I'm in the process of preparing a message about the severe damage to Orchestra Hall's acoustics in mid-1966, since some asked about it, but Carl's message (forwarded, I hope) brings up another, although slightly related, topic: Reiner and the CSO on records, and missed opportunities.

  The majority of the board of the Chicago Symphony was for decade after decade made up not of people with a background or education in the arts, but of business plutocrats. Rich, successful "civic leaders" in banking, manufacturing, real estate, and so on. Like rich prominent socialites in many cities, they might have enjoyed a concert or opera (or pretended to do so), but it such music wasn't really their area of expertise. They were dilettantes doing their "civic duty" by bringing their supposed personal prestige and financial and business acumen to the administration of the CSO. They also brought their "social superiority," as I think the following story illustrates.

  Around 1955, the RCA Victor people wanted a new high-fidelity LP of Grofe's Grand Canyon Suite. They wanted Reiner and the Chicago Symphony. Reiner liked such works (he was fond of Gershwin and recorded music from Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel for Columbia in Pittsburgh, for instance). He was happy to do it; and indeed he and the CSO would probably have been spectacular in it. The CSO board vetoed the idea as being "beneath the dignity of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra." So the RCA people recorded it with Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops. The resultant LP sold in huge numbers and made the Boston Symphony lots and lots of money in royalties.

  It could well have been that same naive ignorance, especially of Orchestra Hall's original flawed acoustical character, that led them to do what Tom Fine mentioned: embrace a 1966 renovation plan that anyone with knowledge could have told them had caused big acoustical trouble when the hall was new in 1905, and could only do so again. And did. I hope to send a message about that soon.

  Don Tait




-----Original Message-----
From: Carl Pultz <[log in to unmask]>
To: ARSCLIST <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Mon, Nov 5, 2012 7:59 am
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Medinah Temple

Some insight about the politics in Chicago can gleaned from the Hart book.
In his telling (he worked in CSO management through those years), the board
regarded the orchestra as a civic decoration rather than a world-class arts
institution. Reiner came in for serious criticism for scheduling concert
repertoire around his recording commitments. Rather than being supportive of
this successful and income-generating project, the board chairman was
annoyed by it! Like a good plutocrat, he may have regarded it as Sarnoff
edging into his territory. Whatever, it caused a lot of problems, and IIRC
contributed to the strained relationship between the players and Reiner, and
Reiner and the board. Without that dissonance, we might have had more discs
than we have.

Justice is served. Fritz is immortal, and many of the players will never be
forgotten. But the board chair? Gone, and who cares.

-----Original Message-----
From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Tom Fine
Sent: Monday, November 05, 2012 7:58 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Medinah Temple

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.

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"

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.

-- Tom Fine

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Carl Pultz" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Sunday, November 04, 2012 10:40 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
> 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
> mid-June to early October.
> I read recently that the Auditorium had been declared impossible by
> 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
> 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
> 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
> March 30, 1971.
>  The CSO's recording venues after the autumn of 1966 are a sad and
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> on Stokowski projects and the Cello Galaxy album.
> I read years ago that an engineer discovered the trick for Medinah Temple
> micing way up in the ceiling to pick up a meaty reverberance. That must
> 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)
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> -- Tom Fine