CONSIDERATIONS IN RECORDING
Q: And you do a lot of recording? And that’s my next topic that I want to talk about with you. Let’s begin this way: How do you decide on what repertoire you’re going to record?
Shaw: Well that’s done as, I guess in every instance, it’s done as a compromise or an adjustment between what the record company wants and what is liable to be ready, you know? And obviously when it’s in great working order and when the record company wants a very distinguished repertoire, you schedule two to three years in advance and you sneak up on it together.
And we began with recording with Telarc, and I just flat out say that I don’t know any better, technically I don’t know any better records being made in the world at this time other than those that are being are made by Renner and Woods of Telarc, and one of them is the engineer - Mr. Renner is engineer and Mr. Woods is the producer. So it’s been a very, very happy association. It occasionally becomes difficult to arrange the repertoire, the things that, once it’s decided what’s wanted, by in consultation with the record company, then one has to go and see if there’s a proper, artists are available, and also if there’s a spot in the season where it fits, because you obviously don’t want to do a St. Matthew Passion on your Christmas concert, and so there are a lot of decisions.
Also there are financial considerations. That is to say that over the years the Atlanta Symphony has been able to, by its contract with its musicians, has been able to assure them of X numbers of dollars per year, in the low thousands, for recordings – it’s called the media part of the contract - or for the broadcast of their regular subscription series nationwide or locally as the case may be. So that there have been some monies available for paying the men as a guaranteed part of their annual salary.
I think the first record we ever made was - as a matter of fact didn’t involve the chorus – it was the Stravinsky Firebird Suite and that was made with this new digital technique that so thoroughly swept the recording industry and made it, and brought new quality and new those technical perfections to its product. But then, from then on, we just begin by telephone. It’s not really negotiations, scarcely that formal. “Do you want – we like, we think we can sell a Berlioz Requiem. Do you see any possibility in scheduling in the next eighteen to twenty-four, thirty six months?” So it’s not nearly as structured and well-planned out as it ought to be. For instance, at one point we were set to do a 9th symphony and Telarc had some real financial problems at that particular moment, and so they asked to be released from their agreement to record that. And so we never did. I never did get to do the Symphony No. 9 with them which I want so to do.
I would love to do... I think our Brahms here has been rather special through the years, and I’m talking about the Brahms symphonies, and I think I feel close to that musical language, and I think if I do anything well, that this is the best that I do. But it simply is true that the Cleveland Orchestra performances of the Brahms symphonies are assured of a wider audience than the Atlanta Symphony Brahms Symphonies are. And so Telarc would choose to do the Brahms symphonies with the Cleveland Orchestra and has done so. So there are a lot of difficulties and I would like to do, I would simply, really, I would love to begin, even at this late date, I would love to begin a program of recording all of the Bach Cantatas. I think it could be done in three years, and I think we could move the voices, since it would be a few voices only, a dozen voices, I think we could move them here and make it and turn out one a week, and we’d have them. But I don’t think that’s very likely to happen.