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IRENE Seeing Sound Blog

"When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d"

The NEDCC IRENE Lab has been working on more interesting recordings from the Carnegie Hall Archives collection, while continuing to fine-tune the 2D imaging capabilities in the Center's IRENE system.

Today’s audio clip is part four of an instantaneous lacquer disc recording of the CBS Symphony Orchestra, with Robert Shaw conducting Paul Hindemith's “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd,” recorded June 30, 1946 for radio broadcast.  Robert Shaw commissioned the work from Hindemith.  It is the complete text of Walt Whitman's poem which Hindemith set to music for chorus, soloists and orchestra.  The world premiere of the piece had taken place just a few weeks earlier on May 14, 1946 at City Center with Shaw conducting the Collegiate Chorale.




Yale University kindly loaned the Carnegie Hall Archives this photo of Robert Shaw and Paul Hindemith with the original score of "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd," taken in 1946. 


Photo Credit:
Photo 196
MSS 86, the Robert Shaw Papers
Gilmore Music Library, Yale University



A Note on Fidelity - The IRENE system is designed to safely photograph the grooves on the media, so it “sees” the grooves made during the recording, as well as any scratches, dust, or other degradation of the material. Variabilities between formats, and even between recording equipment within a format, present further challenges. As part of the grant project, the IRENE Lab has been fine-tuning their process to get the best possible sound out of the variety of formats and conditions they are sure to encounter when NEDCC's IRENE service becomes available to cultural institutions across the US.

About the Carnegie Hall Recording Company

The Carnegie Hall Recording Company is one of the most interesting and elusive aspects of Carnegie Hall's history.  It was founded by Len Frank in the 1930's in Carnegie Hall Studio 305-6. Frank had access to CBS microphones hanging in Carnegie Hall that were used for radio broadcasts from which he recorded various artists performing at Carnegie Hall. We believe he obtained access to the microphones through his associations with CBS or Bell Telephone Laboratories.  There was noWebLilacs2 official agreement with Carnegie Hall nor did Carnegie Hall receive payment for the recordings and to date nothing in writing has been located explaining in full the company or its relationship to Carnegie Hall.  The Carnegie Hall Recording Company studio at Carnegie Hall existed from the 1930s until 1960.

“How many recordings were made has not been determined,” explains Kathleen Sabogal, Assistant Director of the Archives at Carnegie Hall. “Most have disappeared. The Carnegie Hall Recording Company Collection consists of 38 lacquer discs with the Carnegie Hall Recording Company label that have been purchased on eBay or from private collectors.”

LEARN MORE about the Carnegie Hall Archives: 

Comments (2)

  1. Uncle Dave Lewis:
    Mar 30, 2014 at 08:00 AM

    I applaud this worthy project of attempting to retrieve something of the output of what is often referred to as "Carnegie Hall Recorders." You probably know that there were pipes running from Carnegie Hall and that other studios tapped into these from time to time. Two different studios recorded the Benny Goodman January 1938 concert that way. The post linked below isn't clear as to whether the 1947 Bunk Johnson "Last Testament" session was done by Carnegie Hall Recording Co,. through a pipe, or somehow directly by Columbia with equipment that they trucked in. So I send it so that you may embrace or disqualify this session as needed. I can't remember the source, but someone said that Columbia had on file a large number of Mitropoulos concerts that they discarded in the 1960s; perhaps that is a clue as to what happened to a large number of CHRC recordings.

  2. Gino Francesconi:
    Apr 04, 2014 at 09:21 AM

    Thank you for your comments, Dave. We have been on the trail of the CHRC for almost 30 years now and hopefully, via networking, listservs, and more collections being digitized, we will be able to one day have a full story. We know a relative and a widow of the founders of the CHRC who had little, but as you also mentioned much was discarded when the company left Carnegie Hall for a building on the West Side of Manhattan and then again when it moved to New Jersey. The recent Vladimir Horowitz release of his 1940s CH recitals, unknown to all but Horowitz and Len Frank of the CHRC, is but one example of previously unknown recordings coming to the surface. These Hindemith/Shaw recordings were found in the basement of Philadelphia’s Music Academy! Carnegie Hall has had a long history of recording and broadcasting beginning with the Victor Talking Machine Company in one of the studios in 1903, the first radio broadcast in 1923, and our Recital Hall was renovated to accommodate the first audience allowed to sit for a radio program for WABC in 1932. Over the years there were various microphones, radio rooms, recording rooms and equipment that were already long part of the furniture, in addition to the pipes and links to the studios across and downtown. Even in the 1970s and 80s, I personally worked backstage during many recorded events in the Hall that used equipment as varied as the events themselves! Trucked in equipment; equipment in trucks on the street; using the basic overhead center stage locator mic; using the “recording room” in the basement,’ the “radio room” in various locations; the long cabled feeders; etc. One of my favorite moments as CH's archivist was giving a tour to George Avakian and George giving me a tour of his Carnegie Hall! His archives will reveal much when they are made available to the public. Would love to hear more from you. Stop by the Hall sometime or give a call. Thanks, again. Gino Francesconi, Director of the Archives and Rose Museum, Carnegie Hall

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