Hi Don:

MCA Classics put out a few Command recordings in the 80's, now long out of print. The transfers were 
done straight to a Sony 1630 system (they pointed that out in the booklets, as if that was something 
to brag about!). The entire Brahms cycle was in one "Double Decker" discount-priced 2CD package. The 
Beethoven 2, 4, 7 and Leonore Overture #3 were in a second "Double Decker." Booklet notes indicate 
that Beethoven 4, 7 and the Leonore were transferred from the 35mm masters. As far as I know, the 
remainder of CDs that MCA put out came from 2-track tapes made at the time of the original LP 
cutting. A couple more Steinberg titles were put out by MCA Classics, I think both were combined 
with Westminster material in those Double Decker packages. The Steinberg Beethoven and Brahms cycles 
were issued as multi-LP sets toward the end of Command Classics' existence as a label in the MCA/ABC 
family. The Beethoven cycle was well-reviewed in its time, Steinberg wasn't super-fast but he wasn't 
dull or overly reverential. Same with Brahms, he understood what he was doing and the orchestra 
played well.

Almost all of Virgil Fox's Command Classics records were reissued by a Fox-associated organ-music 
group, I think run by Fox's former manager. All but one side of the Boston Symphony Hall record were 
transferred from 2-tracks. The one side, according to booklet notes, had no surviving master tape, 
so a terrible-sounding LP dub was used. Talk about over-doing DSP, that's a textbook case of really 
lousy tin-eared transfer and "mastering" work. The Wanamaker Organ record was released as a DVD with 
a computerized "light organ" visual to accompany the music, also expanded out to 5.1 Dolby surround 
sound, sounds like they just messed with the phase-matrix to make it sound more echoey.

I was told in the early 2000's that all surviving Command Classics films and tapes had ended up at 
Universal's archive in Germany, but the films were in very bad shape (curled, warped, vinegar 
syndrome). There will never be the market demand to fund making those films playable. In my opinion, 
both musically and sonically, the Steinberg and Fox albums were all good to excellent. The other 
stuff -- some early stuff from France that was probably recorded in Pittsburgh since no one I ever 
asked can remember lugging those film machines to Paris, and that's something you'd remember -- is 
dreck, but the records can be found cheap so it's not a big labor to be completist if that's your 

-- Tom Fine

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Don Cox" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Monday, November 05, 2012 2:59 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Medinah Temple

> 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 ?
> Regards
> -- 
> Don Cox
> [log in to unmask]