From: Patent Tactics, George Brock-Nannestad


sometimes record companies spare no expense to satisfy their artistes. When I 
was engaged by Decca to go to Italy in 1994 and -95 to record Luciano 
Pavarotti by the acoustic process on disc, the Steinway Grand rented for the 
purpose was tuned down to A-435 (from A-442, I measured) because that is what 
Pavarotti wanted. It was a process that lasted 4 hours, the Steinway 
techician muttering "poor Steinway" all awhile. I would expect Decca to have 
paid for raising it again subsequently. However, Leone Magiera, Pavarotti's 
accompanist, did not mind the lower pitch and treated us to some beautiful 

Pavarotti wanted to determine if he was a better tenor than Caruso, and since 
Caruso had unfortunately died, they needed to compete on recordings. And 
perhaps he did not trust the AICC cylinders, where the choice of recording 
experts would have been greater. Important for the present discussion is that 
he believed that Caruso had sung at A-435.

Now, if they ever want to issue those recordings they will have to take the 
pitch into account, unless they merely take the digital tapes as they find 
them. I have the pitch in my metadata, but do they?

By contract I am not at liberty to give detailed information.

I was present in London at the recent re-enactment of the famous 1913 
recording of Beethoven's 5th by Arthur Nikisch. The conductor, Robin O'Neill, 
did not want to tune down (for some instruments it would have been 
impossible; they would have had to use old woodwinds and gut strings), and he 
did not want to interpret the symphony the way Nikisch had done. He created a 
very energetic performance and was a huge inspiration to his students' 
orchestra, the Royal College of Music Chamber Orchestra. This does come 
through on the result of the acoustic recording.

Best wishes,



Tom Fine wrote:

> Part of John Marks' research into that article included contacting the
> Cleveland Orchestra's music 
> librarian and archivist. Not surprising to those familiar with George
> Szell's music and biography, 
> he was an absolute stickler for consistent tuning to A=440.
> The bigger issue I was surprised and somewhat dismayed to learn details of
> is EMI's practice of 
> using 3rd generation dub tapes as their master of record for almost
> everything recorded by Carson 
> Taylor in the U.S. That got me acquiring some copies of the original LPs and
> I was shocked to hear 
> how much better many of them sound, even compared to late 90s "Recordings of
> the Century" remasters 
> by Abbey Road. It goes to show that even if you have a good playback and a
> good digital chain, with 
> skilled engineering, if you have a several-generations dub tape there's only
> so much fidelity you 
> can get out of it. Plangent would help, but it's still better to get as
> close to first generation as 
> is practical, particularly with classical music (because the dynamics, pitch
> and instrument tones 
> are so effected by the slightest aspects of output<>input inherent to all
> tape dubs).
> According to what I learned from talking to people with knowledge of EMI
> Classics' practices (still 
> in effect with Warner Classics), using the 3rd generation tapes is the path
> of least resistence 
> because Capitol had some way to keep what were Angel master tapes in the US
> and only send out dubs 
> for UK pressing. Apparently in the cases when a UK crew came over here and
> made recordings (standard 
> practice after about 1980), then the master tapes were retained in England.
> In those cases, if the 
> Angel LP was cut at Capitol, it was likely cut from a dub tape, so the UK
> EMI LP is likely to sound 
> better. Taking it back to the modern era, I still can't get a definitive
> answer if the Capitol-made 
> EMI classical recordings' tapes are in a vault here, and if they'll ever be
> used to make a new 
> series of remasters.
> -- Tom Fine
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: "Steve Smolian" <[log in to unmask]>
> To: <[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Tuesday, April 28, 2015 8:51 PM
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] A-440, was speaking of pitch
> >I can't find the references at the moment, but I gave a paper at a long-ago
> ARSC about this issue. 
> >I'm depending on memory for the dates, but it'll be pretty close.
> >
> > The U.S. Navy adopted A-440 in 1916.  The National Bureau Standards did so
> in or about 1918.
> >
> > I'm pretty sure that the bands of most or all U.S. Armed Service bands
> that were in training and 
> > later participated in WW I were equipped with A-440 instruments.
> >
> > It is my speculation that many older instruments were given by masters to
> servants or found their 
> > way into hock shops, which thus made such instruments available to poorer
> musicians.  I've not 
> > seen any writing about this issue during the formative jazz band years. 
> Those more versed in the 
> > reminiscences of the early layers may have encountered comments about
> adjusting or not adjusting 
> > tunable instruments and, where impractical, living with the sound.
> >
> > In the early 1960s I contacted a piano tuner through Steinway, a fellow
> whose responsibilities 
> > included the instruments used by Victor during Caruso's day.  He told me
> that they always tuned 
> > tuned to A= 440.  I believe I included this somewhere in one of my
> American Record Guide columns 
> > then as a result.
> >
> > Each orchestra has a collection of tuning forks, or, at  least, used to,
> and their period of use 
> > is often documented.
> >
> > As to older situations, read "The Story of A" by - can't recall his name.
> It carefully explain s 
> > and documents pitch issues over the centuries when a court in Germany
> hired an Italian or French 
> > court composer who then had instruments made for use during his tenure. 
> It also talks about the 
> > issues of different pitches for instrumental and instruments with vocal
> music and organ keyboards 
> > that played in either of two pitches, depending on the type of service.
> >
> > Pitch is also affected by temperature.  The way concert halls are and were
> heated had a direct 
> > effect as well.
> >
> > It's really complicated and fascinating.
> >
> >
> > Steve Smolian
> >
> > Original Message----- 
> > From: Tom Fine
> > Sent: Tuesday, April 28, 2015 6:12 PM
> > To: [log in to unmask]
> > Subject: [ARSCLIST] speaking of pitch
> >
> >
> >
> > This is a good telling of John Marks' tortured journey on discovering a
> seemingly small but very
> > audible pitch error.
> >
> > I did some further reporting with people I know who are very familiar with
> the EMI classical
> > library. Apparently, the fast-pitched tape from which all digital media
> have been mastered came 
> > from
> > Capitol USA, and no one can locate the original 2-track master tape made
> by Carson Taylor, from
> > which the first edition USA albums were mastered.
> >
> > Now, after all of this consternation, it seems to me that one could do as
> I did -- own the 
> > HDTracks
> > 96/24 download and then simply apply pitch-correction software to it. I
> couldn't hear any audible
> > degradation after doing that and, in fact, it sounded better because it
> turns out that once it's 
> > in
> > A=440 (to which Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra strictly tuned), the
> music relaxes and flows
> > better, just from that very slight slow-down in tempo.
> >
> > My personal opinion is that John Marks' dream of remastering this
> recording from the 4-channel
> > Dynatrack tapes will never happen, but I do hope that Carson Taylor's
> original 2-track master (ie 
> > a
> > second-generation tape, made directly from the Dyntrack session tapes)
> will be found and this 
> > pitch
> > error then corrected in all current in-print media.
> >
> > -- Tom Fine
> >