Hi Dave:

Please attempt again to fix the reply-to setting with your e-mail so that when one hits reply, it 
replies to ARSCList and not to you.

On to your point ...

Skrowaczweski is probably under-appreciated because he only made a few Mercury records and he 
followed in Dorati's footsteps. However, he did benefit, very late in his Mercury days, from the 
recording acoustics of the wonderful Edison High School auditorium. The process you mention of 
listening to playbacks and making minute adjustments was DORATI'S, most certainly so. That's why he 
was such a good recording conductor. He was one of the first to understand the difference between a 
recording and a live performance (ie everything in a recording must be superb and precise because it 
will be carefully listened to over and over and there's no visual to distract from any mistakes). He 
also had very strong ideas about tempo, intonation and orchestral balance and was given wide 
latitude about all of that by the Mercury recording method. I think any musician who worked in his 
orchestras won't say he was shy about asking specific things of his players. It's entirely possible 
that Skrowaczweski learned these things from Dorati. His reputation was of a more colleagial 
approach to the players.

Paray was very precise compared to some other French conductors, but his method was to play through 
long sections and rarely do small patch-ups. I think he wanted to get everyone into a certain feel 
and then hit the part that needed replacement and leave it up to the producer and tape editor to 
make it work on record. There was also the issue that Paray spoke little English so there were 
translation issues that made small replacements time-consuming and thus money-wasting. I don't have 
the edit notes, but someone, maybe Harold Lawrence, told me that many of the Paray symphony 
recordings involved complete takes of whole movements, whereas Dorati liked to patch up small 
sections and would get very cross if the same mistakes were made twice. I personally think Paray had 
a crisper sense of time than, say, Munch, but that's just one man's opinion. My favorite French 
conductor was Monteux, although he made some dull recordings here and there (not as a rule by any 
means). One thing I've wondered about with Paray's Mercury recordings was how much he would have 
benefitted early on by a good recording venue. I think there was always stress in the background 
with Ford Auditorium. Politically, it had to be used, but it was a terrible recording venue. The 
Paradise Theatre (old Orchestra Hall) was falling apart and was in a bad part of town, so there was 
some outside stress involved with those sessions also. People seem to have always liked the Cass 
Technical High School recordings best, and not just for sound quality. I think everyone was happy 
with that venue, and there was a sense that whatever was played there could be well recorded, so 
perhaps the sessions had a lighter feel to them. On some of the early-era recordings made at Ford 
Auditorium, I question whether Paray could hear the whole orchestra in the proper balance, because 
he seems to hesitate at times like he's not quite sure he hears everything they're playing, or he's 
not used to hearing the sound qualities of that hall. I've never heard a good word about Ford 
Auditorium, but when your #1 Patron builds you a venue, that's where you play. It's also worth 
noting that Paray built up a much better orchestra than he found, and that has something to do with 
the better quality of the later recordings.

-- Tom Fine

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "DAVID BURNHAM" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Monday, September 22, 2014 5:13 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Records Ruin the Landscape

> Hi Tom
> You fail to mention who I think is perhaps the most exciting conductor on Mercury Living Presence, 
> Stanislaw Skrowaczweski.  Without exception I find his interpretations and the recorded sound more 
> transparent than with Dorati and Paray, etc.  I get the feeling that he would listen to a playback 
> and then make adjustments in the orchestra to idealize the sound of the recording.  Such a 
> conductor would be the perfect compliment to a production staff like your parents and their 
> colleagues.
> db
> On Monday, September 22, 2014 2:41 PM, Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Hi Don:
> Mercury didn't adhere to any "standard canon of classical music" except in that Paray and Dorati
> both liked Beethoven and Dorati liked Brahms and Tchaikovsky so those composers were well
> represented. Otherwise, Dorati made plenty of records of Hungarian, Russian, Czech and other 
> Eastern
> European composers, plus an on-going series of well-received American and European 
> modern-classical
> composers. Paray usually stuck to French music and Romantic era classical. Hanson was all about
> modern American music, for the most part. Fennell was into a variety of things from marches to
> "pops" to wind arrangements of symphonic music. None of this was "standard canon," and it was
> Mercury's main point of difference (note that there is not a complete Beethoven cycle on Mercury
> Living Presence, never a 9th recorded and no released stereo 4th or 8th; if I recall correctly one
> of Dorati's Brahms symphonies was mono-only too). I would say the reason no Mahler was recorded 
> was
> that none of Mercury's conductors or orchestras performed or advocated Mahler, the exception being
> Barbirolli (who was actually under contract with Pye). It's also worth noting that Walter and
> Bernstein started making well-received Mahler recordings in the "golden era" (late mono/early 
> stereo
> LP era). No sane record producer would spend very many resources competing with Columbia's 
> Bernstein
> publicity machine. Columbia and RCA were much more obsessed with recording every note of every 
> piece
> from Beethoven to the 20th century, "standard canon" material, usually by multiple conductors and
> orchestras. Finally, it's worth noting that Dorati brought forth a lot of new-to-recordings 
> material
> from Tchaikovsky like original scoring for the ballets, first recording of "1812" as it was
> originally conceived, first recording of the complete Suites. Dorati also premiere-recorded 
> several
> modern pieces. Hanson's recording tally is full of premieres by the very nature of his American
> Music Festivals. Fennell hunted down original band music never recorded and not heard since the
> original bands, including Confederate sheet music found in attics for "The Civil War" albums. None
> of this is "standard canon of classical music" by any stretch. Mercury buyers were not wanting the
> Reader's Digest Guide To Great Music, but Mercury made sure not to get so out there on every 
> release
> that they couldn't sell records. This was part of what doomed Everest -- too much stuff that no 
> one
> had heard of, no matter how well recorded. The last thing they did, as they were in the midst of
> shutting down, was a mediocre Beethoven cycle with Krips.
> To part of your point, it's doubtful that Mahler symphonies were being performed out in places 
> like
> Minneapolis or Detroit in that period, or that audiences were demanding it. But, I think if you
> checked concert repertoire around the US, they were being performed here and there through the
> years.
> -- Tom Fine
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: "Don Cox" <[log in to unmask]>
> To: <[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Monday, September 22, 2014 2:47 PM
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Records Ruin the Landscape
> <snip>
>> There are no Mercury recordings of any of these (or of Mahler), which
>> shows they were not in the standard canon of classical music in the
>> 1950s.
>> Regards
>> -- 
>> Don Cox
>> [log in to unmask]