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How to Check/Play some old Decca Master Tapes of Rehearsals


Last month, on my annual sojourn to the UK, I was given several tapes which belonged to long time Decca producer, Christopher Raeburn. I would like to get some advice about checking them out before playing them (worried about sticky shed).

One is in a box labelled Agfa Magnetonband with a label on the box saying 2400 ft PE22 1003 1 (small print says Made in Germany in German, English and French).  There is a Decca Record sticker on the box saying it is recorded at 7.5" p.s. and titled "Rehearsal of Vienna Phil. Orch. Pierre Monteux, with the further notation "Oiseau de Feu (P.M. conducted Premiere) and signed Raeburn. The tape appears to be acetate (that is I can see through the tape held on its side.) Looking up in my Decca data base, there appear to be no recordings that Monteux did of the Firebird with the VPO, although he did one with the Paris Conservatory Orch which was engineered by Decca for RCA. Raeburn did several recordings with Monteux and the VPO in the late '50's, but no Firebird. So this could be a rehearsal that didn't lead to a recording.

There are two other tapes done on Scotch 202, 2400 ft, these were both from a set of 6 rehearsal tapes done of an operatic recital with baritone Tom Krause and conducted by Quadri, with the Vienna Phil. The date is 15 Mai 1967.

I was given these tapes by a dealer in the north of England, whom I am a regular customer. She happens to live near one of the retired Decca engineers who I interviewed for my book, Mike Mailes. I was visiting Mike and his wife, and he drove me to the dealer's home. Mike had worked with Christopher Raeburn and said that he often would have the tapes running to capture rehearsals. Some would be at 7.5 ips to conserve tape. Mike also said they had some issues with Scotch 202 and soon switched to 203.

Any suggestions on how to approach playing the tapes would be much appreciated.

Thanks, Larry

You have two great resources for baking tapes nearby, Paul and Keith Johnson. Paul is away right now, we are all spending a little long needed time together at his summer place. We will all be in The City for the weekend and I would suggest bringing the tapes to the listening session that Michael is hosting at his studio Sunday the 20th. Paul can take a look at them and give you some advice. My only bit of advice is don't play that suspected acetate tape until you talk to him. You need a machine that allows for exceptionally gentle tape handling to keep from snapping an old acetate. Don't ask how I know.

Thanks, Dan.  I do have a tape baker at home (one of the food dehydrators), bought specifically for baking tapes, not drying fruit. I can bring the tapes with me to the open house for Paul and you to take a look.  I will wait to do anything.



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