Orchestra Recording Productions in Kulturpalast Dresden

Nagoya University of the Arts
Kulturpalast Dresden 2017 © Christian Gahl
Introduction : 
28. April 2017 Re-Opening Concert © Markenfotografie
 Fortunately, I had a chance to visit a new concert hall in Dresden, Kulturpalast Dresden, and got the opportunity to collect data on a recording project of the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra, which was carried out in a combination of live performances and patch sessions. The predecessor of this hall opened in 1969 in the former East Germany era and has taken on a role as the centre of arts and culture in Dresden, which has continued since the age of the Kingdom of Saxony. Due to superannuation, the hall had been newly built in since 2013 and reopened in April 2017 within the  renovated building of 1969. The renovation of the hall was conducted in the way that the interior of the hall was completely remodelled and that the exterior of the hall was completely kept as far as possible as it was built nearly a half century ago.I watched the live broadcast of the re-opening gala concert, which was distributed by web streaming, from Japan, and the more I learned to know about the background of this concert, the more I developed a deep interest in it. Since then, I had been hoping to collect information on it, and I fortunately got an opportunity to have an interview with the Tonmeisters Wolfram Nehls and René Möller, who have directed recordings of the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra in recent days, and Ms. Margriet Lautenbach who planned the acoustic design of the new hall as well as of the whole renovated building. In this article, I will focus on reporting on the recording and the interview with them.

The new hall has ca. 1800 seats, 2017© MarkenfotografieThe former hall had ca. 2,400 seats, 2008
The stage of the former hall, 1977
©SLUB Dresden / Deutsche Fotothek / Hans Reinecke

Kulturpalast Dresden :
 The Kulturpalast Dresden, which opened in 1969 was a cultural facility build in the era of the former East Germany and had been called, "Dresden Palace of Culture" among Japanese people. The shape of the building is simple rectangle, and its exterior is white walls and windows with bronze mirror glasses. It was surprising to me that this was nearly the same design as other buildings built in the time of GDR, for example, Palast der Republik in Berlin. In the interiour, I saw mural paintings typical of socialist propaganda from that time on the outer walls on the west side of the building and on the walls in the foyer, and I realized why they chose to renovate only interior of the building and to leave the exterior as it was when they had to choose either to renovate or to rebuild the hall due to its superannuation. Before the it was renovated, the hall had been utilized as a multipurpose hall, equipped with variable seating with maximum of around 2,400 seats, for various events such as orchestral concerts, concerts using PA system, conventions, and so on. On the website of the hall, there is a the following description can be found:
 "From the 1990s, the Kulturpalast stood in an internationalized concert and event market. The multifunctional hall concept only partially met these requirements. Artists, organizers and audiences, especially from the classical music sector, criticized the problematic acoustics compared to leading concert halls. Less and less space available was actually needed. For the Dresden Philharmonic, the hall, which had been so enthusiastically celebrated in 1969, increasingly represented an artistic barrier.
 The withdrawal of the The Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden into the rebuilt Semperoper Dresden in 1992 was a first sign of the beginning loss of meaning. New buildings, such as the Frauenkirche (2005), the Messe Dresden (1999), the Kongresszentrum (2004) and the new hall in the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum (2010) competed with their events in competition with the house. Added to this were increasingly severe operational restrictions resulting from technical wear and untimely fire protection. In 2007, the Palace of Culture had to be temporarily closed to carry out the most urgent renovations."  
 According to this description, aging of the building was one of the reasons for renovation of the hall, but I suppose that another important aspect was that the venue’s acoustic capability of this venue was not satisfactory in comparison with other halls designed especially for orchestral music, for example, Berlin Philharmonic Hall, etc. Perhaps, it would be adequate to use the term: "Renovation of the building accompanied by a completely rebuilt of the inner hall" to describe the renovation of the hall.
1969 ©Brück & Sohn Kunstverlag Meißen1967 © SLUB / Deutsche Fotothek / Peter, Richard sen.2016 ©Bybbisch94, Christian Gebhardt

Reconstruction of the hall :
 The hall was closed for the renovation works in October 2012, and the construction started in October 2013. Architectural design was conducted by GMP: Meinhard von Gerkan and Stephan Schütz with Nicolas Pomränke, construction work was carried out by gmp architekten in Hamburg, and acoustic design of the hall as well of the other rooms in the building was planned by Peutz bv in the Netherlands. For the renovation of the hall, all interior materials were completely removed as seen in the photo, and inside of the available volume a concert hall was reconstructed entirely anew. On the website of the new hall, there is a description about the outline of the hall as follows. 
March 2014  © Winfried Schenk, menschen-in-dresden.deFeb 2017 © MDR/Karsten Wolf Oct 2017

 "It takes up elements of vineyard as well as shoebox architecture and, with a volume of 21,500 m³, is similar in size to its "Geschwister" the Berliner Philharmonie and the Leipzig Gewandhaus. The 210 m² stage has lift podiums, and a specially designed ceiling ensures that the musicians can hear each other perfectly. In the stalls and on the two stalls a total of approx. 1800 visitors can be enjoying."  It took over 3 and a half years for renovation, and a re-opening gala concert was held with the Dresdner Philharmonie, conducted by Michael Sanderling, to celebrate the renewal of the hall on April 28, 2017.  The concert opened with Shostakovich’s Festive Overture, which implies that the hall used to be under the influence of socialism, followed by Mendelssohn’s Violin Concert, which is related to Leipzig, Sachsen where public movement for re-unification of Germany started, and as the closing piece, the 4th movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, which was also the closing piece for the hall’s opening gala concert in 1969, was sung along together.

The wall painting of west outside 30 × 10 m  "Der Weg der roten Fahne"The wall painting of foyer wall 45 m × 1.9 m "Unser sozialistisches Lebens"
Re-Opening concert in 2017, Dresdner Philharmonie Conducted by Michael Sanderling ©Jörg SimanowskiOpening concert in 1969, Dresdner Philharmonie Conducted by Kurt Masur

Overview of the recording :
 Founded in 1871, the Dresdner Philharmonie (DP) has lead music scenes in the German ancient capital, Saxony, along with Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden (SSKD). Kurt Masur, Günther Herbig, Herbert Kegel, Marek Janowski, and other renowned artists had served as its music director, and Michael Sanderling has been serving as a current music director since 2011. Sanderling was born as the third son of the renowned conductor, Kurt Sanderling, who also served as the music director of SSKD  and grew up with his two older brothers, Thomas, and Stefan, in a musical family. He initially started his musical career as a cellist, and he switched to the position of a conductor in early 2000's.
 Numerous past recordings of the DP with sound materials from the former East German era have been released by Deutsche Schallplatten Berlin, and in Japan, high-resolution recordings have actively been distributed by SONY mora, e-onkyo music, etc. as well as CDs. Since 2015, after Sanderling became the music director, CDs have been released by Sony Classical, and the contents of these CDs are really challenging. These CDs have been produced as a part of the project, “Complete Collection of Symphonies by Beethoven and Shostakovich.” Recordings of these composer’s works used to be carried out in session recording at the Lukaskirche Dresden before the Kulturpalast Dresden was renovated, but after the renovation was completed, recordings of the DP have been carried out in patch sessions and live recordings in GPs and concerts at this venue.
This time, I collected information on a recording of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8. The recording was organized with live recordings in GPs and concerts on October 7 and 8, 2017 and patch sessions in the morning on October 9.
  These recordings will be released as a complete box of Beethoven’s symphonies in Autumn, 2018 as a complete box of Shostakovich’s symphonies in Spring, 2019.

Rehearsal On 6.Oct 2017Tonmeister, Wolfram Nehls, René Möller, Jakob WundrackThe men at work about microphone setting

Recording Team :
 In Germany, orchestra recordings are usually overseen by 2 Tonmeisters, one playing a role as a producer, and another as a balance engineer. Also this recording was also done exactly that way. The producer was Mr. Wolfram Nehls (freelancer), and the balance engineer was Mr. René Möller (Teldex Studio Berlin). In addition, Jakob Wundrack (UdK Student) supported them.

Recording System

 Unlike the Berliner Philharmonie and Gewandhaus Leipzig, this hall is not equipped with a control room especially for recordings. However, there are some rooms that are equipped with wiring so that they can be utilized as a control rooms as needed. 
Specifically, panels such as CAT 6, optical line, video line, analogue line, 230 V power supply Neutrik powerCON are installed at various places including a pit under the stage floor, machine room in the back stage, ceiling room, and some dressing rooms. Especially, there are many floor pits and patch boxes on the stage, around the spot where a conductor’s podium is usually placed, near the spot where the woodwinds are placed, and sides of the stage. Lids for these pits has holes so that cables can go through the lids while closed.
 The recording was carried out in form of a multitrack recording at 96 kHz/24 bit, using a DAW, MERGING Technologies Pyramix, which was brought in from Teldex studio.
 For the stage box, one MERGING Technologies Hapi interface was installed as the main microphone suspended from the ceiling, and MERGING Technologies one Horus was installed in the machine room for the spot microphones wired through the stage under floor  pit. The RAVENNA signals from the stage box was transmitted to CR through the CAT 6 line in the hall and DELL switch in the machine room. The main DAW with a pyramix using a custom rack mounted PC, inserted with Ravenna CAT 6 PCI card, and a backup PC, bootcamped Apple MacBook Pro, and a monitor control system, DirectOut Technologies PRODUCER.COM, was set up in CR and RAVENNA connected via the DELL switch. (Figure)

Tonmeister René Möller mixing Beethoven 8th Sym.DAW MERGING Technologies Pyramix SystemStage box for mic Mic, MERGING Technologies Hapi

 As a stage box, one MERGING Technologies Hapi was installed as the main microphone suspended from the ceiling, and one MERGING Technologies Horus was installed in the machine room for the spot microphones wired through the stage under floor pit. The RAVENNA signals from the stage box was transmitted to CR through the CAT 6 line in the hall and DELL switch in the machine room. The main DAW with a pyramix using a custom rack mounted PC, inserted with Ravenna CAT 6 PCI card, and a backup PC, bootcamped Apple MacBook Pro, and a monitor control system, DirectOut Technologies PRODUCER.COM, was set up in CR via RAVENNA. (Figure)

for Spot Mic MERGING Technologies Horus, Patch BoxPatch Box under the stageThe lid is drilled cut

Microphone Arrangement :
 In this recording, the main microphone system and the spot microphone for string section were hung from the ceiling. The hall is not equipped with a microphone system with a winch, but there are many holes that can be used to hang microphones from the ceiling.
 The main microphone system was a combination of Decca Tree and AB. For the Decca Tree L-C-R, Neumann 3 KM130 was installed with an interval of 150 cm between the both ends and front space of 75 cm, and for Decca Tree Outrigger LL-RR, 2 more Neumann KM130s were hanged from the ceiling over the 3rd rows of both wings in the string section in a downward direction. For AB, 2 DPA 4006 were set behind the conductor with distance  of 150 cm at the height of 4 m 20 cm. Spot microphones were set in each section, and DPA 4011s were hung from the ceiling over the 1st and 2nd violins, violas, and cellos from the ceiling. In addition, Schoeps MK4 were hung from the ceiling over the back rows of the 1st violins, and Neumann TLM170 for cellos, Schoeps MK4 for violas and 2nd violins, and Neumann TLM103 and Senheiser MKH40 for double basses were placed with stands on the stage. For woodwinds, brass and timpani, Neumann KM 140s were installed.
I asked Mr. Muller why he used different kinds of microphones, and his answer was that he wanted sound with different characters.
Main mic systemSide view of main mic system
Spot mic of the Timp.Spot mic of the 2nd Vn.Spot mic of the Cello
Spot mic of the Cb.Many holes for hanging microphone on the ceilingThe hole

Special Interview :
I did a mail interview on July 2018.

Tonmeister, Wolfram Nehls as recording producer

Q. Please let us know about your career.
A. I graduated from Berlin University of the Arts (formerly HdK) Tornmeister course in 1994. In 1995 start to work as a broadcasting producer (music director) of Deutschlandradio, Deutschlandfunk, Bayerischer Rundfunk, ARTE as freelancer. And also CD Productions for Sony, Pentatone, Capriccio, Naxos. Recordings and Live streams Munich, Bayerische Staatsoper/ Kirill Petrenko, Soldaten, Lulu, Lucia di Lammermoor, Meistersinger, Tannhäuser, Trittico, Lady Macbeth.

Q. Please let us know about the philosophy of music recording and broadcasting. 
A. For a fine balance with a natural sound we need a good basic balance in the main mics. These should be placed very carefully, spot microphones and reverb only in addition, not as the main part of the mix. For this you need a very good orchestra and a very good hall. without good musicians - no good balance. without good acoustics - no good sound.
for shaping a good sound you need good ears, good taste and experience. The recording should give an image of the original musical performance, you should recognize the hall and the orchestra or ensemble. But at the same time it should follow and support the intentions of the composer and the performers. A recording is not like a photography of one moment, it is like a painting, an own artwork - designed with your audio tools.

Q. What is different about producing, the live broadcast, the recorded broadcasting, the CD production?
A. Live recordings can give more spirit and intention, studio recordings could figure out more details and also some special ‘'magic" moments because you can repeat.
very soft and calm parts could be very tricky in live recordings because of noises, often it is better to take this from a recording session, loud passages often have more energy if recorded live in concert. It depends of the kind of music, the audience a.o. Both recording methods have advantages and disadvantages. Some musicians are only inspired in live performance, some are better if they can focus on certain details in a studio session.

Q. How is your impression about recording the orchestra at this new hall? 
A. Great! - Dresden Kulturpalast is a fantastic hall for recordings. homogen sound, clear, wonderful resonance in the low register.

Q. In this CD Productions, You were as Producer, How do you have relationship with conductor and orchestra?
A. I know Michael Sanderling for many years. It is always very helpful if you know and trust each other - conductor and producer. Because the producer is the second ear for the conductor and more than that. You have to learn what the conductor / musicians expect from the recording and sound balance. Then you are able to help and improve the musical performance. 

Q. Please tell us the goodness things about the full session recording or combined with such as live and GP and patch.
A. In Dresden we record live with additional patch sessions. A good way to combine both - the energy of a live performance and the perfectionism of a studio session.

Q. How did you work after the recording? Please let us know the post-Production.
A. Editing and Mixing, CD-Mastering:  Pyramix.  Some extra tools for the Mix.

Tonmeister, Wolfram Nehls, René Möller at work! René Möller with recording equipments Wolfram Nehls and Conductor Michael Sanderling
Tonmeister, René Möller as Balance Engineer

Q. Please let us know about your career.
A. I studied at the UdK Berlin's (formerly HdK) Tonmeister programme where I graduated in 2001. Since 1997 I have been working freelance for ZDF German TV, Teldec Classics, etc. From Warner’s shutdown of Teldec and the new foundation of Teldex Studio Berlin, I have been part of the production team doing all necessary work from assiting, editing, engineering, mixing, producing. Since 2010 I am co-owner of Teldex Studio Berlin. My recent work is Daniel Barenboim, Staatskapelle Berlin, Simon Rattle,Berliner Philharmoniker, The new year's concert vienna philharmonic orchestra as balance engineer.Additionally, in 2013 I joined the teaching team at the UdK Berlin’s Tonmeister programme as a professor for classical music recording.

Q. Please let us know about the philosophy of music recording and broadcasting. 
A. I have been taught in the „Berlin“ school of sound and see myself in the heritage of Martin Fouqué and Eberhard Sengpiel (whom I both had the great privilege to work with): The sound image should always be based on the score and create an imagination within the listener that is taking his attention and creates excitement . 

Q. How do you get the recording of such philosophy in technically?  How is the relation between the main microphone and the spot microphone? Do you use all microphone?  Is it needs some reverbs in orchestra recording?
A. Microphones are our basic and fundamental tools. By setting up different layers of attention we get a flexibility to react on different needs, moods and circumstances. Balancing these different layers is the joy and art of music engineering. Reverb is just one more of these layers that adds to the attention and excitement of the artificial yet fascination product „sound" 

Q. In this CD Productions, You were as Balance Engineer, How do you have relationship with Wolfram and conductor, musician.
A. Music production is teamwork where everyone involved adds his part, starting from the stage technicians, musicians to the conductor and recording team - because the final product is always THEIRS

Q. How is your impression about recording the orchestra at this new hall? 
A. We started this cycle of Beethoven and Shostakovich symphonies in spring 2015, so there is quite a bit of cooperation and trust that has evolved overtime which is absolutely essential for a trusting artistic relationship. Since we „moved“ with the recordings from the legendary Lukaskirche to the newly opened Kulturpalast in spring 2017 none of the trust has gone, but we can surely notice the feeling of „being at home“ within the orchestra. "Being at home“ is where you can rely on your familiar surrounding, where you welcome guests (like the recording team), where you are at ease with you craftsmanship of music-making - all this is made possible to a great extent by the fabulous acoustic and logistic conditions in the newly designed Kulturpalast.

Margriet Lautenbach and Michael Sanderling in Scale Model.The stage of the 1/10 Scale Model Audience enjoy to talk and rest in the concert pause at foyer.
Margriet Lautenbach, Acoustic designer, Peutz 

Q. Please let us know about your career.
A. I graduated in building engineering and started working as a building physics engineer, because I was more interested in physics and how comfortably people feel in buildings than I was in architecture. Slowly I moved to acoustics, there I found a connection with my spare time love: the saxophone. Since I started working at Peutz, in 2003, I am mainly involved in acoustics for concert halls, music venues and theatres. Although the focus point is on room acoustics, we also consult on building acoustics and building physics. That's in our own interest, because you can't enjoy acoustics if it's not quiet or if other comfort is low.  I had the opportunity to consult for instance the renovation of the concert hall De Doelen in Rotterdam, my home town, and in Amsterdam a music rehearsal building with 2 auditoria and 72 rehearsal rooms. Peutz is also the consultant of the renovation of the Concertgebouw Amsterdam. Around 2009 we got 3 important projects in Germany: Staatsoper unter den Linden Berlin, Bühnen Köln and Kulturpalast Dresden. In 2017 the first and the latter were officialy opened, even so the new concert hall Musis Sacrum in Arnhem. In all of these projects my collegue and sparring partner Martijn Vercammen and I work close together, in consulting as well as investigations.  

Q.Please tell us the philosophy of this Kulturpalast's acoustic design.  What was the important part? What was the difficult part? 
A. We find it very important that the musicians and client are involved in decisions on how the hall should sound. Therefore we went on a tour to 5 different concert halls, with a few members from the orchestra as well as the client and architect. From the survey it was found that a combination of the Gewandhaus and De Doelen would suit the orchestra very well. The client was very much in favor of a vineyard type hall, in which the audience literally embraces the music in the centre. For us the main challenge was to combine the geometry of a vineyard hall with the sound of a more shoeboxlike type of hall, with a warm and surround sound. Most difficult is to realise good listening conditions at the rear and the side of the stage, as the orchestra traditionally plays forward. But the largest part of the work is always getting things together, finding the best sollutions for all the things that need their space, and integrating the solutions in the design vision of the architect. That always takes time: to investigate possibilities and discussing these possibilities, investigating again and so forth, and that's how a design grows from a simple idea to a concert hall. 
Room acoustics in itself is a difficult topic. We really want to understand what is going on. That's why we, as part of these projects but also on itself, take on investigations on room and stage acoustics, modelling and measureing techniques. 

Q. Please let us know How did you designed that the performers and audiences how should be feel the sound.
A. First of all, the stage surroundings are acoustically very important. If you compare a concert hall to a musical instrument, the stage is the mouthpiece and the hall is the resonating body. The sound is created at the stage, the stage surroundings should support the musicians hearing themselves and all the others, to play in time and be able to work on balance and sound quality as a whole. At the audience seats, it is important that you have the best combination of enough intelligibilty of all the different instruments and blend from the orchestra as a whole. Adding to that, to our opinion, listeners should be surrounded by music, like a surround system in a (home) cinema. The hall should accomodate this surroundness, connects listeners to the music, get the people involved, so the music is experienced with a closeby feeling. All the surfaces you see in the Kulturpalast concert hall is designed architurally as well as acoustically, every surface has its job in the reflection and absorption of sound, the frequency spectrum and the surroundness. 

Conclusion :
 I got to see a concert hall, the exterior of which is kept as it was when it was constructed and the interior of which was wholly reconstructed, for the first time. As I collected information, the background stories made me realize again that there were 2 different nations in Germany after the war, and I strongly felt that the city of Dresden resolves they has to save their history for the identity of the future. 
 On the other hand, from the aspect of“how to make a hall,” I understood that there is deep communication between the orchestra, the conductor and the acoustic designer. Furthermore, from the aspect of “how to make a recording,” there was a deep mutual relationship between the Tonmeister, the orchestra, and the conductor as if they are long-time partners. Through these research and interviews, I understood from experience how we, engineers, should make relationship with each one of other sections, and I felt I should continue enlightenment of these ideas in Japan. Finally, I would like to thank each one of the people I met for introducing their practice and philosophy to me. Thank you so much. 

More Information

Acoustic of the Kulturpalast Dresden

Complete Beethoven symphonies Box will release autumn 2018

This report was originally contributed to Japanese PROSOUND on Oct 2018, Vol.207 issue. 
Japanese to English translate supported by Hitoshi Sugie.