I was just alerted to this list and discussion and wanted to update the comments on the rebuild of Northrop Memorial Auditorium.
Having retired to Minnesota after 40+ years away, only to endure the lockout of hte Minnesota Orchestra (now lifted but who knows with what damage), it was a pleasant surprise to learn about the rebuild of Northrop Memorial Auditorium. It has been going on for 3 years. I walked through the building today, but much of it is still closed, with final finishes being readied for its opening April 4 wiht an American Ballet Theater performance of Giselle. You can't even peek into the auditorium. The first purely orchestral concert will be May 2, with Vanska and "the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra," the name the musicians took when locked out, playing a replica of the original concert that opened the auditorium. The next night, May 3, the University Symphony Orchestra will play Mahler's 2nd Symphony there, a student orchestra, of course, but ideally that can provide a second hearing for the auditorium's capacities in classical music. I have tickets for both.
The publicity notes that the seating has been reduced from 4800 seats in the original auditorium to 2700 in the rebuilt auditorium. Allegedly expert sound engineers have been brought in. We'll see. Often, the advertising is more glorious than the sound in a enw building, as everyone knows. It probably will be better, but in Northrop, it's hard to imagine how it could be worse. In a way the old Northrop had no sound, since so much of it just died. But who knows about reverberation, brightness, harshness, warmth? 2700 seats is still big and the preservation of so much of the marble in the original auditorium could make one worry.
Mercury produced amazing recordings there, especially under the circumstances, and until Stanislaw Skrowaczewski came, Tom Fine is right that they did not move elsewhere, such as the Edison High School auditorium. I think that between the start of the Mercury recordings in 1951 or 52 and the arrival of Skrowaczewski, all but one of the many Mercury/Minneapolis records were made in Northrop Auditorium, the exception being the Bartok Violin Concerto with Menuhin made in Carnegie Hall after they played it there as a concert.
Dorati's Beethoven was especially fine, the capstone being the Mercury recording of hte Eroica, both for its sound and for Dorati's performance, which, in fact, received excellent reviews, although it never really had "legs" and slowly disappeared in comparative ratings of Eroica performances, which was a shame.