Mike, this is really interesting, thanks for the info!
Like I told Roger, I need to do a very thorough listen-comparison tomorrow.
How did RCA record an orchestra in 1929? Many mics, a few mics, one mic?
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "Michael Biel" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Tuesday, December 07, 2010 7:19 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Rachmaninoff Concerto #2 recording by the composer
Since I was directly involved, let me give the details. The 1924
acoustical version was issued a disc at a time, not as a set, and they
never got the set finished before electrical recording came in. They
have metal parts and pressings, both shellac and vinyl, but for decades
nobody had ever seen the parts for the unissued side. Finally, during
a trip to the Victor vaults to pull parts for the Stokowski society,
Mark Obert-Thorn got the bright idea to look in the TEN-INCH section,
and by golly, there were the missing parts for the side. The new
versions of the CD include it instead of the electrical side. I don't
have the sheets for the session at hand and do not know if they give
However, this is only the story about the acoustical recording. My part
of the story is the electrical one. When RCA put out the first CD issue
of the 2nd it was done while John Pfeiffer was on vacation. When he
returned, the completed and issued CD was on his desk, and according to
Mike Gray, he hit the roof. He was furious. It sounded HORRIABLE.
They had used the forked stylus to play the metals and it was a dreadful
transfer. He immediately withdrew the CD but luckily I was able to find
a copy. It is DREADFUL. Next step was to dump the RCA engineers and
contract Ward Marston do do another transfer. He did and the resultant
issue has the exact same number and packaging as the first -- it doesn't
even say RE.
About a year earlier I had found a scroll label set. I had always
wondered why the four ring label sets I had did not have oval VE logos
except for side eight. This set had the oval VE logo on all ten sides.
I then checked the take numbers. EVERY ONE WAS DIFFERENT except for
side eight. The differences are minor, but most noticable is on side
ten where there is a section where several runs of notes are played
one-at-a-time-in-perfect-rhythm. On the take used for the scroll label
set they are in precise proper rhythm. In the ring set there is one
note that is played out of rhythm. Checking every LP version and the
first CD, the rhythm was broken.
Then, before I had a chance to get the reissued CD, I saw that Musical
Heritage Society was offering it on their label so I got it. It is
licensed from BMG and credits Ward. And the notes are in absolutely
perfect rhythm. I called Ward up. First of all, he was astonished it
was on MHS because they didn't tell him or PAY him for it. Then I asked
him what masters he used. He told me it was his personal Z shellac set.
And no, he hadn't bothered to ask anybody to read the take numbers, and
he never reported to Victor what takes he used. They still listed the
old set of take numbers, not the ones Ward actually used.
I checked the session sheets. I first went to the manila artist folder
which compiles all the recordings of a performer. The session sheet
lists the later set of takes as M for master. If that is true, why do
the EARLIER pressings have a different set of masters? Answer, the
sheet in the artist folder is a forgery. I went to the ORIGINAL session
sheets still in the binders. Those sheets show that the scroll label
takes were the M takes, with one or two other takes on all sides except
side eight are marked HC, or Hold Conditional. Other takes -- some
sides had four takes -- were marked D for Destroy. On side eight there
were only two takes, one was marked M and the other was marked D. We
checked the computerized warehouse inventory, and most of the takes that
were not marked D still exist.
Next thing I know I get a phone call from Mark Obert-Thorn. He does not
have any ring label sets and could I loan him mine so he could put out
an ALTERNATE RACHMANINOFF CD. I did, and he did Biddulph LHW-036. Mark
also remastered the proper set of takes on Naxos Historical 8.110601.
Last year at ARSC when I had the chance to meet Ward Marston in person
(we had only had phone calls and letters) when I introduced myself he
immediatly responded with "Oh, Mr. Alternate Rach Two!"
Mike Biel [log in to unmask]
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Rachmaninoff Concerto #2 recording by the
From: Karl Miller <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Tue, December 07, 2010 5:04 pm
To: [log in to unmask]
--- On Tue, 12/7/10, Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
From: Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: [ARSCLIST] Rachmaninoff Concerto #2 recording by the composer
To: [log in to unmask]
Date: Tuesday, December 7, 2010, 3:13 PM
Factual information on the following questions much appreciated.
1. The date listed for the Rachmaninoff-Stokowski recording on the 1992
CD reissue is 1924. So this is originally an acoustic recording? Any
information on how this was done, for instance were multiple horns used?
Where was it done?
2. Any information on the source material and the transfer methods used
for the 1992 CD reissue?
3. Any information on the source material and the transfer methods used
for the RCA reissue LP LCT 1014?
I will look up the exact information when I get home, but for starters,
he recorded the Second Concerto acoustically and then electrically.
There is an interesting story about the first (to the best of my
knowledge) LP issue of the acoustic recording. It was part of a multi
disc set of the "Complete" Rachmaninoff. Yet, it did not include the
piano rolls. When they issued the acoustic recording on LP they "could
not find" the last disc of the first movement. That was because they
were looking in the file of 12 inch records and the last part of the
first movement was recorded on a 10 inch disc, or so I was told. I think
my source of that information was Harry Anderson....So, to fill in the
"missing" part of the first movement, they spliced in the electric
recording. It makes for curious listening.
Subsequent issues, the CD set in particular, included the "lost" side.
I also have a vague recollection that the original shellac issue of the
acoustic recording was limited to the second and third movements, (all
single sided) but I will need to check.
Since you have the CD, is the producer listed?
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