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Readers of a previous discussion on this list about Northrop Auditorium at the University of Minnesota, where C. Robert Fine, Wilma Cozart, and David Hall made so many Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra recordings for Mercury Records, may be interested in the concert Friday, May 2, by the Minnesota Orchestra.  It reprised the Oct. 29, 1929 dedicatory concert with the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra led by Henri Verbrugghen to celebrate the reopening of the Auditorium.  It can be downloaded at http://www.deepdarkhole.info/sequential/Minnesota/Minnesota_2May2014.rar

The evening was a revelation for those who, like me, attended many years of concerts in the old Northrop Auditorium, with its absurd 4800 seats, from the 1950s to the 1970s.  Mathematically, the refurbished auditorium is a little more than half the size of the original at 2700 seats. (Eugene Ormandy had suggested dynamite to fix Northrop's acoustics, but an architectural firm did it better.)  To old-timers, it feels like it's about a third the size, with 3 balconies, the 3rd seeming very high indeed.  On the main floor, row S, near the right side and just under the first balcony, the sound was wonderful.  It had a reverberation that seemed just right (the old Northrop was utterly dead).  The sound was warm, not harsh, with almost startling clarity in quiet passages, and a terrifically clear projection of the bass lines, one of the biggest problems in so many concert halls.  In loud passages, the violins sometimes seemed overwhelmed, but one assumes that between a conductor and acoustician, that could be adjusted.  In truth, the hall seemed possibly as good as Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis and maybe even better, which for a full symphony orchestra would be very, very good indeed.

Maybe sadly, it's not likely to get used that much for big orchestra concerts.  The Minnesota Orchestra now has Orchestra Hall, and the cost of bringing visiting orchestras has become prohibitively high.  Condoleeza Rice just filled the auditorium several weeks ago and Bill O'Reilly and Dennis Miller are coming (making up for the University's liberal reputation?).  Also coming are an Irish tenor, Daniel O'Donnell, and Bob Weir (advertised as a "founding member of the Grateful Dead" & Ratdog; the auditorium is equipped with a frightful bank of speakers, which one assumes that O'Donnell, Weir, and Ratdog will use.  Plus, the new stage was designed to accommodate ballet, which prospered even in the old auditorium despite cramped quarters, and the American Ballet Theater opened Northrop in April. Times change, and so do venues.

Jon Butler