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Synchron Stage Vienna Offers Film Composers an Austrian Alternative

As more film, TV and game projects flee the U.S. to avoid union music obligations, the construction of a new scoring stage in Europe is news on both sides of the Atlantic.

Synchron Stage Vienna has quietly opened in the Austrian city that was once home to Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn and Strauss.

Scores already recorded there include Hans Zimmer’s music for “Inferno,” third in the film series of Dan Brown films with Tom Hanks slated for a fall release; and Rupert Gregson-Williams’ music for the upcoming Peter Morgan-created Netflix series “The Crown.”

Herb Tucmandl, founder and CEO of the Vienna Symphonic Library – one of the most popular sample libraries used by composers – acquired the building, which was built in 1939-40 and was for many years a top recording stage for both films and classical recordings.

World-class conductors from Herbert von Karajan to Mstislav Rostropovich recorded there, but by the 1970s and ’80s the stage had fallen into disuse. In the 1990s it was used primarily as a rehearsal hall for opera productions.

“It’s the perfect room to record music, especially for film,” says Tucmandl. “The design and acoustics, originally from the ’40s, are more or less intact,” he adds, partly because the building is considered a Viennese landmark and “we had to take care not to destroy anything which is historically important.”

Tucmandl spent 10 million Euros ($11.4 million) upgrading the equipment, rewiring, fixing the heating and air conditioning, installing new consoles and buying new instruments. (Three high-end pianos and an entire battery of percussion are available, stored in the climate-controlled basement.)

“It has a very natural resonance. It’s like recording in a concert hall,” says composer-orchestrator Conrad Pope, who was among the first to record there last October, inaugurating the space with a re-recording of Anton Profes’ romantic music from the 1950s “Sissi” biopics of the Austrian Empress Elisabeth.

“If you have a huge orchestra, it’s the place to be,” adds Pope. The 5,800-square-foot Stage A can accommodate as many as 130 musicians. There is a smaller room, the 860-square-foot Stage B, with space for up to 30 musicians.

One of the unusual aspects of the main room is its room-in-room design, with a 10-foot gap between walls, ensuring no sound leakage from outside.

“It’s already, arguably, one of the best rooms in Europe,” says recording engineer Dennis Sands, who consulted on the sound, recommended the microphone setup, and recorded Pope’s sessions. “Sonically, it’s a world-class facility. It has a beautiful quality.”

The goal, says Tucmandl, is to offer a higher quality of music-making and music recording than that of current low-cost scoring destinations Budapest, Prague and Bratislava. “Our goal is to deliver the same quality as London,” which is widely considered the best on that side of the Atlantic.

Pope and Sands describe the recording and mixing equipment as “state of the art,” and the musicians, says, Pope, “are young, eager and ready to play.” Already classically trained, they are now being trained in the film-specific arena of playing to click tracks and recording in stems (a section of the orchestra at a time).

“Then, of course,” adds Tucmandl, “we are a software company, so we are also developing tools which will give more flexibility and creativity in producing music. We will bring together the real world and the virtual world in this building. Hybrid scores can be produced very comfortably here.”

London’s main stages, Abbey Road and AIR Studios, are constantly overbooked, composers say. “London is the benchmark,” says Sands, “but at some point, people will be just as comfortable going to Vienna.”

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