The Victor Orchestra recording in Building no 15, Camden, New Jersey
in this 1925 photograph showing the new Western Electric
recording process. Note the single
microphone on a stand. This could be a Western Electric condenser
microphone in a Western Electric 1B or 1C housing with amplification
and impedance matching in the box at the base of the
microphone or, it might be a Western Electric carbon button
microphone with batteries in the box - experts don't agree. The Western Electric 394 condenser
"transmitter" was introduced in late 1926/early 1927 2. So,
this photo may show an earlier model condenser transmitter, perhaps
the Western Electric Type 361, or it may be a Western Electric carbon microphone. The
Western Electric 394 with superior frequency response and lower noise would
be introduced into Western Electric recording in 1926/1927.
Navigation of Stokowski - Philadelphia recordings pages
Stokowski - Philadelphia acoustic recordings 1917-1924
1925 - The Growth of Electrical Recording by Stokowski and
the Philadelphia Orchestra
On April 29, 1925, Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra
made the world's first electrical recording of a symphony orchestra:
Saint-Saëns Danse macabre, opus 40.
After this milestone in the history of the gramophone, Stokowski and
the Philadelphia Orchestra went on to record three Russian
day as the Danse macabre, they recorded music by Alexander Borodin.
Then, two weeks later in early May, they recorded one side of Ippolitov-Ivanov,
which would be issued with the Borodin, and also a superb
recording of the Tchaikovsky Marche Slave.
With these recordings of early May, Stokowski and the Victor engineers
began to take note of the Western Electric electrical recording system's
ability to cope with percussion, to register the bass frequencies, and to
accommodate a larger, but not yet full orchestra. Gradually, Stokowski
and the engineers began to abandon the acoustic instrumental arrangements
as they discovered the abilities of the new recording process. For this
reason, the May through December 1925 recordings represented gradual further
progress in successful new orchestral reproduction never before heard
from a gramophone record.
1925 - Borodin's ‘Polovetzki Dances’ from Prince Igor
On April 29, 1925, Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra recorded their
second electrical recording, the same day as the Danse macabre.
This disk was labeled as being Borodin's "Polovetzki Dance".
This is Stokowski's abridgement of sections of Borodin's
Polovtsian Dances from his opera Prince Igor,
presumably arranged by Stokowski, with the music reduced to fit on one
Victor Red Seal 12 inch side. Twelve years later, on April 5, 1937,
Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra again recording music from
this section of Prince Igor. The extent of the 1925
abridgement of this music can be noticed by the fact that the 1937
recording was sixteen and one half minutes, compared with this
1925 side of four minutes.
Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra had also several times tried,
unsuccessfully, to record this music from Borodin's Polovtsian
Dances using the acoustic recording process. Recordings
were cut on October 18 and 19, 1920,
and February 13, 1922, none of which were approved by Stokowski.
As in the Danse macabre, recorded at that same April 29 session,
only 42 musicians were used, similar to previous acoustic recording
sessions. There were 7 first violins, 4 second violins,
3 violas, and 2 celli, no string basses, 2 oboes, 1 English horn,
2 bassoons, 1 contra-bassoon, 3 clarinets, a bass saxophone, 3 flutes,
4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, a tuba, harp, and a tympani
22. This was a reduced complement even though,
for the first time, the electrical recording
microphone did not restrict the possible space in which the recording
equipment could pick up the musicians' sound, as had been the case with
the acoustic horn had done.
Again as in acoustic recordings, no string basses were used, and
instead, a bass saxophone, now part of the Philadelphia Orchestra's
listed complement, replaced the string basses, augmented by the tuba.
A contra-bassoon reinfored the timpani. The Victor engineers in
this first electrical recording session were cautiously using the same
re-orchestration techniques necessary with acoustic recording.
However, Stokowski and the engineers gradually
restored the bass strings and percussion and
augmented the number of musicians in later recordings, as they
determined what would record best, through experience.
Onr interesting aspect of this recording of the Polovetzki Dance
is that since it was recorded with the techniques of acoustic discs;
i.e. a greatly reduced orchestra, with the music re-orchestrated to avoid
bass strings and percussion, we can now hear, with the improved
clarity of the electrical recording process what the performance
arranged for the acoustic horn would have sounded like 'live'.
This Borodin recording was issued the following September as Victor 12 inch
(30 cm) Red Seal disk catalogue 6514. The matrix number is
CVE 32550-1 (and later CVE 32550-2), with the selection In the Village
Ippolitov-Ivanov Caucasian Sketches
on the other side.
Two weeks after Stokowski made the world's first electrical recordings of
symphonic music, with the Danse macabre and the
Borodin selection, Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra returned
to Victor Building no 15 to record the Tchaikovsky Marche Slav.
Having learned from the results of the April 1925 electrical recording
sessions, Stokowski increased the orchestral complement, although it
was still reduced: 7 first violins, 4 second violins, 3 violas, 2 cellos,
2 oboes, 1 English horn, 2 bassoons, 1 contra-bassoon, 3 clarinets,
a bass saxophone, 3 flutes, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, 4 horns, tuba, harp,
and 2 drums 22. The addition of percussion can now be clearly
heard (listen to the first minute of the recording). Still, the provision
of bass scoring by tuba, bass saxophone and contra-bassoon can be heard
clearly at about 3:00 into the recording.
This recording was also sonically successful. In fact, this Marche Slave
was perhaps the first orchestral recording of a symphony orchestra which sounded
close to what might be heard in concert, rather than the "band of
banjos" to which some listeners likened even the best acoustic
recordings of symphony orchestras. Victor apparently recognized
the improvement and recommended this recording to its record
dealers as a demonstration disk for the new Victor Orthophonic
Victrola machines coming out in 1925. That deep bass ostinato repeated
during the first 30 seconds of this eight minute recording must have
been most impressive on the new Orthophonic Victrola which, for the first
time reproduced lower bass with volume and low distortion.
In fact, this recording sold
sufficiently well to remain in the Victor catalog well into the 1940s.
To my ears, it is a performance superior both artistically and
sonically to the 1942 NBC Symphony recording which replaced it in the
1925 - Ippolitov-Ivanov 'Caucasian Sketches' opus 10
On May 15, 1925 following the completion of Marche Slave, Stokowski
and the Orchestra returned to a work that he had performed at his first
1909 concerts in Paris and London: Ippolitov-Ivanov's Caucasian Sketches.
This work, mainly forgotten in the concert hall today, was based on
Ippolitov-Ivanov's research of folk music of the Caucasus. Stokowski
also performed this work at his second Cincinnati Symphony concert in 1909,
and at his first Philadelphia concert in 1912. He evidently felt it was a
"sure fire" showpiece for the orchesta and for himself.
During the acoustic era, Stokowski on May 15, 1922, recorded the fourth
movement of the
Caucasian Sketches: 'Procession of the Sardar'
Now, three years later, he recorded the second movement of the work,
depicting life 'In the Village'.
Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov (1859-1935), Stokowski, Reinhold Glière (1875-1956) during
Stokowski's first visit to the Soviet Union in 1931
Again, the use of Philadelphia Orchestra musicians was improved:
7 first violins, 4 second violins, 3 violas, 2 cellos, no string basses,
2 oboes, 1 English horn, 2 bassoons, 1 contra-bassoon, 3 clarinets, a
bass saxophone, 3 flutes, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, 4 horns, tuba, harp,
and 2 drums 22, Stokowski and the Victor engineers were learning
how to improve electrical recordings and the sound and the performance are both
very satisfying. In fact, this is my favorite recording of this work
from any era. Stokowski presents this Ippolitov-Ivanov composition
as a noble and inspired work. Many later performances by other
famed conductors treat it as a light weight "pops" item, and e
ven Stokowski's later recordings seem to me to have less depth,
conviction and character than this beautiful 1925 accomplishment.
Listen in particular to the opening interplay between the Concertmaster
with the prominent oboe solo of
- magic! This is a great recording which transends the decades
which have since passed.
This is also one of the last
Philadelphia Orchestra recordings featuring Thaddeus Rich, who
was to depart from the orchestra in 1926 subsequent to a falling
out with Stokowski. Here, in this fine electrical
recording, we can appreciate Thaddeus Rich in a way not fully
possible in the faint images of the previous acoustic
recordings. Another beautiful solo is the extended English
horn - viola passage played by
Peter Henkelman, English horn, with
Romain Verney, viola.
Henkelman, born in the Netherlands in 1874, was about
to leave the Orchestra at the end of the 1924-1925 season to go to
the New York Symphony, after having played in the Philadelphia Orchestra
oboe section for 24 seasons 1901-1925. Roman Verney also left the
Orchestra at the end of the 1924-1925 season to go to the San Francisco
Symphony where he was Principal viola under
This recording was issued in September, 1925 on Victor Red Seal 12 inch
disk 6514, which also featured the Borodin 'Polovetzki Dance' on the other
side. The matrix number was CVE 32801-2. In the reproduction
below, you can hear, in the background faintly what seems to be the sound artifact
of the motion of the electrical cutting head, still being pulled
by weights (rather than driven by an electric motor). This
subtlety would not have been captured by the acoustic recording
apparatus, and was soon eliminated by Victor or possibly Western
Click on the link below to listen to (or download) 'In the Village'.
These new electrical recordings coincided with a decision by
the Victor Talking Machine Company to mount a major sales push
for the new recording process, which Victor and other
companies had abstained from doing earlier in 1925. Victor initiated
the famous "Victory Day" promotion of November 2, 1925, in
which Victor is said to have spent more than $1 million in
advertising and promotion, a huge sum of money at that time. This was
also a real financial gamble, particularly since Victor had lost money
in 1924, and would lose money again in 1925 as a consequence of this
Advertisement for "Victor Day", the November 2, 1925
Promotion of Victor's electrical technology
This change was a success. During 1926, the losses of 1925 of
$26.5 million were fully recovered, with unprecedented sales
of Victor records and of Victrola machines.
The reproduction of the folded horn Victrola was greatly improved
over previous equipment, particularly in the bass spectrum 100 hertz
to 600 hertz. However, these were still totally acoustic
reproduction devices. They used no electrical amplification or
equalization. Only with the introduction of the Electrola
and the Radiola, both having electrical amplification and electrical
loudspeaker was the full potential of the new electrical
recordings realized. The Electrola was an electrical reproducer
with electromagnetic cone speakers. The Radiola was similar to the
Electrola, with the addition of an RCA radio receiver chassis.
In 1925 (May 14, 15, October 6, 7, and December 8,1925) Stokowski made
his first electrical recording of a symphony: the Dvorak Symphony no 9
"From the New World", opus 95, which had been one of
Stokowski's most successful works in concert.
note that although this is
a new electrical recording, Victor is still using the "Batwing"
This 1925 electrical recording continued to use tuba reinforcement to
the bass and a reduced orchestral complement. Taking part in this
recording were: 7 first violins, 4 second violins, 3 violas, 2 cellos,
2 oboes, 1 English horn, 2 bassoons, 1 contra-bassoon, 3 clarinets, 3 flutes,
1 bass saxophone, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, 4 horns, 1 tuba, a harp, and
2 drums 22. So again, string basses are omitted, and the tuba,
a bass saxophone and contra-bassoon are used to provide the bass line as
in the acoustic recordings.
To illustrate the reduced string complement, in the 1927 re-recording
of this symphony two years later, the 1925 completment of 7 first violins,
4 second violins, 3 violas, 2 cellos and no string basses will grow to
17 first violins, 18 second violins, 13 violas, 12 cellos and 10 string
basses ---in other words the full Philadelphia Orchestra complement
22. However, in 1925 there is some restrained use of
percussion, not present in acoustic recordings. Also, sound was
improved, although not with the open and atmospheric sound which would be
achieved in the 1926 recordings done the next year in the Academy of Music
Somewhat more string portamento is featured here than in later Dvorak works,
but it is evocative of the playing of that era, and not unattractive. The
Philadelphia Orchestra playing continues to be superior, in my opinion in tone
and ensemble to the contemporary European orchestras, at least as judged by
the surviving recordings of the period.
By late 1925, Philadelphia Orchestra recordings had not yet begun in the
Academy of Music, and these sides were presumably made in the Victor Camden
studio, or "recording laboratory" as Victor referred to it, located in
Building number 15. I have not seen documentation of the Building 15 location,
but the reasoning for this assumption is described in
Location of the First Electrical Recording Studio in Camden
The Dvorak "New World" was recorded on five Victor Red Seal 12 inch disks:
Victor 6565, 6566, 6567, 6568, 6569, and 6743 which could for a time be
purchased individually. However, the recording was now also offered
packaged in a handsome multi-disk album labeled "Music Arts Library",
as shown below. In this way, the New World recording became the
first packaging of what would later develop into the
"Victor Musical Masterpiece" series of albums. Beginning in
1926, records of a work or works were placed in the Victor Musical Masterpiece
handsomely bound albums, and this 1925 Dvorak New World became the first of the series,
listed as M-1.
Interesting, if somewhat confusing is that when Victor re-recorded the
New World Symphony in 1927, it used the same album number,
M-1 and the same disk numbers 6565, 6566, 6567, 6568, and 6569, and
even the same matrix numbers for the 1927 recording. Fortunately,
only a few seconds of listening will allow any listener to discern the
far superior reproduction of the 1927 recording, compared with its
predecessor, precluding any confusion.
To listen to (or download) these pioneering first electrical recordings
of the Dvorak
Symphony "From the New World", click on the links below. The
oboe solo of
Marcel Tabuteau in the second
movement: Largo is particularly sensitive and beautiful.
Second - in the Chronological Discography page.
For example, links to a 1926 recording are also found in the
electrical recordings chronological discography page:
Chronological Discography of Electrical Recordings
This page lists all the electrical recordings from 1925 to
1940 made by the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Leopold
Stokowski and issued by Victor, including of course the 1926 recordings.
The mp3 files in this site are encoded at 128 mbps. This means that the
files are of different sizes, according to the length of
the music. For example, the second electrical recording, the
April 29, 1925 Borodin ‘Polovetzki Dances’ is small (3.6MB). In contrast,
the 1929 Le Sacre du Printemps file is large. Le Sacre part 1 is 14MB
and Le Sacre part 2 is 16MB.
This means that a large file will take a longer time to
download, depending on your internet connection speed.
Please keep this in mind when you click to listen to -
download a particularly music file. You may click
the link to the music file, but need to wait a number of
seconds or even minutes to listen to the file.
If you have any comments or questions about this Leopold Stokowski site, please e-mail me (Larry Huffman)
at e-mail address:
1 Jones, W. C. Condenser and Carbon Microphones:
Their Construction and Use. Journal of the Society of Motion Picture
Engineers. : January, 1931.
2 see the background information on this subject in:
http://www.stokowski.org/1925 Other Electrical Recordings Stokowski.htm
and also pages 116-127. Copeland, Peter.
Manual of Analogue Sound Restoration Techniques.
British Library Sound Archive. London, UK. February, 2001.
Lurie, Maxine N. and Mappen, Marc. Encyclopedia of New Jersey.
page 68. Rutgers University Press, NJ 2004 ISBN 08-13533-252
Fagen, M.D., ed. A History of Engineering and Science in the Bell System:
The Early Years (1875-1925). New York: Bell Telephone Laboratories,
Frayne, John G. History of Disk Recording Journal of the
Audio Engineering Society, Vol. 33 no 4. page 263 -266. April, 1985
Klapholz, Jesse. The History and Development of Microphones. Sound and
Communications. September, 1986
page 103. Burns, R. W. The Life and Times of A D Blumlein
Institution of Engineering and Technology.
Herts, UK 2000. ISBN 0-8529677-3-X
94 Burns, R. W. op. cit.
93 Burns, R. W. op. cit.
Joseph P. and Henry C. Harrison. Methods of High Quality Recording and
Reproducing of Music and Speech Based on Telephone Research. Bell
System Technical Journal 5, July, 1926
page 4, 5 Eargle, John. The Microphone
Book. (Second Edition) Focal Press Burlington, MA 2004 ISBN-13
13 Sutton, Allan. Recording the 'Twenties. The
Evolution of the American Recording Industry, 1920-29. Mainspring Press.
Denver, Colorado 2008. ISBN 978-0-9772735-4-6.
14 page 56. Chanan, Michael. Repeated
Takes - A Short History of Recording and its Effects on Music.
Verso Books. 1995. ISBN 1-85984-012-4
15 page 364. Hoffmann, Frank W. and Ferstler,
Howard. Encyclopedia of Recorded Sound, Second Edition.
Taylor & Francis, Inc. July 2004 ISBN-13 9-78041593835-8
16 Thanks to Christine Rankovic, Ph. D. for this information
on Rogers Harrison Galt.
17 Jones, W. C. Condenser and Carbon Microphones:
Their Construction and Use. Journal of the Society of Motion Picture
Engineers. : January, 1931.
18 pages 110, 111. Adams, Stephen B. and Butler,
Orville R. Manufacturing the Future: A History of Western
Electric. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge,
UK. 1999 ISBN 0-521-65118-2
19 page 92-100. Thompson, Emily.
The Soundscape of Modernity: Architectural Acoustics and the Culture of
Listening in America, 1900-1933. MIT Press. Cambridge,
Massachusetts. 1999 ISBN-13: 9780262701068
20 page 334-348. Maxfield, J. P. and Harrison,
H. C. Methods of High Quality Recording and Reproducing of
Music and Speech Based on Telephone Research. Transaction of the
American Institute of Electrical Engineers. February 1926.
21 Frederick, H. A. The Development of the
Microphone. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America.
July, 1931. New York, New York.
22 This information from the wonderful Encyclopedic
Discography of Victor Recordings at the University of California Santa
Barbara website: http://victor.library.ucsb.edu/