Just possibly, the Philadelphia Orchestra is the most treasured musical institution in the world. Some would argue for the Metropolitan Opera, the Vienna Philharmonic, or even the Juilliard String Quartet. But for several generations now, the Philadelphians have been the pet of countless musical hearts. Statistics on such matters are somewhat sketchy, but the Philadelphia is probably the most recorded orchestra in history, and also the most traveled. Isaac Stern likes to say of Jascha Heifetz, “He was the sound that every violinist had in his ear as we were growing up.” Similarly, the sound of the Philadelphia Orchestra—the fabled “Philadelphia Sound”—has long been, for many, the ideal sound of an orchestra.

The Philadelphians are now celebrating their centennial, having given their first concert in November 1900. As part of their celebration, they have released a boxed set of twelve discs, commemorating...