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Don,

Thank you for telling this story, and correcting more details for me. I'd
hoped that you would. And if you need encouragement to carry on to the next
chapters, consider yourself encouraged. I'm particularly curious about when
recordings were resumed in Orch Hall - commercial, that is, as Mitchell
Heller had been doing WFMT recordings there for some years, AFAIK.

These acoustical issues are significant to the musicians as well as the
audience, of course, and in interesting ways. My local concert hall, Eastman
Theater (recently refurbished), was an acoustical sponge, sopping up
whatever hit the walls. My brother, who is an orchestral player, described
the experience as pushing out more and more volume and intensity, but
getting little back. I always felt detached from the sound of the RPO.

More than that, it is harder to play in such a hall. Note values have to be
fully sustained by muscle and breath. A more resonant hall will lend players
support beyond their physical input. This has important consequences for the
technique and style of the playing. More than just a lush or arid experience
for the patrons, where they play has a great deal to do with the sound of an
orchestra, and what eventually becomes its individual stylistic tradition.

-----Original Message-----
From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Donald Tait
Sent: Friday, November 30, 2012 3:04 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Medinah Temple

  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:
https://www.hdtracks.com/index.php?file=catalogdetail&valbum_code=HD50999705
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