Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

The 50th Anniversary of Stereophonic Tape Recording


One of the best kept secrets in the history of audio engineering, was the development of tape recording. Originally patented in Germany in 1936, it was actually demonstrated to Sir Thomas Beecham when he took his London Philharmonic orchestra to Ludwigschafen, the home of IG Farben, now BASF. That first crude experimental recording has survived. But thereafter, the Nazi regime realised its unique propaganda value and it disappeared under a cloak of secrecy until the end of the European war. Research and development continued right until the closing violent days in Berlin that lead to the end of hostilities. By 1944, the laboratories of Reich Rundfunk Gesellschaft has amassed some 200 - 300 two channel (stereo) recordings which, by all accounts, included some fascinating musical performances that included a complete Tristan and Isolde conducted by Furtwangler. Sadly, the closing stages of the chaos that was war-torn Berlin led to most being destroyed in the basement of the Haus des Rundfunk, and it was only some time afterwards, that one or two began to appear from unexpected sources. One was returned by the Russians, along with a large number of historically interesting mono tapes that had been sent back to Moscow by a Russian Officer. Another was from a former German military hospital in the Polish town of Posten. In 1993, the international Audio Engineering Society held its conference in Berlin, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the development of stereo tape recording and all the surviving tapes were played. These recordings have now been compiled on a CD and includes a fine Beethoven Emperor concerto played by Walter Geiseking with the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra under Arthur Rother, dating from 1944 and a powerful last movement of Bruckner's 8th symphony conducted by a 36 year old Herbert von Karajan with the Berlin State Opera Orchestra. All are of extraordinarily high quality, apart from being musically fascinating. The CD, which includes an excellent and fully detailed account of the historical origins of the recordings, is now available from the AES to non-members. Readers can contact Heather Lane on 01628 663725. Heather will take credit card orders, the cost being £8.75 inclusive of p & p. Her address is PO Box 645, Slough, SL1 8BJ England

Reg Williamson


Reg Williamson

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