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Pristine News: Friday 21st August, 2009



In this week's newsletter:
  • Stokowski's Wagner - Rare late-40s concert performances with the New York Philharmonic
  • Ormandy's Russians -  Stravinsky and Rachmaninov together in a superb studio set
  • PADA Exclusives - Egon Petri plays Bach and Beethoven in 1950
  • MusicWeb International Review -  Rob Barnett delights in Stokowski's NY Phil De Falla


Editorial - The joys, and otherwise, of FLAC downloads and sudden press attention...


The last few weeks have seen some rather hectic activity here, trying to keep on top of a sudden surge of interest in Pristine Classical, largely as a result of Alex Ross's very well received article in The New Yorker at the start of the month. Not only has this brought us to the attention of many people for the first time, but the influence of the magazine - even during the summer holiday season - was sufficient to more than double our website's traffic to levels that the likes of BBC Music Magazine are more used to seeing than we are!

Naturally this has been good for sales, and August looks set to be one of our best months since we started back on 1st February, 2005 (those long-ago days where we waited patiently for 5 weeks for our first MP3 sale!). At the same time we have a lot of people trying out music downloads for the first time, or dipping a toe into the potentially confusing world of FLAC lossless downloads for the first time. The majority have, I hope, found great success here - or don't wish to talk about it!

For some, however, it's been a bit of a steep learning curve, and naturally they've been asking for help. Some questions are easier to answer than others, but the one which has come up time and time again is how on earth do you play FLAC files on a Mac/iTunes/iPod/anything Apple-related?

To put it simply, Macs (out of the box) can't play FLACs. Apple really doesn't want you listening to FLAC audio files, which is why it has its own lossless file format (sometimes known as ALAC) built into its software and hardware. Fine - I'm sure it does an excellent job, integrates seamlessly into Apple's system, and sounds as great as any lossless format should. I'd love to use it myself, but there's just one small problem: Apple won't let me. Nor will they let any other commercial organisation use it. They won't license the software that makes these files, and they've apparently  threatened legal action on companies trying to sell downloads using the format, most of whom can't afford to lose a legal action against Apple.

So we come full circle back to FLAC. It's the most popular lossless file format around. It's increasingly supported by PC and Linux software, as well as the newer generations of hardware-based media players. It's open-source, it's free - but Apple doesn't want you to have it, and they don't want anyone else to have their alternative.

There are a number of workarounds to this fundamental problem. A free bit of software called 'Fluke' will sit inside iTunes and persuade it to play FLACs - but it won't let you burn CDs from them, and you won't get far using this on your iPod. There are a handful of programs you can download (again, for free) which will convert FLACs into formats that Apple computers do like - which is of course a nuisance, but not the end of the world. Or you can put iTunes to one side and download and install something called Cog, which does much the same job but plays a much wider range of files.

Fortunately the current incarnation of Toast, perhaps the most popular CD-writing application for the Mac, will happily munch through your FLACs and either convert them for you, or put them onto an audio CD. Just make sure you're not using the 24-bit version for the Audio CD though, or you'll be opening up another can of worms!

Meanwhile, Microsoft is little better. Their Windows Media Player is as ignorant about FLAC as Apple's iTunes, and they seem to be playing a similar game in trying to push users towards their own, proprietary lossless format. In a world where just about every other PC-based media player is more than happy to play FLACs for you, and all the latest incarnations of CD writing software will pop them onto a disc for you, Microsoft's online list of what Windows Media Player can and can't play doesn't even deign to list FLAC amongst the formats that aren't supported.

Fortunately it's not difficult to patch WMP so that it'll play FLACs as if it's been doing it all its life. But it's still a confusing world out there right now. If you're having difficulties, or thinking of dipping a toe in the FLAC water, do read through our tutorials and try downloading a sample FLAC first. As with a lot of things, handling FLAC is easy when you know how - but getting there is sometimes harder than it ought to be. Apple and Microsoft would do well to wake up to this reality, instead of fighting format wars they've already lost!


Andrew Rose, Pristine Audio




Also of interest today:
  • Archive Classics - excellent weekly online radio programme dedicated to historic recordings:

    Archive Classics tx 21/08/2009

    This week Elgar is again in the spotlight, with a classic recording of his `Enigma Variations’, his set of 12 charming, intimate musical portraits of his `friends pictured within’, framed by the famously enigmatic theme, and by variations representing Elgar’s wife and finally the composer himself. Stephen Johnson, an Elgar expert, has chosen a 1953 recording by the London Symphony Orchestra under Sir Malcolm Sargent.

    Variations 1-8 are on the free podcast; subscribers can download the complete work.

    Stephen’s selection this week begins with another set of variations, Mozart’s delightful set of nine piano variations on the French opera aria `Lison dormait’, K264. They’re played by the great German pianist Walter Gieseking in a 1955 recording. We also have the famous duet from Bizet’s opera `The Pearlfishers’, in a 1931 recording with the great Italian tenor Beniamino Gigli singing an Italian translation of the Act I romance `Je crois entendre encore’, under the baton of Eugene Goossens. And to finish there’s Brahms’s wonderful Piano Trio No.3 in C minor, Op.101, recorded in 1955 by the fabulous combination of Yehudi Menuhin (violin), Eugene Istomin (piano), and Pablo Casals (cello).

    Bonus tracks for subscribers only

    •    The complete Enigma Variations
    •    Hindemith’s Violin Sonata in E, recorded in 1938 by the American violinist Ruth Posselt (1914-2007), with pianist Allan Sly





New to Pristine Classical? Get Started Here:
   Recordings by Artist - Recordings by Composer - Full printable Pristine Audio catalogue





New release today:

Stokowksi conducts Wagner
Pristine Audio PASC 182

Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York
conducted by Leopold Stokowski

Recorded at Carngie Hall in 1947 and 1949 and Municipal Auditorium, Birmingham, Alabama, 1949

Sourced from tapes in the Jack Baumgarten archive
Tape transfers and XR remastering by Andrew Rose at Pristine Audio, August 2009
Cover artwork based on a photograph of Leopold Stokowski

Total duration: 68:48 
©2009 Pristine Audio.

For more download and CD options, see our website

The FLAC downloads:

Ambient Stereo FLAC

16-bit Mono FLAC
24-bit FLAC



Rare Stokowski broadcast performances of orchestral Wagner

new transfers from Jack Baumgarten's New York Philharmonic tapes

 

  • Wagner: Götterdämmerung Synthesis (arr. Stokowski):
    Siegfried's Rhine Journey - Funeral March - Brünnhilde's Immolation (42:20)
    Carnegie Hall, New York, 3rd April 1949 

  • Wagner: Parsifal - Good Friday Spell (10:40)
    Carnegie Hall, New York, 6th April 1947

  • Wagner: Siegfried - Forest Murmurs (8:38)
    Wagner: Das Rheingold - Entrance of the Gods into Valhalla (6:47)
    Municipal Auditorium, Birmingham, Alabama, 24th April 1949

 

Leopold Stokowski's one-time assistant, Jack Baumgarten, kept an extensive open-reel tape collection of recordings of the maestro, made over many years. These have been the excellent sources of many previous CD releases, both here and on other record labels - most notably the Cala issues in conjunction with the Stokowski Society.

This latest release continues Pristine's investigation of Stokowski's live performances in the late 1940's with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, in this release concentrating on one of the conductor's great specialities - Wagner.

The first performance, a 40-minute orchestral 'synthesis' of sections from Götterdämmerung, is a masterful example of Stokowski and the NY Phil at their best. Coupled with three further rare recordings, this is a fabulous package of excellent music-making!


Download listening sample: Sample MP3 (Gõtterdämmerung Synthesis: Opening excerpt, 224kbps ambient stereo)

Notes on the recording:

These recordings were taken from the tape archive of Stokowski recordings collected and maintained by the conductor's assistant, Jack Baumgarten. Although sound quality varies between the three broadcasts, and is perhaps marginally better for the Götterdämmerung Synthesis than for the other two concerts, all are in reasonably good shape for live broadcasts of this era. The final concert represented here, broadcast live from Birmingham, Alabama, would presumeably have been relayed by wire to the main CBS broadcasting centre, something which in itself would normally be expected to diminish the sound quality of the broadcast.

It is also clear that the engineer operating this outside broadcast was inclined once or twice to indulge in 'gain riding', possibly to avoid overloading the system and running into distortion problems. I have attempted to undo these level changes and present, as well as one can assume, something that bears a better relation to the volumes actually played.

Finally, there is evidence in the first recording of a small degree of pitch instability, or 'wow'. Although remastering has served to make this less apparent, it may still be noticeable in one or two section of the recording.

 


 

Available as 320kbps MP3, 16-bit FLAC, 24-bit FLAC, Ambient Stereo FLAC, CD
or listen on demand with Pristine Audio Direct Access (PADA)







New release today:

Ormandy conducts Stravinsky and Rachmaninov
Pristine Audio PASC 183

The Philadelphia Orchestra
conducted by Eugene Ormandy

Recorded in 1950. 1954 and 1955

Transfers from vinyl by Edward Johnson
Restoration and XR remastering by Andrew Rose at Pristine Audio, August 2009
Cover artwork based on a photograph of Eugene Ormandy

Total duration: 66:10 
©2009 Pristine Audio.


For more download and CD options, see our website

The FLAC downloads:

Ambient Stereo FLAC

16-bit Mono FLAC
24-bit FLAC



Ormandy's excellent recordings of C20 Russian classics

Digitally remastered and issued for the first time since their LP releases

 

  • Stravinsky - Petrushka Suite
    Recorded 7th November, 1954
    Transfer from Columbia LP ML5030

  • Stravinsky - The Rite of Spring
    Recorded 24th April and 14th May, 1955
    Transfer from Columbia LP ML5030

  • Rachmaninov - Preludes (orch. Cailliet):
    Prelude in C sharp minor, Op. 3 No. 2 
    Prelude in G major, Op. 32 No. 5 
    Prelude in G minor, Op. 23 No. 5
    Recorded 4th February 1950
    Transfer from Columbia LP ML2158

 

Eugene Ormandy famously made a colossal number of recordings, with many works re-recorded multiple times, making it at times hard to take in his entire body of recorded work.

This release concentrates of recordings of 20th Century Russian composers, with his only recording of The Rite of Spring finding a remarkable new life following Pristine's XR remastering, which has transformed a rather dull and constricted sound into something hugely more dynamic and enjoyable.

Elsewhere, we find three orchestrated piano preludes by Sergei Rachmaninov, again never to be recorded again by Ormandy, and never reissued since their LP release nearly 60 years ago. As with the Stravinsky, the remastered sound is lovely, bringing out the full range of Ormandy's excellent Philadelphia Orchestra. A real find!



Download listening sample: Sample MP3  (Petrushka Suite: The Shrove-Tide Fair 224kbps ambient stereo))

Notes on the recording:

These transfers, made by Edward Johnson from his own collection, bring together three excellent recordings made in the first half of the 1950s by Eugene Ormandy of Russian classics of the 20th Century. The two works by Stravinsky will be familiar to most, though the Petrushka Suite is a cut-down version to that found on most recordings today, and Ormandy plays through the two parts of The Rite of Spring as if they were one, with no gap - possibly in order to squeeze the entire work onto a single LP side. Both recordings have responded very well to XR remastering - with excellent transfers of near mint LPs going a very long way to assist in this. The remastering has revealed an openness and depth to the recordings which, in their original incarnations, were sonically quite restricted, revealing altogether more enjoyable and satisfying performances than one might have gleaned from hearing the original LPs.

Cailliet's Rachmaninov orchestrations, themselves rarely heard, are the only recordings Ormandy made of these delightful pieces. Alas, stepping back from 1954 to early 1950 one is only too aware of how much progress in capturing good sound had been made in the intervening years, and these three short recordings presented much greater challenges in restoration and remastering. A combination of poorer original acoustics and higher background hiss and noise, particularly in the second of the three recordings, all had to be overcome, and I'm quietly pleased with the results I was able to obtain. If you've never heard these Preludes played by an orchestra, they're well worth investigating - and if you're a fan of Ormandy, they're essential!

 




Available as 320kbps MP3, 16-bit FLAC, 24-bit FLAC, Ambient Stereo FLAC, CD
or listen on demand with Pristine Audio Direct Access (PADA)




New MP3 transfers at PADA Exclusives
by Dr. John Duffy
in Ambient Stereo

Egon Petri plays Bach and Beethoven, May 1950

Petri
Egon Petri

J S Bach:
Chaconne 
(from Sonata No. 4 for Violin, transc. Busoni)

Beethoven:
Sonata No. 6 in F major, 
Op. 10 No. 2 


Egon Petri
Piano 
Recorded 15 May 1950
Issued as Columbia LP ML2049 

Two recordings together from one of the great pianists of the mid-20th century. Petri excelled in Beethoven, as this sonata recording amply demonstrates.

He also considered himself a 'disciple' (as opposed to a mere student) of Busoni - the two worked together in Switzerland in the 1920s editing the works of Bach.

It is therefore fitting that the Bach Chaconne which completes this recording is one adapted for piano by Busoni from the original work, written for unaccompanied solo violin

Dr. John Duffy's excellent new transfer of these recordings is now available in Ambient Stereo for PADA subscribers.

Over 400 PADA Exclusives recordings are available for high-quality streamed listening and free 224kbps MP3 download to all subscribers.

Remastered by 
Dr John Duffy
In Ambient Stereo




Download or stream this recording and many others from only One Euro a week!

Hundreds of historic recordings are available for listening and free MP3 download
  to subscribers to PADA Exclusives, our €1/week streamed audio service.


Other subscription offers give you full access to our entire online catalogue






Recent review at MusicWeb International




AVAILABILITY Pristine Audio
(as CD or FLAC or mp3 download)


Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)
El Amor Brujo (1915) [22:08]
Noches en los jardines de Espana (1916) [21:48]
Nan Merriman (mezzo); William Kapell (piano)
New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra/Leopold Stokowski
rec. live, Carnegie Hall, New York, 21 March 1948 (Amor); 13 November 1949 (Noches). Mono. ADD
PRISTINE XR PASC 174 [44:44]



As far as I am aware this is the first time these live concert recordings have appeared on disc.

There are times in this version of the full ballet El Amor Brujo when one is almost certain the furies have taken possession of the conductor. Listen to the initial Introduction and Scene. Stokowski's vehemence there and elsewhere verges on the splenetic. Other sections are more romantic and relaxed. The Ritual Fire Dance is taut and has a whiplash sting. Nan Merriman assumes the raw, harsh and smoky manner of the Iberian singing tradition and does so to good effect. Stokowski makes something special of this score even if the product sometimes seems rushed. In Pantomime the great cello melody - a tune with long and shapely legs - is spun with wonderfully lissom tonal weight.

Nights in the Gardens of Spain is a luxury item with Kapell at the keyboard. However as a reading it strikes me as superficial overall with little of the poetry or depth to be experienced from say Haskil, Larrocha or Soriano. It's rather a contrast with the special El amor brujo not to mention the equally glorious Stokowski Tchaikovsky 5 (International Festival Youth Orchestra ) I have just heard on Cameo Classics. The latter is complete with a compulsive-listening extended rehearsal sequence.

These are taken from second generation tapes of radio broadcasts complete with a Spanish announcement at the end of El Amor and in English for Noches.

There are notes and a detailed track-list.

The Pristine processing leaves in place a bristling low-key bed of analogue background. At the same time Andrew Rose's restorative work preserves what sounds like an essentially healthy signal.

These are each in their way rather special performances and of great interest to both Stokowski collectors and de Falla enthusiasts.

Rob Barnett



Check out MusicWeb International for hundreds of new reviews every month!

New MP3 transfers at PADA Exclusives
by Dr. John Duffy
in Ambient Stereo

Joseph Lhevinne's beautiful 1906 
piano rolls

Joseph Lhevinne
Joseph Lhevinne (1874-1944)

Music by Chopin, Lilszt, Schubert, Beethoven et al
Joseph Lhevinne
Welte-Mignon Piano Rolls
Recorded 1906 

Joseph Arkadievich Lhévinne was born into a family of musicians in Oryol and studied at the Imperial Conservatory in Moscow under Vasily Safonov. His public debut came at the age of 14 with Ludwig van Beethoven's Emperor Concerto in a performance conducted by his musical hero Anton Rubinstein. He graduated at the top of a class which included both Sergei Rachmaninoff and Alexander Scriabin, winning the Gold Medal for piano in 1892.

He left only a handful of acoustic recordings which are truly breathtaking examples of perfect technique and musical elegance. The discs of Chopin Etudes Op. 25. Nos. 6 and 11 and Schulz-Evler's arrangement of Johann Strauss II's Blue Danube Waltzare legendary among pianists and connoisseurs. His piano roll of Schumann's Papillons, Op. 2, is considered one of the definitive performances of that work.

In the words of Harold C. Schonberg: "His tone was like the morning stars singing together, his technique was flawless even if measured against the fingers of Hofmann and Rachmaninoff, and his musicianship was sensitive." Lhévinne made a number of piano rolls in the 1920s for Ampico, a collection of which were superbly recorded and released on the Argo label in 1966.

Lhévinne also recorded three times for the Welte-Mignon reproducing piano.

Dr. John Duffy's excellent new transfer of these wonderful recordings is now available in Ambient Stereo for PADA subscribers.

Over 400 PADA Exclusives recordings are available for high-quality streamed listening and free 224kbps MP3 download to all subscribers.

Remastered by 
Dr John Duffy
In Ambient Stereo




Download or stream this recording and many others from only One Euro a week!

Hundreds of historic recordings are available for listening and free MP3 download
  to subscribers to PADA Exclusives, our €1/week streamed audio service.


Other subscription offers give you full access to our entire online catalogue






Recent review at Audiophile Audition



Obert-Thorn happily resurrects the 1928-1930 Tchaikovsky inscriptions this fastidious conductor made for Electrola.

Published on August 25, 2009

Blech conducts TCHAIKOVSKY = Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64; Serenade for Strings in C Major, Op. 48: Valse and Tema Russo; Capriccio Italien, Op. 45 (edited) - Berlin State Opera Orchestra/Leo Blech - Pristine Audio

Blech conducts TCHAIKOVSKY = Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64; Serenade for Strings in C Major, Op. 48: Valse and Tema Russo; Capriccio Italien, Op. 45 (edited) - Berlin State Opera Orchestra/Leo Blech



Pristine Audio PASC181, 57:25 [www.pristineclassical.com] ****: 



Producer and recording engineer Mark Obert-Thorn has delved in the archives of Leo Blech (1871-1958) and eschewed the usual Wagner inscription or one of the Fritz Kreisler concerto projects Blech led in Berlin prior to Kreisler’s later EMI sojourns. Instead, Obert-Thorn happily resurrects the 1928-1930 Tchaikovsky inscriptions this fastidious conductor made for Electrola; but I say “fastidious” in spite of the sometimes severe cuts that plagued Tchaikovsky shellacs in order to suit the time limits of the 78 rpm medium.



From the opening “turn not unto sorrow” motif derived from Glinka, Blech delivers a thoughtful, resonant declaration of Fate in the Fifth Symphony (October 1930), moving attacca to the Allegro con anima where others might pause a moment. A grand procession ensues, even with a diminuendo or two thrown in so as to increase the drama. The tempo remains brisk but not without epic pathos, the BSOO string exquisitely poised between arco and plucked passages. While Blech applies tempo rubato, it is never so exaggerated as we find in Mengelberg, so the basic, steady pulse reaches an inexorable, logical conclusion. The large waltz tune moves in linear, driven fashion, picking up accents and resonance as it mounts to typical Tchaikovsky trumpet fanfare. The working-out emphasizes Tchaikovsky’s devotion to sonata-form, the pace at the recap decidedly fiery, even glib. The last chords rumble with grim resolve...





Read the rest of this review at http://www.audaud.com/article?ArticleID=6300


New MP3 transfers at PADA Exclusives
by Dr. John Duffy
in Ambient Stereo

Leonard Shure plays Schubert and Schumann, 1958

Leonard Shure (1910-1995)
Leonard Shure (1910-1995)

Schubert
Wanderer Fantasy

Schumann
Fantasy in C, Op 17 

Leonard Shure, Piano
Recorded 1958
Issued as Epic LC3508 

Leonard Shure, internationally acclaimed concert pianist and pedagogue, held faculty and chairman positions at the Cleveland Institute of Music and the Cleveland Music School Settlement in the 1940s and early 1950s. Under the baton of George Szell, he was a frequent soloist with the Cleveland Orchestra.

Upon returning from his studies with Artur Schnabel in Berlin in 1933, began his professional teaching career at the Longy School and the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston and his adult professional performing career (his first childhood performances began at age four) as a soloist with Serge Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Shure was also the first pianist to perform at Tanglewood, the summer home for the BSO. Following his tenure in Cleveland, Leonard Shure taught at the Mannes College of Music in New York, the University of Texas at Austin, Boston University, and, in 1976, finally back to the New England Conservatory of Music. It was from there that he retired in 1990 following a sold out recital celebrating his 80th birthday.

Dr. John Duffy's excellent new transfer of these recordings is now available in Ambient Stereo for PADA subscribers.

Over 400 PADA Exclusives recordings are available for high-quality streamed listening and free 224kbps MP3 download to all subscribers.

Remastered by 
Dr John Duffy
In Ambient Stereo




Download or stream this recording and many others from only One Euro a week!

Hundreds of historic recordings are available for listening and free MP3 download
  to subscribers to PADA Exclusives, our €1/week streamed audio service.


Other subscription offers give you full access to our entire online catalogue






New review in Fanfare Magazine




MOZART Piano Concerto No. 27.1 Symphony No. 292
Arturo Toscanini, cond; Rudolf Serkin (pn); New York P-SO;1 NBC SO2
PRISTINE 164, mono (47:34) Broadcast: New York 2/23/1936;1 9/3/1944.2
Available at www.pristineclassical.com

 Neither of these performances is new to CD, the Symphony having been issued in a now probably scarce Grammophono disc, the concerto in a two-CD Guild set (sold only outside the U.S.) that preserved the entire concert of February, 23, 1936, from which this Serkin performance was drawn. It marked his debut in the U.S. as soloist with symphony orchestra and also featured him in the Beethoven G-Major Concerto. This transfer of the Mozart derives from the same air-check used by Guild, and thus is missing part of the first movement—a loss that begins shortly before the tutti that precedes the cadenza and extends into part of the cadenza itself. The sound of this transfer, in its presence and impact, is slightly superior to Guild’s. But, though thoroughly listenable, it remains markedly inferior to the studio norm for the period. That said, the performance should prove fascinating for anyone interested in the artists, especially Toscanini. It is certainly unlike the conductor’s 1943 NBC performance of the work with Horszowski (once available from Naxos). Sometimes that later one even approaches glibness. By contrast, this 1936 collaboration with Serkin boasts greater breadth and flexibility from both conductor and soloist. But, unlike the 1943 performance, it does not contain an addition of seven measures in the opening tutti that Toscanini inferred to be missing in what was then the standard (but corrupt) edition. Ultimately, Serkin, who gained access to Mozart’s manuscript, confirmed what had been only a suspicion on Toscanini’s part. Today, these seven measures have become standard. Clearly, several limitations, sonic and textual, limit the appeal of this release. Nevertheless, it is a significant document of a memorable collaboration in a work that was Toscanini’s favorite Mozart concerto.

The Symphony No. 29 is another matter. In his notes for this release, producer Andrew Rose cites my Arturo Toscanini: the NBC Years, where I noted that the performance is a “revelation for its time” when compared to the recorded accounts of the work made by Koussevitzky and Beecham. This is certainly true in terms of its lean sonority and freedom from overly broad tempos. But on hearing it again, it also sounds under rehearsed and graceless. It is certainly interesting as Toscanini’s only surviving account of the work (I suspect it may be his only performance of it), but it falls short in terms of projecting the music’s elegance, buoyancy, and charm. The sound, if certainly superior to that of the Concerto, is rather shrill and raucous. Reservations aside, for those who want a fascinating walk into history, this is a welcome release. A few of the CBS broadcast announcements frame the concerto.

Mortimer H. Frank
This article originally appeared in Issue 33:1 (Sept/Oct 2009) of Fanfare Magazine.


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