How do they MIC a symphony?

I'm not a big classical fan but what I like I love. Mostly I'm into solos but I just listened to the Classic 45 series of Beethoven's "Violin Concerto (in D)" - Heifetz/Munch with the Boston Symphony and the recording was incredibly airy. I thought there was static on the LP at first but then I realized it was the rustling of a shirt and the whistling of a nose from (I assume) the conductor breathing and since many instruments were playing I'm assuming it wasn't from a single musician (unless a very overweight triangle player.) Whoa! (Am i hearing things, btw?)

I've heard similar personal sounds on Beehoven's "Moonlight Sonata" (Serkin) and Bach's 6 suites for cello (Casals) but these are solo pieces and the sound was coming from the players which makes sense.

How do they mic a live symphony? How do they mic a recorded one? Where do the engineers try to place the home audience?

Hope those questions aren't too basic but I'm fascinated by this now and would love to know.

To my knowledge, there is no one method that is standardized. Most of the more modern recordings will be multi-miked with many mikes placed all around the orchestra. Then this is all mixed together in the mixing booth.

Back in the good old days, when they knew better, they placed a single pair of Neumann tube mikes suspended from wires above the audience's head at about the 6th row. One for each channel, from the prime listening position. This is a super way to mike, because all the stereo information is phased correctly, and needs no "playing around" in the mixing booth. You actually hear the instruments in their proper positions in the orchestra, and they are correctly balanced just the way you would have heard the performance live. Many of the old Mercury Living Presence recordings were done this way, and that's why people want them so much. Sure, there were other limitations, but the presentation was correct, at least. I can't listen to many of the newer multi-miked classical recordings because they have the instruments imaged out of whack.
Another way is that the orchestra is spaced further apart on the stage during a recording session (the SFO at Davies Hall does this) in order to provide a wide soundstage and the illusion of correct instrument placement, which is purported to be difficult to achieve with the orchestra in the normal position.
If you want to hear "rustling" buy a Glenn Gould solo performance. His Goldberg Variations are a classicof interpretation and sing-along.
Each record label has its own preferred miking. Twl is correct, before they knew any better companies like RCA and Mercury did it right with minimal arrays (Merc just used three spaced mikes across the front of the orchestra); gradually RCA started using more and more mikes in the later years of, and after, its legendary Living Stereo series. Columbia/CBS, after a while, became obsessed with multi-miking, and Deutsche Grammaphon has always multi-miked orchestras, running everything through a mixing console acording to the Tonmeister's taste. Telarc is fairly minimalist, using spaced omnis and a spot mike for soloists, which some don't like because it doesn't provide pinpoint imaging multi-miking can do. London/Decca has a triangular setup (the famous Decca tree) above and behind the conductor, with a few spot mikes for winds and other instruments, depending on the piece; Delos uses a spaced array in front of the orchestra with spot mikes for winds and other areas of the orchestra that need it, plus some ambience mikes they place out in the hall. It ultimately depends on the skill of the recording engineer and the artistic taste of the producer to produce a fine classical recording, but the goal of most labels is to put you into the concert hall (although the row you get in that hall may vary from label to label).
Rcprince... impressive response! all of them; thanks guys.

btw, anyone know if the Beethoven i was listening to is considered to be a special recording or am i just finally getting to hear details from vinyl with my new setup (thanks to twl.) This copy is the Classic 45 series from the original living stereo rca red seal...or, rather, from the master recording they used for that rca copy (i assume.)

If someone has this i'd like to know if they hear the guy with the nose whistle problem on the first track or if i'm really in trouble this time ...mentally.

One of the finest recordings and performances of the work, IMHO. The XRCD of this recording is very good, but the Classic reissue, particularly the 45 rpm version, is superb. I will listen to it tonight to figure out if it's Heifetz (quite possible, as they close-miked their star) or someone else who's got the nasal problems, but I do recall hearing that breathing as well, so you haven't lost it!

Funny you should post this thread when you did. On Tuesday July 22nd, I attended the Philadelphia Orchestra doing the Beethoven Violin Concerto with Itzak Perlman. They were recording the performance (probably for their archives), and I noticed that they were multi-miking the be-jeezus out of it. I counted no less than 12 spot mics along with a spaced pair of omnis above and behind the conductor (Hans Graf) hanging from the proscenium. This was an all Beethoven concert including the Corolian Overture, The 4th Symphony, and the Violin Concerto. I've done a bit of live recording myself, and I'm of the minimalist mic school: the fewer the better, well placed to capture the hall as well as the music. Kavi Alexander of Water Lily Acoustics is the current master of this technique in my book: 2 custom made tube mics, all analog recordings. Listen sometime if you can to his recording of the Philadelphia Orch. on the Water Lily "Nature's Realm" to hear what good 2 mic recordings can sound like.
Well, there was a lot of ambient noise at my house last night (the Newark flight path was over my house last night, it seemed), but I think you're hearing Heifetz breathing. You can also hear some of the orchestra's sheet music being turned at one point, I think.

Slipknot's right about the Water Lily recording, it's a very minimalist recording that sounds very realistic, although to hear it at its best you need to have your speakers at a 90 degree angle to each other or something like that, and don't expect to hear any hall sound (not at all the recording's fault, the venue is as dry a hall as there is). Of the current recording philosophies, I like Delos's best, as I am a fan of their chief recording engineer John Eargle and his work--he does use a few spot mikes, but mixes them in very unobtrusively. Other current classical recording engineers whose work I think is top-notch are Tony Faulkner, Peter McGrath and Michael Bishop (plus the person responsible for the latest SFO recordings), as they seem to have a very good sense of how to make an orchestra sound like you'd hear it in concert. And of course, the great recording teams of the past, Mohr/Layton for RCA, Cozart/Fine for Mercury, and Wilkerson for Decca, all made great-sounding classical recordings. There is no one way to make a recording of an orchestra, as all of these folks use different techniques, but they all have results that are satisfying.
Of course you intended to type "Wilkinson" of Decca, as in Kenneth Wilkinson. Great listing of superb recording engineers.
I am a terrible typist, you are of course correct. Maybe I was thinking of Bobby Wilkerson, the forward on that Indiana national basketball championship team that beat my beloved alma mater in 1976?
Multimicing saves money for the recording company because various screwups that ought to be corrected, and the music replayed, can be patched up (sort of) in the mixing process. It costs a fortune to "rent" an orchestra, so you want to get it done ASAP.

The ultimate multimic situation occurs when one musician isn't even playing at the same time and place as the rest of them. For example, if the concert hall does not have an organ, this part can be dubbed in later by an organist wearing earphones.

The sound tack of the movie "Sweet Dreams" (life of singer Patsy Cline) is interesting. Patsy was in a sound isolation booth (with earphones) when she sang, so her voice is on a completely separate track of the master tape. This made it possible to mix her in with better audio quality accompaniment than that on her original records.