would never have been such a success without the preparation and intensity of its maestro. EugÃ¨ne Ormandy and his orchestra were attentive, precise and presented a magnificent concert to their audience. From the start, Ormandy predicted the venue is said to be “one of the great summer festivals of all time”. However, according to Union Timesahead of opening night, Ormandy made it clear that a few things about the SPAC venue needed to be changed.
The waterfall behind the room interrupted the music and a dam was quickly built to remedy the situation. This solution did not last long and the gardeners had to catch the last frog that resided in the resulting pond so that Ormandy and his audience would not hear any incessant croaking during the performance.
According after-sales service, the amphitheater was specially built with the Philadelphia Orchestra in mind. In addition to his work as a maestro, Eugene Ormandy played a huge role in ensuring the venue was the perfect summer home for such an important orchestra, known as one of the ‘Big Five’.
Although founded in 1900, the Philadelphia Orchestra would experience considerable growth under Ormandy. One of the first orchestras to record music, many of the organization’s most popular recordings were under Ormandy’s direction. 7 years after the first show at SPAC, the orchestra would travel to the People’s Republic of China, one of the first tours to the region by a Western orchestra in decades.
Ormandy expanded the reach of the Philadelphia Orchestra and the significance of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center during his long career. The Philadelphia Orchestra has returned to the venue regularly since that first summer evening show in August 1966. 56 years later, Saratoga Springs residents and visitors can enjoy the talents of the Philadelphia Orchestra, which will stage several performances at the SPAC in August.
The orchestra will play a mix of traditional classical music and more contemporary takes. Beginning August 10, the current music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Yannick NÃ©zet-SÃ©guin, will be back for four programs. Highlights include the return of world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma and violinist Joshua Bell, among the performances. For tickets to upcoming concerts, visit SPAC website for more information.