A Very Pristine Christmas - PAMX005

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A Very Pristine Christmas - PAMX005

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VARIOUS ARTISTS A Christmas Collection

Total duration: 67:49

Recorded between 1926 and 1957
Restoration and remastering by John Duffy, Peter Harrison, Ward Marston, Mark Obert-Thorn and Andrew Rose

This set contains the following albums:

A Very Pristine Christmas is perhaps a unique release in the field of historic classical music. It brings together a fabulous range of rare and delightful recordings, compiled from the collections of five of the world's foremost remastering engineers - John Duffy, Peter Harrison, Ward Marston, Mark Obert-Thorn and Peter Harrison.

For lovers of historic recordings, this is the collection you can give to your friends and relatives without frightening them! There is a huge sense of cultural nostalgia about the way most of us think of Christmas, evoking happy memories of years gone by, and these historic recordings appear imbued with the spirit of the season.

This album has been very well-received by many who don't usually appreciate historical classical recordings - and for you, it's that rarest of "Christmas" albums: the one you'll want to play all year round!

Andrew Rose, Xmas 2008


The Contributors to this collection:

Dr. John Duffy M.D. lives in Iowa, USA, and is the major contributor to Pristine Exclusives, our streaming audio and downloads service. His extensive collection includes many near-mint 78s Dr. Duffy managed to rescue from a Minneapolis brothel in 1972, the day before it was demolished.

The late Peter Harrison intended his career to be that of a recording engineer and his first commercial LP was produced in 1965. However, due to a bizarre series of events, he instead devoted much of his professional life to computers. A return to music at the start of the 21st century saw Peter restoring and remastering old recordings, making new recordings with the likes of Peter Katin, as well as a number of young up-coming classical musicians. Peter lived in the New Forest in England.

Ward Marston was nominated for the "Best Historical Album" Grammy Award for his production work on BMG's Fritz Kreisler collection. According to the Chicago Tribune, Marston's name is "synonymous with tender loving care to collectors of historical CDs." Opera News calls his work "revelatory," and Fanfare deems him "miraculous." In 1996, Mr. Marston received the Gramophone award for "Historical Vocal Record of the Year," honouring his production and engineering work on Romophone's complete recordings of Lucrezia Bori. He also served as as re-recording engineer for the Franklin Mint's Arturo Toscanini issue and BMG's Sergei Rachmaninov recordings, both winners of the "Best Historical Album" Grammy. Ward lives in Pennsylvania, USA. Ward has contributed a number of operatic releases to the Pristine label whilst continuing to produce new releases for his own Marston label.

Mark Obert-Thorn began working on audio restorations on a professional basis in 1988, initially for the Pearl label. Within three years, two of his productions had been named as Gramophone Award finalists. He also transferred many discs for the Biddulph, Romophone and Music & Arts labels. He has produced over 300 CDs for the highly successful and critically-acclaimed Naxos Historical series, as well as over 200 for other labels over the past 25+ years. Mark lives in Pennsylvania, USA. Since this compilation was prepared, Mark has produced over 100 albums for Pristine.

Andrew Rose launched Pristine Audio in 2001 as a company specialising in the transfer and remastering of old recordings. In 2005 he launched the Pristine Classical website as a means of distributing historic recordings on the Pristine Audio label, both in download and CD formats. He has also produced historic recordings for Music & Arts and for Divine Art - one of his first for the Divine Art won a Recording of the Year Award in 2005 in Classic Record Collector magazine, which also issued a special award in 2006 for the contribution of the Pristine Classical website. Andrew lives in a small village surrounded by vineyards in south-west France. Pristine has continued to proser.

  1. Christmas Overture (Coleridge-Taylor) - BBC Wireless Orchestra, cond. Percy Pitt, UK Columbia 9137, rec. 23/2/1926
  2. Joy To The World (Watts) - Siena Pianoforte played by Grace Castagnetta, Counterpoint CPT 1503, rec. 1957

    Quatre Visages (Milhaud) - Michael Mann (viola), Dika Newlin (piano), DGG EPL 30295, rec. 1957 
  3. 1. La Californienne
  4. 2. The Wisconsonian
  5. 3. La Bruxelloise
  6.  4. La Parisienne

  7. O Little Town of Bethlehem (Brooks) - Siena Pianoforte played by Grace Castagnetta, Counterpoint CPT 1503
  8. In Ecclesiis (G. Gabrieli) - Alexander, Deller, Wynton, Riley, Dawkes, Chor. & Goldsbrough Orch, HMV HMS.29, rec.1950
  9. Hark, The Herald Angels Sing (Mendelssohn) - Siena Pianoforte played by Grace Castagnetta, Counterpoint CPT 1503
  10. Hansel and Gretel - Overture (Humperdinck) - Symphony Orchestra, cond. A. Coates, HMV D.1261, rec. 26/10/1926
  11. I Saw Three Ships (Trad.) - Siena Pianoforte played by Grace Castagnetta, Counterpoint CPT 1503
  12. Te Deum in G (Vaughan Williams) - St George's Chapel Choir, Windsor Castle, dir. Harris, Columbia LX.1289, rec. 1949
  13. What Child Is This (Trad.) - Siena Pianoforte played by Grace Castagnetta, Counterpoint CPT 1503
  14. Adeste Fideles (Wade, arr. Ponchon) - Flonzaley Quartet, Victor 1352, rec. 18/10/1928
  15. Deck The Halls (Trad.) - Siena Pianoforte played by Grace Castagnetta, Counterpoint CPT 1503
  16. Gloria in excelsis (Weelkes) - Westminster Abbey Special Choir, HMV H.1083, rec. 1925 or 1926
  17. Oh, Holy Night  (Adam) - Siena Pianoforte played by Grace Castagnetta, Counterpoint CPT 1503
  18. The First Nowell (Trad. arr. Ponchon) - Flonzaley Quartet, Victor 1352, rec. 18/10/1928

Transfers & remastering:  

1, 14, 18: Mark Obert-Thorn   
2, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17: Dr. John Duffy   
3-6: Peter Harrison    
8, 12, 16: Andrew Rose   
10: Ward Marston

All tracks in Ambient Stereo except 1, 10, 14, 18: mono.

Audiophile Audition review

Some really worthwhile and interesting contents in this musical Christmas Stocking

Pristine Audio’s Christmas release with contributions from five of Pristine’s remastering team has some really worthwhile and interesting contents in this musical Christmas Stocking.

The Siena Pianoforte has an intriguing history, though reading references one finds some are sceptical about the later segments! This highly ornate keyboard instrument was built in 1800 as a wedding present for a Siena farmer and his wife. After being sent to the Paris Exhibition of 1867, it was given to Crown Prince Umberto the following year again as a wedding present. It surfaced in the North African desert during the Second World War and was taken to Palestine, where it again vanished and resurfaced. Several LPs were issued in the mid-1950s, including one made by Charles Rosen, and the one used here made by Grace Castagnetta in which she plays a selection of Christmas carols and tunes, used here as interludes to the whole programme. The instrument produces an interesting sound, and may well steer some listeners to the other discs.

The Flonzaley Quartet contributes two tracks, both carols recorded in 1928, and their distinctive tone comes over very well indeed in this excellent mastering. From the middle of the 20th century come two choral recordings, one with the Goldsborough Orchestra, the forerunner of the English Chamber Orchestra, with Alfred Deller among the singers, and the other with the choir of the Chapel Royal in Windsor – how vowel sounds have altered in sixty years, let alone the eighty years since the Westminster Abbey Special Choir recorded the Weelkes. The men have that woody sound one hears too in those famous Temple Church Choir recordings from the same era, the late 1920s.

Milhaud’s pieces for viola portraits of four ladies and their characters derive from a rare DG recording from 1957, again sounding well in this transfer. The two orchestral pieces are also very finely transferred, a vigorously played overture to Hansel and Gretel, conducted by the great Albert Coates, whose reputation as a fine musician is undiminished, and a rarity, the Christmas Overture by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, whose all-too-short life makes one think what might have been had he lived longer. His biography “Black Mahler” by Charles Elford has been published very recently. Percy Pitt (1870-1932) was a busy conductor who made quite a few recordings, many pre-electric, and this electric one made in 1926 is particularly charming. Pitt was the first British conductor of the Ring in an opera house.

All in all this is a diverting collection of transfers which should give a wide audience much pleasure.

Peter Joelson