Part of John Marks' research into that article included contacting the Cleveland Orchestra's music
librarian and archivist. Not surprising to those familiar with George Szell's music and biography,
he was an absolute stickler for consistent tuning to A=440.
The bigger issue I was surprised and somewhat dismayed to learn details of is EMI's practice of
using 3rd generation dub tapes as their master of record for almost everything recorded by Carson
Taylor in the U.S. That got me acquiring some copies of the original LPs and I was shocked to hear
how much better many of them sound, even compared to late 90s "Recordings of the Century" remasters
by Abbey Road. It goes to show that even if you have a good playback and a good digital chain, with
skilled engineering, if you have a several-generations dub tape there's only so much fidelity you
can get out of it. Plangent would help, but it's still better to get as close to first generation as
is practical, particularly with classical music (because the dynamics, pitch and instrument tones
are so effected by the slightest aspects of output<>input inherent to all tape dubs).
According to what I learned from talking to people with knowledge of EMI Classics' practices (still
in effect with Warner Classics), using the 3rd generation tapes is the path of least resistence
because Capitol had some way to keep what were Angel master tapes in the US and only send out dubs
for UK pressing. Apparently in the cases when a UK crew came over here and made recordings (standard
practice after about 1980), then the master tapes were retained in England. In those cases, if the
Angel LP was cut at Capitol, it was likely cut from a dub tape, so the UK EMI LP is likely to sound
better. Taking it back to the modern era, I still can't get a definitive answer if the Capitol-made
EMI classical recordings' tapes are in a vault here, and if they'll ever be used to make a new
series of remasters.
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "Steve Smolian" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Tuesday, April 28, 2015 8:51 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] A-440, was speaking of pitch
>I can't find the references at the moment, but I gave a paper at a long-ago ARSC about this issue.
>I'm depending on memory for the dates, but it'll be pretty close.
> The U.S. Navy adopted A-440 in 1916. The National Bureau Standards did so in or about 1918.
> I'm pretty sure that the bands of most or all U.S. Armed Service bands that were in training and
> later participated in WW I were equipped with A-440 instruments.
> It is my speculation that many older instruments were given by masters to servants or found their
> way into hock shops, which thus made such instruments available to poorer musicians. I've not
> seen any writing about this issue during the formative jazz band years. Those more versed in the
> reminiscences of the early layers may have encountered comments about adjusting or not adjusting
> tunable instruments and, where impractical, living with the sound.
> In the early 1960s I contacted a piano tuner through Steinway, a fellow whose responsibilities
> included the instruments used by Victor during Caruso's day. He told me that they always tuned
> tuned to A= 440. I believe I included this somewhere in one of my American Record Guide columns
> then as a result.
> Each orchestra has a collection of tuning forks, or, at least, used to, and their period of use
> is often documented.
> As to older situations, read "The Story of A" by - can't recall his name. It carefully explain s
> and documents pitch issues over the centuries when a court in Germany hired an Italian or French
> court composer who then had instruments made for use during his tenure. It also talks about the
> issues of different pitches for instrumental and instruments with vocal music and organ keyboards
> that played in either of two pitches, depending on the type of service.
> Pitch is also affected by temperature. The way concert halls are and were heated had a direct
> effect as well.
> It's really complicated and fascinating.
> Steve Smolian
> Original Message-----
> From: Tom Fine
> Sent: Tuesday, April 28, 2015 6:12 PM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: [ARSCLIST] speaking of pitch
> This is a good telling of John Marks' tortured journey on discovering a seemingly small but very
> audible pitch error.
> I did some further reporting with people I know who are very familiar with the EMI classical
> library. Apparently, the fast-pitched tape from which all digital media have been mastered came
> Capitol USA, and no one can locate the original 2-track master tape made by Carson Taylor, from
> which the first edition USA albums were mastered.
> Now, after all of this consternation, it seems to me that one could do as I did -- own the
> 96/24 download and then simply apply pitch-correction software to it. I couldn't hear any audible
> degradation after doing that and, in fact, it sounded better because it turns out that once it's
> A=440 (to which Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra strictly tuned), the music relaxes and flows
> better, just from that very slight slow-down in tempo.
> My personal opinion is that John Marks' dream of remastering this recording from the 4-channel
> Dynatrack tapes will never happen, but I do hope that Carson Taylor's original 2-track master (ie
> second-generation tape, made directly from the Dyntrack session tapes) will be found and this
> error then corrected in all current in-print media.
> -- Tom Fine