Eugene Ormandy's many recordings spanned the acoustic to the electrical to the digital age. From 1936 until his death, Ormandy made hundreds of recordings with the Philadelphia Orchestra, spanning almost every classical music genre. Writing in Audoin (1999), Richard Freed wrote: "Ormandy came about as close as any conductor anywhere to recording the "Complete Works of Everybody," with more than a few works recorded three and four times to keep up with advances in technology and/or to accommodate a new soloist or to commemorate a move to a new label."
Thomas Frost, the producer of many of Ormandy's recordings for Columbia Records, called Ormandy "... the easiest conductor I've ever worked with — he has less of an ego problem than any of them ... Everything was controlled, professional, organized. We recorded more music per hour than any other orchestra ever has." In one day, March 11, 1962, Ormandy and the Philadelphia recorded Sibelius's Symphony No. 1; the Semyon Bogatyryov arrangement of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 7 (for which Ormandy had given the Western hemisphere premiere performance); and Delius's On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring.
The orchestra's performing venue at the Academy of Music (Philadelphia) was seldom employed for recording, because record producers believed that its dry acoustics were less than ideal. Moreover, Ormandy felt that the remodeling of the Academy of Music in the mid-1950s had ruined its acoustics. The Philadelphia Orchestra instead recorded in the ballroom of Philadelphia's Broadwood Hotel/Philadelphia Hotel, the Philadelphia Athletic Club at Broad and Race Streets, and in Town Hall/Scottish Rite Cathedral on North Broad Street near the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The latter venue featured a 1692 seat auditorium with bright resonant acoustics that made for impressive-sounding "high fidelity" recordings. A fourth venue was the Old Metropolitan Opera House used for later EMI recording sessions.
Recordings were produced for the following record labels: RCA Victor Red Seal (1936 to 1942; 1968 to 1980), Columbia Masterworks Records (1944 to 1968), and EMI/Angel Records (1977-on). Three late albums were also recorded for Telarc (1980) and Delos (1981). Ormandy's first digital recording was a performance of Béla Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra for RCA in 1979.
Ormandy recorded for RCA Victor in Minneapolis (in 1934 and 1935), and continued with the label until 1942, when an American Federation of Musicians ban on recordings caused the Philadelphia Orchestra to switch to Columbia, which had reached an agreement with the union in 1944, before RCA did so. Among his first recordings for Columbia was a spirited performance of Borodin's Polovtsian Dances. Ormandy conducted his first stereophonic recordings in 1957; these were not the orchestra's first stereo recordings because Leopold Stokowski had conducted experimental sessions in the early 1930s and multi-track recordings for the soundtrack of Walt Disney's 1940 feature film Fantasia. In 1968, Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra returned to RCA; among their first projects was a new performance of Tchaikovsky's Sixth symphony, the Pathetique.
His recordings of Camille Saint-Saëns' Symphony No. 3 'Organ' were considered the best ever produced by Fanfare Magazine which remarked of the recording with renowned organist Virgil Fox: "This beautifully played performance outclasses all versions of this symphony." The Telarc recording of the symphony with Michael Murray (organist) is also highly praised.
Ormandy was also famous for being an unfailingly sensitive concerto collaborator. His recorded legacy includes collaborations with Arthur Rubinstein, Claudio Arrau, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Vladimir Horowitz, Rudolf Serkin, David Oistrakh, Isaac Stern, Leonard Rose, Itzhak Perlman, Emil Gilels, Van Cliburn, Emanuel Feuermann, Robert Casadesus, Yo-Yo Ma, Sergei Rachmaninoff and others.
World premiere recordings made by the Philadelphia Orchestra under Ormandy's baton included:
Ormandy also conducted the premiere American recordings of Paul Hindemith's Symphony: Mathis der Maler, Carl Orff's Catulli Carmina (which won the Grammy Award for Best Classical Choral Performance in 1968), Shostakovich's Symphonies 4, 13, 14, and 15, Carl Nielsen's Symphonies 1 and 6, Anton Webern's Im Sommerwind, and Krzysztof Penderecki's Utrenja.
Ormandy also commissioned a version of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition which he and the Philadelphia Orchestra could call their own, since the Ravel arrangement was at that time still very much the property of Serge Koussevitzky, who had commissioned it, made its first recording with the Boston Symphony, and published the score. So Ormandy asked Lucien Cailliet (1891–1984), the Philadelphia Orchestra's 'house arranger' and a member of its woodwind section, to provide a new orchestration of Pictures at an Exhibition and he conducted its premiere on 5 February 1937, recording it for RCA Victor later that same year. (It has been reissued on CD by Biddulph.) However, Ormandy eventually returned to the Ravel arrangement and recorded it three times (1953, 1966 and 1973).
Among the Ormandy/Philadelphia recordings which are highly regarded include (year of recording included):