On 05/11/2012, Tom Fine wrote:
> The whole issue with finding a suitable recording venue in Chicago,
> after Orchestra Hall was ruined, shows that logistics and local
> politics matter as much or more than acoustics and engineering
> preferences. It's interesting that, given how acclaimed RCA's Chicago
> recordings from the 50's and early 60's were, that the orchestra board
> could be convinced to butcher the acoustic space so much. To some
> classical music fans, those RCA records were the ultimate examples of
> the recording art with an American orchestra in an American venue.
> Mercury had similar problems in Detroit and Minneapolis, as much
> politics and logistics as acoustical and engineering decisions.
Likewise Kingsway Hall, the best recording space in London for
orchestral music. It was demolished in 1984.
> In Detroit, the Edsel Ford Auditorium was built by and named after the
> Ford family, which was a primary or the primary sponsor of the Detroit
> Symphony. From the first time my father set foot in that room, he
> hated it acoustically. In the mono days, there were tricks that could
> deployed to make the single-mic technique work, but when stereo
> recording started, that venue became almost impossible (although there
> were a few stereo recordings made in the Ford auditorium in the early
> days of stereo). Old Orchestra Hall, known as the Paradise Theatre in
> those days, was a better space, but it was literally falling apart and
> was not in a good part of town. However, many Mercury sessions were
> done there, leaky roof and all. The room has a nice sound to it,
> although my father thought it sounded smaller than it was. Then, via
> several sources, word trickled down about the superb auditorium in
> Cass Technical High School. It ended up being an almost ideal
> recording venue. The auditorium was in the middle of the huge
> building, so it was well isolated. There were good and comfortable
> control-room facilities in the school. And the sound was superb. It's
> unfortunate that Cass was discovered rather late in the Mercury
> relationship with Paul Paray and Detroit. But, all or almost all of
> the 35mm magnetic-film recordings done in Detroit were done at Cass,
> to the benefit of the sound quality.
> In Minneapolis, the Northrop Auditorium was also non-ideal. It turned
> out to be less ideal for single-mic mono than for stereo. The reason
> was, it was so cavernous that sound got lost in the huge space. In the
> mono days, various setups were used, mainly moving the strings out
> onto the stage apron and, for a couple of sessions, using a tape-delay
> reverb fed to a big Altec speaker in the rear of the auditorium so as
> to make the room sound more live. What happened was that the sound
> dissipated so much that the rear of the omni-directional mic barely
> caught anything, so the recording sounded too dry. When the technique
> changed to three spaced omnis, more reverb and room tone was captured,
> so there was less of a problem. Switching to the Schoeps M201 mic for
> the single-mic mono also helped a bit because it's more sensitive than
> a Neumann U-47 and also has a different presence peak that tends to
> pick up low-level high-frequency information better in that setup.
> Very late in Mercury's relationship with the Minneapolis Symphony, the
> auditorium at Edison High School, which I think was out in the
> suburbs, was used. That room had a better sound, it was "warmer" and
> more detailed. Like Cass, it's a pity it wasn't "discovered" earlier.
> A similar search for a good venue took place when Command signed the
> Pittsburgh Symphony. My father and Enoch Light checked out the
> orchestra's performance venue, didn't like that. They also didn't like
> the Syria Mosque, where Capitol had made its Pittsburgh recordings.
> They found the Soliders and Sailors Hall, which had the unique
> property of the stage being out into the cavernous space, so the whole
> room had similar reverberant properties. This worked well for the
> 6-mic technique that they devised for Command Classics. The Pittsburgh
> Symphony went on to deliver a very good Beethoven cycle, and a good
> Brahms cycle, and some other interesting recordings. Alas, Command
> Classics never sold well, according to later interviews with Enoch
> Light and others. In the late 60's and early 70's, ABC/MCA kept
> cheapening the packaging and eventually let Pickwick put out
> supermarket-counter versions of some records. Later-era ABC re-cuts
> and pressings are far inferior to original-issues.
Were these Pittsburgh recordings ever issued on CD ?
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