Thank you for this, Don.  Do please go into the 1966 portion of the story!

Somewhere I read that another reason that Theodore Thomas wanted a smaller
venue was that he could never sell out the Auditorium, nor sell season
tickets as well as he would like, when the audience knew they could always
get more tickets.  Less supply would hopefully bring more demand.


On Fri, Nov 30, 2012 at 2:04 PM, Donald Tait <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>   I've had this in preparation for a while. I'm sending it now. It's long.
> Sorry.
>   Thanks to Carl for a neat reply to my message (forwarded, I hope). Tom
> Fine's relevant message is important too. Regarding Theodore Thomas, the
> Auditorium Theatre, Orchestra Hall, and the acoustically destructive Hall
> "renovation" of 1966, here's what I know.  It's a bit complicated, but I'll
> try to be cogent.
>   Theodore Thomas founded the Chicago Symphony in 1891. At the time, the
> city had no adequate hall for symphonic concerts. So the CSO gave its in
> the Auditorium, on south Michigan Avenue. It was built in (I believe) 1888,
> designed by Louis Sullivan and others. The Auditorium is very large,
> seating about 4000 at its maximum (as originally set up, at least one upper
> part could be closed off), but it is also an acoustical miracle. Even a
> simple conversational remark on the stage can be clearly heard by everyone
> in the hall. Somewhere I read a comment by the soprano Dame Nellie Melba
> that she wished she could pack the Auditorium up and take it with her
> wherever she went to sing because she could sing with such ease and
> naturalness there, with never a concern to force to reach everyone.
>   Theodore Thomas's objections to the Auditorium as the venue for the CSO,
> and his resultant desire to build an independent hall for it, had a number
> of reasons. The first was that the Auditorium was designed to be an opera
> house. So orchestral concerts required a concert shell. Thomas thought the
> resultant sound was inadequate. He objected to the way the Auditorium's
> huge size dissipated an orchestra's dynamic range -- and as someone who has
> heard symphonic concerts in the Auditorium with a concert shell, including
> Solti/CSO, I know what Thomas meant. The sound is rich, gloriously clear
> and balanced, but always slightly distant and with an effect akin to a
> recording played at a moderate level. The sound gets thinner or fuller
> rather than much softer or louder. Thomas believed that symphonic music
> needed a wider dynamic range and more impact at fortissimo and beyond.
> Also, Thomas disliked the fact that the CSO had to jostle schedules with
> the various Chicago opera companies who rehearsed and performed in the
> Auditorium all the time during winter seasons. He wanted a place where his
> CSO could rehearse and perform on its own schedule, whenever he and it
> needed to. On top of it all, if the CSO owned its own home, it would not
> only never have longer to pay rent as at the Auditorium -- it could collect
> rent from occasional people and a few tenants.
>   So Thomas and local supporters began a campaign to raise money to build
> a concert hall for the Chicago Symphony. Eventually in 1904 they raised
> enough to do so. But problems remained. And do to this day.
>   They wanted a place in downtown Chicago of course, near the Auditorium
> and its opera audience (they eventually found one about five blocks north),
> and near 1904 railroad transportation. They found it at 220 South Michigan.
> A prime address. But there were problems. Mainly: the city block behind the
> property was bisected from north to south by an alley. Chicago's government
> refused to change it. So the CSO and its architects (Daniel Burnham, I
> think) had to design a concert building that could not be a classic
> "shoebox," but was unusually short from front to back. Orchestra Hall was
> the result of the required compromise.
>   Burnham's compromise took two forms. First, because  the hall could not
> be very long. he made its upper reaches very high. The gallery, at the top,
> is six stories above street level. (The sharply sloping downward steps are
> dizzying for those afraid of heights, such as myself.) His second
> compromise was perhaps radical. Because the area in the hall's performing
> area was relatively small, Burnham decided that the non-weight-bearing
> parts of the ceiling and side walls would be covered not with plaster but
> with porous material. He reasoned that the sound would go also into the
> areas beyond the performing area and add to the hall's "resonance size." He
> was wrong. Because no provision had been made to direct the sound back into
> the hall from its surroundings, some of the sound went there and remained.
> From the first concert there in 1905, Orchestra Hall was criticized for
> having dead, unresonant sound. For many, less pleasant sound than the
> Auditorium. Thomas became ill just a week or two after conducting the CSO's
> first concert in Orchestra Hall at the beginning of 1905 and died, so
> anything he might have done is unknown. Eventually Frederick Stock, a
> member of the orchestra, became the conductor. And I've read that in 1915
> or so Stock had the porous material removed from the walls and ceiling and
> replaced with cork, which was painted. With the sound now enclosed,
> Orchestra Hall assumed the unique and lovely sound it had until 1966.
>   In which year the dilettantes and business moguls on the CSO's board
> were convinced to go back to Burnham's failed idea of porous ceiling and
> walls. With predictably disastrous and shocking results. Among them
> Orchestra Hall's being made useless as a recording venue for the CSO. Enter
> Medinah Temple.
>   But the 1966 calamity is another story, and this is already probably too
> long. Another time if anyone is interested.
>   Don Tait
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Carl Pultz <[log in to unmask]>
> To: ARSCLIST <[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Sun, Nov 4, 2012 9:49 pm
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Medinah Temple
> By demonstrating my ignorance, I've learned a lot - thank you Don! Had no
> idea the Martinon Nielsen album was from Orch Hall. I assumed nothing was
> issued from there post renovation, until much later. They did manage to
> make
> a very effective document, a cult-classic for brass players. What's
> surprising is that the renovators could do so much damage in so little
> time:
> mid-June to early October.
> I read recently that the Auditorium had been declared impossible by
> Theodore
> Thomas, and that lead to the building of Orchestra Hall, a more
> appropriately sized venue as well as better sounding. While the Hall was
> loved by audiences and record makers, apparently it was not so hot for the
> players. The shallow stage required the orchestra to spread out wide and
> thin, making it hard for one side to hear the other. In his biography of
> Fritz Reiner, Philip Hart tells the story of the CSO's first visit to
> Boston. Symphony Hall was a revelation, the players saying that it was the
> first time they understood what a great orchestra they had become. They
> just
> had never heard each other before.
> Would be nice to have confirmation of that story. I bet the Temple was a
> bear for the players, too, though probably in a totally different way.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
> [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Donald Tait
> Sent: Sunday, November 04, 2012 2:51 PM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Medinah Temple
>   Both the Dvorak Concerto and its discmate, his Silent Woods (Du
> Pre/Barenboim/CSO) -- recorded November 11, 1970, Medinah Temple.
>   The first Capitol/EMI CSO session was June 25, 1969. Ozawa. Borodin:
> Prince Igor: Polovtsian Dances; Kodaly: Dances from Galanta. Recorded in
> Edman Chapel, Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois. Not issued, and no other
> CSO sessions seem to have been held there. The works were done successfully
> at the sessions of June 30 and July 1, 1969 in Medinah. The rest of the
> Capitol/EMI sessions took place there, through Giulini's Mahler Symphony
> 1on
> March 30, 1971.
>   The CSO's recording venues after the autumn of 1966 are a sad and
> slightly
> complicated story, and this all reflects that. In the summer of 1966 the
> Orchestral Association undertook what they described as an "updating" of
> Orchestra Hall. Some things needed it, but the acoustics did not.
> Nonetheless, the acoustics were severely damaged and the resultant sound
> was
> completely dead. All resonance and reverberation were gone. As someone who
> heard the before-and-after, it was shocking. For everyone. Additionally,
> what had been one of the finest halls in the country for recording was
> rendered useless for it. RCA attempted three sessions there after the
> "renovation:" Nielsen Symphony no. 4 (October 10, 1966) and Helios Overture
> and Massenet Thais Intermezzo (December 3, 1966, all cond. Martinon) and
> March 8, 1967 (Schumann Piano Concerto -- Rubinstein/Giulini). The early
> issues, before artificial reverb was added, are acoustically as dead as the
> proverbial doornail. An almost shocking change from the formerly great
> acoustics and resonance of the empty hall. RCA clearly felt they could no
> longer record the CSO there and had to go elsewhere. The first attempt was
> at the historic Auditorium Theatre on February 15, 1967 with Morton Gould.
> All Ives: Orchestral Set no. 2; Three Places in New England; Robert
> Browning
> Overture. After that RCA moved to Medinah Temple, first on April 26, 1967
> with Jean Martinon. The rest of their sessions were held there through May
> 16, 1968. They reverted to Orchestra Hall for the Ozawa sessions of July 1
> and 16 and August 9 -- the last ones under the RCA contract.
>   Some of the recordings Carl cited were made in Orchestra Hall before the
> mid-1966 acoustical disaster, not in Medinah Temple. I'll include some he
> didn't cite as well:
>   Morton Gould, Orchestra Hall --
>   Ives: Symphony 1 -- November 6, 1965
>   Ives: The Unanswered Question -- January 31, 1966
>   Ives-Schuman: Variations on "America" -- ditto
>   Orchestra Hall, all on June 18, 1966:
>   Morton Gould/Benny Goodman, clarinet
>   Nielsen: Symphony no. 2
>   Nielsen: Clarinet Concerto
>   Fred Fischer-Gould: "Chicago, that Toddlin' Town" (Goodman)
>   The first Solti/CSO Decca sessions were held in Medinah Temple on March
> 26, 27, and April 6, 7, 8 1970.
>   Thanks are due to Mike Gray and Steve Smolian, who obtained this
> information and sent it to me for a CSO discography that I unfortunately
> had
> to abandon preparing.
>   Don Tait
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Carl Pultz <[log in to unmask]>
> To: ARSCLIST <[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Sun, Nov 4, 2012 9:29 am
> Subject: [ARSCLIST] Medinah Temple
> Oh, yeah - I didn't know about that performance. If it has too much star,
> I'd blame the producer or artist manager rather than Mr. Taylor. I admire
> his work. Was he a contemporary of Frank Abbey? He - they - others? - were
> early on really into purist stereo, using various coincident and M/S
> pickups
> on Stokowski projects and the Cello Galaxy album.
> I read years ago that an engineer discovered the trick for Medinah Temple
> of
> micing way up in the ceiling to pick up a meaty reverberance. That must
> have
> helped to blend together the many spot mics that are evident on most all
> projects made there. IIRC, it was credited to a Decca guy working on the
> first Solti records around 1969, and everybody else copied it. But, the
> first crews in there were RCA, I think, and they also made it work (ie.
> Nielsen 2&4, Ives 1, etc). The EMIs I've heard achieve a more homogeneous,
> more distant sound, better to my taste than the others.
> The Taylor/CSO session I'd most like to hear remastered is the Lutoslawski
> Concerto for Orchestra. That is mind-blowing. The Angel LP (S-36045 c/w
> Janacek Sinfonietta and a nice piece by R.C. Marsh about the sessions)
> gives
> a hint, but a HMV Concert Classics DMM pressing gets us closer. Worth
> seeking out ED 29 0134 1 if that music hasn't already been put out on
> silver
> drink coasters. Gathering from that evidence, the first EMI dates were in
> 1969. What's the date on the Dvorak?
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
> [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Tom Fine
> Sent: Sunday, November 04, 2012 7:02 AM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] CDJAPAN has remastered Barbirolli
> I got the DuPre Dvorak recording from HDTracks:
> 58852
> (I bought it during one of their frequent 15% off sales)
> It sounds marginally more clear and "weighty" vs. the CD reissue from the
> 90's. This recording was
> done by Carson Taylor, who did many of the U.S. classical recordings for
> EMI/Angel/Capitol in those
> days. Taylor put a coicident stereo mic down at cello level and out in
> front
> of it, so the cello is
> very forward and on its own, to my ears. I think a cellist would love this
> approach, but a listener
> wanting to hear the whole musical product may prefer the cello better
> blended with the orchestra.
> This way, you hear the vibrating strings and wood very clearly, plus the
> bow
> strokes. But that then
> diverts your attention somewhat from what the orchestra is doing. In this
> recording, it also sounds
> like the cello is in a different sound-field from the rest of the
> orchestra,
> because the Medinah
> Temple is reverberant and Taylor put most of his orchestra mics at more
> distance than the cello
> mics. I know this because I have photos taken during the recording session.
> -- Tom Fine