Steffy Goldner

The New York Philharmonic's First Woman

America & The New York Philharmonic (1921-1932)

The Capitol Theatre, 1919
The Capitol Theatre in 1919, the year of its opening. [1]

Although Goldner had gained newfound fame in Europe, in 1921 she immigrated to New York in order to financially support her widowed mother. According to Goldner, there was much more harp playing in the States than abroad and it wasn't long before Goldner obtained her first job in the States, becoming the first woman to hold a position with the Capitol Theatre Orchestra, resident ensemble of the prominent Broadway silent-movie house.

The Capitol Theatre, 1919
The Capitol Theatre, 1919. [2]
Photograph of Steffy Goldner seated playing harp with Eugene Ormandy standing behind her.
Steffy Goldner and Eugene Ormandy. [3]

During Goldner's time at the Capitol Theatre she met her future husband, Eugene Ormandy — concertmaster of the Orchestra and soon-to-be prodigy conductor — whom she married on August 8, 1922, in New York. The couple could regularly be heard on the WEAF and WABC radio performing harp and violin duets.

Soon after, in the fall of 1922, Goldner was offered a position in the New York Philharmonic as the Orchestra's first woman member. She remained in the Philharmonic for 10 years, performing under Music Directors Arturo Toscanini and Willem Mengelberg. Toscanini adored Goldner and their friendship remained long after her time with the Philharmonic, the pair often socializing at the Ormandy's house parties later in Philadelphia.

Photograph of Arturo Toscanini & Steffy Goldner
Arturo Toscanini & Steffy Goldner in Phildelphia, 1943 (Adrian Siegel, photographer). [4]
"She was an excellent harpist, playing second harp and was one of [Arturo] Toscanini's prizes. She was a very animated, very warm-hearted person, and was naturally quite partial to us youngsters — truly a wonderful woman."
Sol Schoenbach, Principal bassoonist with the Philadelphia Orchestra [5]
Photograph of the full New York Philharmonic orchestra on stage
Full New York Philharmonic under Arturo Toscanini. This photo was used in publicity material for the Orchestra’s European tour concert programs, 1930. (Click image for larger version.) [6]
Photograph of New York Philharmonic Principal musicians with Goldner at far right
New York Philharmonic principal musicians with Goldner at far right. (Click image to see a larger version in the Leon Levy Digital Archives.) [7]
"Miss Goldner has toured all over the world, a queen among the 115 mere males. When they travel on sleeping cars she is put in the maestro's car, with a special compartment all to herself. She is treated with the greatest consideration by all, and she in turn thinks that 'all the boys' are perfectly charming."
New York Sun, 1931
Photo of Steffy Goldner's traveling harp case
The centerpiece of the multi-media exhibit will be her traveling harp case, a 1920s-era shipping case stamped with her name that accompanied Goldner on the European Tour. [8]

Goldner performed on the Philharmonic's first international tour to Europe in 1930 led by Toscanini, which catapulted the ensemble to international fame.

Photo of New York Philharmonic musicians, significant others, and guests aboard the SS De Grasse departing for their first stop in the tour, Paris.
New York Philharmonic musicians, wives (seated), and crew aboard the SS De Grasse, 1930. Goldner, the only woman standing, is at center-right, next to the man holding a dog. (Click image to see a larger version in the Leon Levy Digital Archives.) [9]
Film footage featuring Philharmonic musicians and guests on the tour ship that carried the harp case. [10]

In addition to international engagements with the Philharmonic, Goldner partook in nine tours of the United States. Surviving from these tours are postcards written to her mother in Vienna chronicling her travels around the country. They were generously donated by Doris Balant, Goldner's niece, and date from 1929-1934. The most notable is an invitation to Washington D.C. from President Coolidge, 1924.

Photo of a collection of postcards from Steffy Goldner to her mother in Vienna chronicling Goldner's travels around the country
Postcards from Steffy Goldner to her mother. (Click image for larger version.) [11]

References

  1. ^ Capitol Theatre scrapbooks, 1920-1956, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
  2. ^ Capitol Theatre scrapbooks, 1920-1956, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
  3. ^ Eugene Ormandy Photographs, 1880-1992, Ms. Coll. 330, Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, University of Pennsylvania
  4. ^ Eugene Ormandy Photographs, 1880-1992, Ms. Coll. 330, Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, University of Pennsylvania
  5. ^ Eugene Ormandy Oral History Collection, 1969-1997 (bulk: 1990-1993), Ms. Coll. 59, Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, University of Pennsylvania
  6. ^ New York Philharmonic Archives
  7. ^ Image ID: 800-093-02-002, New York Philharmonic Leon Levy Digital Archives
  8. ^ New York Philharmonic Archives
  9. ^ Image ID: 800-139-04-009, New York Philharmonic Leon Levy Digital Archives
  10. ^ New York Philharmonic Archives
  11. ^ New York Philharmonic Archives