Victor Talking Machine Company - Electrical Recording Era

Electrical Recording Era

The advent of radio as a home entertainment medium in the early 1920s presented Victor and the entire record industry with new challenges. Not only was music becoming available over the air free of charge, but a live broadcast made using a high-quality microphone and heard over a high-quality receiver provided clearer, more "natural" sound than a contemporary phonograph record. In 1925, Victor switched from the old acoustical or mechanical method of recording to the new microphone-based electrical system developed by Western Electric. Victor called their version of the improved fidelity recording process "Orthophonic", and sold a line of new designs of phonographs to play these improved records, called "Orthophonic Victrolas". The large top-of-the-line "Credenza" models of Orthophonic Victrolas had a 1.8 m (6 foot) long horn coiled inside the cabinet, and are often considered the high point of the development of the commercial wind-up phonograph, offering audio fidelity seldom matched by most home electric phonographs until some 30 years later. Victor electric recordings began being issued in spring 1925. However, in order to manufacture a sufficient supply of the electric recordings to satisfy anticipated demand and to allow dealers to liquidate their stock of acoustic recordings, Victor and its rival, Columbia, agreed to keep secret from the public, until the end of 1925, the fact that the recordings using this new process offered a vast improvement over the older acoustical recordings. With a large advertising campaign, Victor introduced its Orthophonic records on "Victor Day", November 2, 1925.

Victor's first commercial electrical recording was made at the company's Camden, New Jersey studios on February 26, 1925. A group of eight popular Victor artists, Billy Murray, Frank Banta, Henry Burr, Albert Campbell, Frank Croxton, John Meyer, Monroe Silver, and Rudy Wiedoeft gathered to record "A Miniature Concert". Several takes were recorded by the old acoustic process, then additional takes were recorded electrically for test purposes. The electric recordings turned out well, and Victor issued the results that summer as the two sides of 12-inch 78 rpm record Victor 35753.

However, the first recorded commercial electrical recording was not the first issued commercial electric recording, and Gelatt notes for the first issued commercial electric recording that, "chronological pride of place goes to Victor 19626", with both sides being selections from the (University of Pennsylvania's) Mask and Wig Club's production Joan of Arkansas conducted by Nathaniel Shilkret. The A-side was recorded on March 16, 1925 and the B-side on March 20, 1925.

Victor quickly recorded the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Stokowski in a series of electrical recordings, initially at its Camden, New Jersey studios and then in Philadelphia's Academy of Music. Among Stokowski's first electrical recordings were performances of Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saƫns and Marche Slave by Peter Tchaikovsky. Frederick Stock and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra made a series of recordings for Victor, beginning in 1925, first in Victor's Chicago studios and then in Orchestra Hall. The San Francisco Symphony Orchestra conducted by Alfred Hertz made a few acoustical recordings early in 1925, then switched to electrical recordings in Oakland and San Francisco, California, continuing until 1928. Within a few years, Serge Koussevitsky began a long series of recordings with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Boston's Symphony Hall. Toscanini made his first Victor electrical recordings with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in 1929.

In 1926, Johnson sold his controlling (but not holding) interest in Victor to the banking firm of Seligman & Spyer, who in 1929 sold to the Radio Corporation of America, which then became known as the Radio-Victor Division of the Radio Corporation of America later RCA Victor. (See RCA and RCA Records for later history of the Victor brand name.)

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