A Pristine Sound for Old Recordings
I try hard not to use this space to review or recommend specific items, but I must make an exception here. I have been listening recently to some genuine miracles of audio restoration - the work of a company called Pristine Audio. Pristine Audio uses digital technology to, in essence, re-create the frequencies that are missing or diminished on early recordings, thus coming much closer to a full sonic spectrum on recordings that have always, prior to this, sounded somewhat dim. In some cases, the transformation is truly great - bringing to life some extraordinary recorded performances that can now be appreciated much more fully than ever before. Three of these recordings are classics led by Willem Mengelberg, the great Dutch conductor.
Prime among them is Mengelberg's famous 1939 broadcast of
Mahler's 4th Symphony. This performance will seem eccentric by
today's standards - the lingering over the work's opening tune, including an
over-the-top portamento in the strings, will strike listeners used to modern
purity as shockingly personalized. But in 1904 Mengelberg sat in the
Another stunning disc is Mengelberg's 1940 performance, again with the Concertgebouw, of Franck's D Minor Symphony. This old warhorse, now almost vanished from the repertoire, comes thrillingly alive in this dramatic, intense, strongly inflected reading. The Concertgebouw plays brilliantly, sounding as if this music really means something important to them. Never does one feel they are just reading the notes. Rather, the performance bristles with energy, and with beauty. This is PASC 098.
And then there is Mengelberg's
One fascinating rarity on Pristine Audio's list is a recording most of us never thought we'd hear, and one never available before. It is a performance of Bruckner's Seventh Symphony taken from a broadcast with the New York Philharmonic under Arturo Toscanini, from 1935, and it is the only known recording of Toscanini conducting Bruckner. To say that this is an important piece of music performance history would be an understatement, though I must admit that to my taste Toscanini seems very far from having a genuine feel for this music. (One must also note the original source has been damaged, and there are some small chunks of music missing; PASC082). There is much, much more of historic interest and importance, all of it transferred to CD in a new way and with rich results - and I recommend browsing the Pristine Audio website.