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Symphony No. 2
Symphony No. 4
NBC Symphony Orchestra
Arturo Toscanini conductor
Recorded in 1939
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PASC 172 - Toscanini
|Fanfare Hall of Fame |
By Henry Fogel
Now available as part of a virtual box set with 10% discount here
"The performance is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This is one of the great Bruckner recordings of all time"
Although there are later Furtwängler-led versions of the Eighth, and superb Furtwangler recordings of other Bruckner symphonies, if I had to live with only a single example of this conductor's way with Bruckner it would be this one. This performance combines moment-to-moment intensity with an overall sense of architecture and inevitability that carries you through the almost 80 minutes, never really letting the dramatic tension to fall flat even for a moment. Furtwängler's unique ability to see the interconnections between tempo relationships, dynamic shading and scaling, phrase lengths and shapes, harmonic motion, and orchestral balance and color-to relate each of those elements to each other and to the whole-works to unify Bruckner's sprawling structure. He also inspires the Vienna Philharmonic to a stunning level of intensity of playing throughout-so that the result is gripping from beginning to end. Furtwängler uses the Haas Edition, of which he conducted the first performance, though he makes a few modifications.
This performance is a classic but many prior transfers have been inadequate, and none as good as this one. The closest to the mark has been, unfortunately, both the hardest to find and the most expensive-a two-disc Japanese EMI set (CD28-5757/58). Most others have been pitched sharp or afflicted by serious flutter, or both. Music & Arts had a very good one (CD-1209) that sounds as if it might have derived from the Japanese EMI. A different Japanese EMI (TOCE 3786) was at the right pitch and with minimal flutter, but somewhat congested and marred by dropouts. All DG and Japanese DG editions of this are sharp and have the flutter problem more seriously present.
Pristine has worked its magic and given us what is probably the best transfer we will get for quite some time, unless someone finds a better original. Some of the flutter that is on the original is still present on long sustained wind notes and chords, but the degree of the problem is minimal and the result will be tolerable for most listeners. More importantly, Andrew Rose has managed a fuller, richer orchestral sonority, one where the bass is firm and strong, as opposed to the bright, hard-edged sound of even the best prior efforts. The result is immediately evident in moment-to-moment A-B comparisons, and is even more compelling over the length of the symphony. Finally one can hear this without the listener fatigue that comes with the excessive harshness of the earlier versions.
The first movement is fierce and rugged throughout. The Scherzo manages to be both massive and light-footed at the same time-a seeming paradox achieved through rich orchestral textures combined with sharply sprung rhythms. The Adagio is the centerpiece that it should be: a longing, yearning performance of which I have never heard the equal. There are slight touches of portamento in the strings that add wondrously to the effect. Bruckner's finales are generally his most difficult movements for conductors, and this one is no exception. The shape is not clearly constructed, there are many tempo adjustments, and the coda is somewhat brief and lightweight for all that has come before (although it suffers less from this problem than do the Fourth and Seventh symphonies). Here in particular the music gains from the conductor's ability to see the big picture, to create the necessary tension and release through both tempo and textural adjustments, and to instill conviction in the playing. Furtwängler manages better than most others to hold enough in reserve so as to give a real weight of finality to those last three chords, chords often taken either too quickly or too slowly. The music must move into and through those three chords with logic, and they must produce a sense of climactic ending. Here they do just that.
It is important to note that the sound still does not represent the state of the art even for 1944 broadcasts-but anyone with a tolerance for historic recordings is likely to find it acceptable now, and the performance is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This is one of the great Bruckner recordings of all time.
PASC 260 - Bruckner 8
SPALDING AND DOHNANYI
by Rob Cowan
"They call him America's greatest native-born violinist"
They call him America's greatest native-born violinist and, indeed, Albert Spalding's tone was as richly expressive as any, even by 1951 when he recorded the three Brahms Violin Sonatas with pianist-composer Ernö Dohnanyi. These gripping renditions couldn't be further removed from the sanitised norm we so often hear nowadays. Rather, they reveal a pooled creative impulse, sounding totally improvised, and while neither is what you'd call super-slick, musicality burns from virtually every note. It's a cliché but I'll say it anyway: these are real performances. And Mark Obert-Thorn's expert transfers are well mastered by Pristine Audio.
PACM 078 - Spalding
|Audiophile Audition |
21 October 2011
by Gary Lemco
"A classic all-Dvorak reissue disc that reaches into an illustrious pair of traditions, with Haendel and Mainardi's imparting a genuine sympathy as well as technical prowess to their respective concertos"
The 30-31 July 1947 performance of the Dvorak Violin Concerto by Polish virtuoso Ida Haendel (b. 1928?) has had prior incarnation through the Dutton label in 1999 as CDK 1204, where it appeared in concert with the Tchaikovsky Concerto from 1946 and the Saint-Saens' Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso from 1945, each of those latter collaborations with Basil Cameron. The Pristine restoration by Andrew Rose carries a pungent immediacy; and thus Haendel's strong suit, her blazing attacks, gain in their feral approach to a combination of gypsy and Slavic impulses in the music itself. Conductor Karl Rankl (1898-1968), an Austrian musician who like Haendel embraced British citizenship, generates a natural sympathy in the course of A Minor Concerto, although sonically we could wish the National Symphony woodwinds had more color presence. Haendel's work with the flute solo and French horns in the Adagio of the Concerto proves exemplary in its taste and vocal phraseology. The outer movements with their respective drive and rasping intensity will remind auditors in several aspects of the Milstein approach: virile, robust, grandly scaled.
The Finale perhaps of all three movements reveals the "feminine" character in Haendel's playing, although Rankl's orchestral part continues to vibrate with the rustic energies we know from Dvorak's Slavonic Dance forms. Again, better miking of the National Symphony tympani would have added a distinct power to already colorful approach. The middle section, rife with double notes and high voltage changes in bowing and registration, showcase Haendel's studied approach, which would gain even more vertical acuity after her fateful encounter in the 1950s with Sergiu Celibidache. The lithe athleticism of Haendel's upper register and flute tone, however, quite dazzle even here in 1947, and music lovers can only marvel at her combination of fluid technical virtuosity and absolute comfort in the emotional authority of her conception.
The recordings of Milanese cello virtuoso Enrico Mainardi (1897-1976) have been grudgingly slow to re-enter the main stream; and while this affecting effort in the Cello Concerto from 24 January 1955 with Fritz Lehmann (1904-1956) gives us hopes of further issues, many collectors envision that Mainardi's work with Paul van Kempen will no less warrant restoration. Restoration engineer Andrew Rose has resuscitated a German Heliodor LP with pseudo-stereo effects and done away with all phony sources of separation. Mainardi then reveals himself as a cellist whose style lies somewhere between the older romantic tradition of Casals and the relatively "clean," almost Spartan linear drive of Emanuel Feuermann. Lehmann, working with the Berlin Philharmonic, performed at the height of his powers, although he would die prematurely only a year later. In 1955, the Berlin Philharmonic still reeled emotionally from the loss of their major conductor Wilhelm Furtwaengler, but the discipline remained honed under Karajan, Fricsay, Jochum, Lehmann, and Knappertsbusch.
The scale of Lehmann's orchestral part does not strive for the metaphysical objectivity of Karajan nor the "patient" indulgence of Fricsay, but rather proceeds in a literalist fashion that might remind some auditors of the classic contribution George Szell provided for soloist Casals. The warm sound of the BPO provides a pampered tissue for the long-lined, impassioned declarations and runs from Mainardi. In their intimate moments together, Mainardi and Lehmann manage a chamber-music effect, quite arresting, that segues easily into the martial and more heroic gestures the first movement proffers, especially in its extended coda. For those who complain of Mainardi's predilection for slow tempos, a potent tonic reveals itself in these pages. On the other hand, Mainardi's old school sensibility in the Adagio yields up thoughtful, exalted moments of meditative beauty bathed in the woodwind miracles of Dvorak's seamless writing. A self-effacing, meticulous approach may not achieve the epic proportions some of our modern virtuosi effect, but Mainardi delivers a Dvorak Concerto intelligent as it is ardent, and the last movement dances and sings with that especial nostalgia the composer imparts when his fairy-tale ethos meets musical ideas that celebrate both his national style and his universality.
PASC 308 - Beecham
Editorial music magazines going digital
Beecham conducts Arnell, Berners and Delius
Hanson the greatest American symphony, and more
PADA Youra Guller plays Chopin Mazurkas and Nocturnes
|Editorial - Paperless music magazines
Isn't it time you went digital?
At the end of October I received an e-mail from Gramophone
magazine (you may have received it too) which advertised their new electronic edition
for iPad, iPhone and other platforms. I'd been getting reminder letters for a while now regarding my soon-to-expire subscription to their print edition - was now the time to go digital here as well?
One of the few disadvantages of living in a picturesque little village in the south west of France is the difficulty and expense of getting hold of my favourite magazines. Subscriptions always cost a good deal more for international customers, and you can never be sure quite when an issue is actually going to drop onto on the doormat.
I've had a Kindle subscription for a while now to my favourite daily newspaper; and I've recently added to this a subscription to a weekly political journal. But these are both text-heavy and topical publications, quickly out of date and easily replaced every day or week. A monthly magazine packed with reviews and colour features is an entirely different matter, and not surprisingly the black and white Kindle system isn't particularly well suited to the picture-heavy, glossier end of the publishing market.
My iPad, however, seems far more suited as an electronic replacement for the paper magazine. Until recently most digital magazine editions were provided through third party apps, but that has changed with a recent major software update (to iOS5) and the appearance of the Apple Newsstand.
(NB. For those who don't have an iPad or feel this isn't for them, please bear with me and carry on reading - this could be as vital to the future of your favourite specialist music magazines as the existence of the Internet is to the future of Pristine Audio. And if you happen to be a magazine publisher who thinks this isn't for you, you really must read on...)
OK, back to the story. The iPad's news stand is a simple little app that Apple have recently built into the operating system. When you first touch it an empty set of shelves open up on the screen, just begging to be filled with reading matter. Fortunately there's a handy button to take you straight to the news store, where you can buy individual issues or full subscriptions to a variety of magazines and newspapers from around the world. Once you've bought one of these (and most offer a free trial issue to get you started) the magazine cover appears on your shelf.
Actually the shelf thing is a brilliant bit of nudge-marketing that really makes
you want to fill its empty shelves, and so now I have four publications sitting there ready to read, including Gramophone at an annual subscription price which was around half the usual international rate. My daily paper - for which I now have the iPad subscription - is delivered as if by magic overnight while the iPad is asleep, ready to read when I get up in the morning. My Gramophone turns up on time every month. And because of the nature of my Gramophone subscription I can also read the same content on my web browser on any PC, and - at last! - copy and paste Rob Cowan's reviews directly into this newsletter rather than either scanning the text or retyping it. I've also been gifted every back issue going back to August 2010...
So as a user what's it like? Well, what you see is what you'd get with the print edition - every page in full colour (including all the ads). When you hold your iPad vertically the screen holds a full page, when you hold it horizontally it spins around to fill the width of the screen, making the writing bigger but requiring you to scroll the page down to rea
d the full text, something that can be a bit of a nuisance is a story runs along a number of columns. In the vertical view this isn't an issue though the text can be a little on the small side - but then you can quickly and easily pinch and unpinch the screen to change your level of zoom, thereby resizing the text to suit both you and the page layout. The contents page has coloured links over the page numbers, allowing you to jump straight to an article, and you can also run a text search across the entire issue - which is how I know for sure that there are four instances of the word 'Pristine' in November's issue, of which three refer to us. There's also a little "page flick" button, enabling quick "flicking" through thumbnail representation of the pages, a button that takes you straight back to the contents page, and one other control button, which switches to a two-page view, for those with better eyesight than me! All in all it looks good, it's easy to read, it turns up on time, and it's saved me money and shelf space. What's not to like?
So you might think that other music magazine publishers would be rushing to join in, wouldn't you? So I contacted two magazines in which I have a double vested interest - I pay to advertise in their pages, and I pay for (expensive) international subscriptions to them. Fanfare
has an excellent online offering, especially if you're a subscriber, with access to thousands of reviews that have been painstakingly digitised and added to their online archive. Classical Recordings Quarterly
now offer their magazine as a downloadable PDF
direct from their website. But when might I find either of these on my iPad's news stand? Don't hold your breath, seemed to be the response...
From Fanfare's perspective, they said they didn't have the expertise in house to develop an app, and seemed to have a vague idea that it would probably be a difficult and expensive thing to do, and therefore probably wouldn't be cost effective. CRQ's editor/publisher Alan Sanders told me - again - that the expense would be too great, and that CRQ was too small a magazine for such a venture. Crucially, though, neither had actually investigated the matter before, nor (I deduce) given it too much detailed thought. I also doubt there are many iPads in the production offices of either magazine - which is just possibly a mistake, or may soon be seen as one, on a par with not having a hi-fi in a record company office. OK, this bit is guesswork and conjecture, but I hope you see my point.
Anyway, time for some facts: so I decided to find out a bit more for myself. I'd already had some contact with a company called Exact Editions
, who are one of two I know of (Zinio
is the other) which is offering me access to Gramophone on my iPad. Currently Exact Edition's are the magazines which appear in the Apple Newsstand, while Zinio does its own thing with a custom magazine app. I called Exact on Wednesday and got to speak to someone who dealt with magazine publishers. It was very enlightening.
First of all, it's neither expensive nor difficult. Exact charges an annual fee plus a per-issue fee. The magazine publisher has to upload a PDF version of their latest issue to Exact the day before it's released, and Exact do the necessary conversion and publication - and deal with Apple. Apple sit back and take their 30 per cent for merely being there (sounds good to me!), and the rest of the subscription revenue is split 80:20 between the publisher and Exact. The publisher can also add video and audio clips to their magazine, and Exact like to work with them to put together a set of back issues for subscribers - they've just finished doing 20 years of back issues of something called 'Dazed and Confused
', which I'd never heard of, and several years of Jazzwise
, which is apparently Britain's biggest-selling jazz magazine.
Given that Fanfare already have a massive online reviews archive, this kind of thing would surely only help to compliment that, wouldn't it?
So, I asked, what about the idea that a small, specialist like CMQ is just too small and too specialist for this kind of thing? Quite the opposite, was the response. The aforementioned Jazzwise
, which I admit is new to me, was apparently picked out by Apple as something they wanted to feature on their main news stand interface - the result being a massive sales boost to a small magazine that was suddenly punching well above its weight, sitting alongside a raft of huge international publications. I was told that it's currently exactly this kind of specialist offering that Apple is eager to bring on board and promote. And once you're operating online, it's a bit like offering music downloads - it doesn't matter how big or small the company, whether you're publishing out of a Manhattan skyscraper or a small shed at the bottom of the garden - if the content's there, and it's worth having, suddenly your potential market reach is global and your chance of success higher than ever before.
So the bottom line now surely comes down to the price of jumping on board. With Exact an annual fee is payable - currently, at £1500. around or less than the standard price of a full-page ad in many music magazines. Then there's a single per-issue publishing fee of £100. Now to me, neither of these sound to me like unaffordable amounts, especially if they result in greatly increased readership and exposure - which as an advertiser is something I want to see - and with them, greater subscription revenues - which hopefully more than cover the costs for the magazines and keep the whole show on the road.
Meanwhile, thanks to researching the Exact Editions website today, I've just discovered a magazine all about audio mastering
. I now have all 128 pages of it on my screen, and Exact and the publisher will shortly be splitting the £7 I've just paid - only another 18 readers and they'll have covered that £100 fee.
So if you'll excuse me, I've got a comfy chair and a cup of coffee to find...
11 November 2011
Beecham conducts rare British gems
In immensely vibrant, captivating sound quality
Arnell, Delius, Berners
Producer and Audio Restoration Engineer: Andrew Rose
ARNELL Punch and the Child, ballet music
DELIUS An Arabesque**
LORD BERNERS The Triumph of Neptune Suite*
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
*The Philadelphia Orchestra
**Einar Nørby baritone
*Robert Grooters baritone
Sir Thomas Beecham conductor
Web page: PASC 314
Sir Thomas Beecham was well known for his ardent support of the British composer Frederick Delius. What is perhaps less well-remembered are his performances of a handful of rarer works by other English composers of the era, including the works presented here by Richard Arnell and Lord Berners, in both cases perhaps the finest examples of their output.
These recordings are also among the first to benefit from a new addition to the stable of technical wizardry which pulls together to make a 32-bit Pristine Audio XR remaster. Technical shortcomings of the LP, especially in the early days, led to a loss of very deep bass - that almost subterranean feeling you get when a bass drum is hit, for example. This release is one of the first to benefit from a new technique designed to restore that - turn it up and the effect can be floor-shaking! Even at low volume, this is yet another significant step forward in sound quality for Pristine...
Review Arnell & Berners
There seems to a revival of interest at present in Lord Berners so that the appearance of this account of his chef d'oeuvre, the ballet suite, The Triumph of Neptune is as timely as it is welcome. I should perhaps stress that this is not the familiar 78 rpm version that Beecham made with the LPO (Columbia LX697-8, 2/38) but one new to this country, recorded with the Philadelphia Orchestra and that it includes two movements omitted from the English set, "Cloudland" and "The Frozen Forest". Commissioned by Diaghilev for his second visit to London made at Beecham's invitation in 1926, The Triumph of Neptune had the benefit of a libretto by Sacheverall Sitwell and choreography by Balanchine; Danilova, Lifar and Petrova danced the leading roles. Berners has been compared with Satie though with scant justification: their eccentricity is perhaps their only point of contact. In general Berners cannot be said to possess a strongly defined personality: he was a pasticheur of great accomplishment and an artist of versatile talent (he was also a painter and novelist). He certainly succeeded in this delightful score in capturing the fragile period flavour of the twenties; the musical invention is sustained and his wit and cleverness are telling. It would perhaps be a little too much to expect the Philadelphia Orchestra to fully penetrate the highly idiosyncratic world the score evokes and those who know the LPO version will find accents heavier and rhythms less fleet of foot. Robert Grooters, who briefly appears as the singer practising The Last Rose of Summer in "The Sailor's Return", is more heavy handed than Robert Alva in the pre-war 78 rpm version.
Richard Arnell's music is neglected these days though his Fifth Symphony was recently broadcast. What little music of his that I have heard is often distinctive in utterance. In some respects he seems to me not unlike Rawsthorne though there is little of the darker, more searching quality one finds in the latter. Punch and the Child dates from 1948 and given its balletic origins is episodic in character. The Record Guide spoke of it as "agreeable music but hardly strong enough to hold the interest on repeated hearing" without the stage action. Hubert Foss in these pages wrote: "Idea after picturesque idea succeed each other in bewildering succession. First impressions were: restlessness and excitability, a marked Prokofiev flavour, a plethora of undeveloped notions, a diatonic basis with a generous sprinkling of wrong notes to keep it up to date". Some of this undoubtedly holds good today though speaking personally, I have an affection for this score short-breathed though its invention may be. Some of its ideas are highly memorable and fresh, there are moments of poetry and the score is full of vitality. Yet ideas are never really sustained long enough to satisfy the listener. I have periodically returned to the 78 rpm originals over the years but shall do so no more since this new transfer is of quite outstanding quality: indeed one would scarcely suspect its origins so well focused is its sound. Everything is lively, fresh, and truthful in timbre; it is, I would have thought, exceptionally vivid for its period. (A friend guessed its date at 1962 or 63.) It derives from tape rather than 78 rpm masters, I am sure, since there is no trace of surface noise. The recording of the Berners is less distinguished but this does not inhibit a warm recommendation for this most welcome and desirable reissue.
R.L., Gramophone magazine, July 1974
Notes On this recording
I was happy to have excellent pressings for all three of these works - two from a near-mint American Columbia Masterworks LP (Arnell and Berners) and the third from a similarly wekk-preserved Philips LP (Delius). Unsure of the overall timings I had also prepared Beecham's 1952 Delius Appalachia recording, but this proved to be a minute or so too long for the present release. It was interesting to discover that both London recordings were of significantly higher quality than the US recording, but that's only really to say that the Berners was well-recorded and the Delius and Arnell even better.
Given such promising material I was able to try out a new addition to the XR repertoire of remastering techniques - a means of compensating for the lack of very deep, resonant bass in recordings of this era, such as one might feel shaking the floor slightly in a modern recording of similar material. This proved more successful than I'd hoped and the results can be heard especially well in the Arnell which, apart from its mono centre, could surely pass for something several decades more recent than 1950!
All in all it was an astonishing result that exceeded all my expectations.
MP3 Sample Arnell Punch and the Child (first half)
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PASC 314 - webpage at Pristine Classical
|"The greatest American symphony" - and more!
Superb new XR-remastered transfers -
first time on CD
American Music Volume 4
Producer and Audio Restoration Engineer: Andrew Rose
HARRIS Symphony No. 3
GRIFFES The Pleasure Dome of Kubla Khan
GRIFFES The White Peacock, Op. 7, No. 1
GRIFFES Clouds, Op. 7, No. 4
GRIFFES Bacchanale, Op. 6, No. 3
BARBER Symphony No. 1 in One Movement, Op. 9
Eastman-Rochester Symphony Orchestra
Howard Hanson conductor
Web page: PASC 315
We're grateful this week to BBC Radio Three's Rob Cowan, who introduced this recording of Roy Harris's Symphony No. 3 last Sunday morning as "the greatest American symphony" - then pointed out that it had never been issued on CD.
Little did he know that our own transfer of this superb recording, along with excellent performances of Barber's First Symphony and a selection of shorter works by Charles Griffes, was already in preparation for the fourth volume of our American Music series of 1950s Mercury Living Sound recordings conducted by Howard Hanson.
So here it is - a little sooner than planned - but just in time to receive the same new treatment also used on our Beecham issue for extra realism and depth in these new 32-bit XR remasters.
Review Harris Symphony No. 3
"If I had pitchers who could pitch as strongly as you do in your Symphony, my worries would be over." So wrote the manager of a baseball team, to Roy Harris, after a performance of the Third Symphony. This remarkable work, still pitching as strongly as ever, dates from 1937, and was first performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Koussevitsky, who thought it the greatest orchestral work written in America. Its strength, like its greatness, derives from its originality, and from its ability to say new things in an intelligible way. Now that Koussevitsky is no longer with us, it could have no better an interpreter than Howard Hanson, who has long been responsible for the encouragement of American composers and the performance of their music.
Harris's Third, Symphony, although perhaps not as monumental a work as his Fifth, has been an orchestral classic both within and outside America for seventeen years. It now appears for the first time in LP form, and is well served by the Mercury "Living Presence" recording technique, which is a new and eminently valid claim as far as the present reviewer is concerned. The acoustic is very satisfactory, having ample glow when it is needed (the brass sonorities in the fugal section) yet never giving the listener the impression of unreality or trick balance. True, one sometimes feels that a guiding hand is reaching out to lead us into a particular section of the orchestra ; but the hand does guide rather than shove, and that is a distinct advantage. The essence of all good sound control is to avoid the obvious and eschew the artificial -ars est celare artem. Mercury have achieved this, with radiant success.
D.S. - The Gramophone, February 1955
Notes on the transfers
A radio broadcast the weekend before the release of these recordings on Pristine Audio succeded in reminding me that I had some unfinished business with the American music recordings of Howard Hanson, and I'm glad it did. The presenter and critic Rob Cowan introduced this recording of Harris's Third Symphony, which had been specially transferred from LP for his broadcast, as "the greatest American symphony", and pointedly reminded me (and his other listeners) that it had never appeared on CD.
As with the previous issues in this short series, the Eastman-Rochester Symphony Orchestra has been very well recorded by Mercury, leaving me in the happy position of some excellent starting points for my remastering work. The release coincides with work I've been doing on trying to recapture some of the sub-bass which was often heavily filtered on LP recordings in the 1950s - the almost subsonic underpinning of many a modern recording which is rarely to be heard on older recordings (these are frequencies that early LPs in particular struggled with), but which when present can bring a fabulous extra dimension of realism to a symphony orchestra recording.
MP3 Sample Griffes: The Pleasure Dome of Kubla Khan
Download purchase links:
Ambient Stereo MP3
Mono 16-bit FLAC
Ambient Stereo 16-bit FLAC
Ambient Stereo 24-bit FLAC
CD purchase links and all other information:
PASC 315 - webpage at Pristine Classical
Streamed MP3s you can also download
Youra Guller piano
Recorded Salle Aydar, Paris, 25-28 June 1956
Issued as Ducretet-Thomson 255C039
This transfer is presented with Ambient Stereo remastering by Dr. John Duffy
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