Pristine New Year Newsletter - 4 January 2013  
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STOKOWSKI Philadelphia, March 1962
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A FREE 128k MP3



Philly 1960 (CD1)   

The "Return" Concert     


*MOZART Marriage of Figaro Overture

*FALLA El Amor Brujo

*RESPIGHI Pines of Rome 


"There was excitement in Philadelphia in January 1959 when it was announced that Leopold Stokowski would be returning to town the following year to appear with the orchestra that he had last led in 1940. In an interview, he described himself as "very pleased," adding, "but it took a long time, didn't it?" Eager patrons had to wait until February 12, 1960, for the big night. Needless to say, the Academy of Music was packed and enthusiastic. Those who were unlucky enough not to have tickets had to content themselves with the radio broadcast. I have read that some subscribers were offered $50 for their tickets (that's more than $360 in 2011 dollars). Many in attendance remembered him from his long tenure with the orchestra. Not taking any chances, the maestro had chosen a program of virtually conductor-proof pieces. The results were predictable and the recording serves as evidence. Except for the Mozart overture, he had already made excellent recordings of these works. The only thing on this concert that he went on to record again was the Falla, with a young mezzo who was then billed as "Shirley Verrett-Carter." He had hoped to record in the scene of his former triumphs, the venerable Academy of Music, but was disappointed to discover that the sound had dried up quite a bit since his days there. His assistant, Jack Baumgarten, told me that Stokowski was inclined to blame the installation of an organ during the 1940s for what he considered the deterioration of the hall's sound.  


During his radio remarks that preceded the concert, the orchestra's assistant conductor, William R. Smith, mentioned that Stokowski was using his radical reseating of the players, with most of the strings on stage right and center, basses lining the back wall, and winds, brass, and percussion at stage left. I find this knowledge quite vexing because, even with headphones, I cannot perceive a clear, obvious placement of the instruments. There is some but, really, very little directionality-yes, the violins seem to be to my left and a few brass instruments and some percussion seem to be emerging from my right speaker, but the winds seem to wander; I can easily imagine most of them seated in their customary spots in the center. If this is a stereo recording, as Pristine claims, it has about the narrowest spread of any stereo recording I've ever heard; it sounds almost like some sort of "enhanced" mono to me. That is not to say that it sounds bad; it's quite powerful and vivid, and the combination of this conductor and this music, not surprisingly, turns out to be a surefire winner. It has been said that the orchestra played as if he had never left, easily shifting into its Stokowskian mode despite the passing of 19 years and the presence of new players (there were 36 Stokowski alumni remaining plus a few former members of his All-American Orchestra). I should point out that Ormandy had his own sound, as Stokowski had his; they were not peas from the same pod. Interestingly, when Stokowski and Verrett made their studio recording of the Falla shortly thereafter, probably in the ballroom of the Broadwood Hotel, the orchestra, perhaps at the producer's urging, was seated more conventionally, with violins on the listener's left and violas and cellos on the right.  


How can I possibly describe these performances? How can a conductor possibly ruin
The Marriage of Figaro
Overture? Stokowski certainly doesn't, but Mozart doesn't give him the opportunities that later composers did. The Falla, though intensely impassioned and ravishingly played, is, I think, even narrowly surpassed by the studio recording, which is my absolute favorite
El amor brujo. Verrett is nearly perfect: The voice is appropriately dark without being inappropriately heavy and she doesn't knock herself out trying to sound gutsy. And listen to that juicy string playing! The performance of Respighi's
Pines of Rome
is one very good one among many, not unlike his Symphony of the Air recording. Stokowski's association with Shostakovich's music goes back to the 1920s and he made outstanding recordings of the First Symphony (twice), the Fifth (twice), Sixth (twice), and 11th, not all of them with the Philadelphia Orchestra (I regret that he never got around to Nos. 8 and 9). There was also a privately issued one of the 10th by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, also outstanding. This particular performance uses conventional tempos but Stokowski's special magic with the massed strings makes for a level of intensity that's hard to match, although I will concede that this symphony, like The Pines
, has done well on recordings. Many highly anticipated "special occasions" don't turn out to be particularly special, but this one apparently did and may have even caused some Philadelphians to subscribe to a whole series just so they could be there. There were probably few regrets about that."




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PASC 264 


Classical CD Review

October 2012

Benno Moiseiwitsch 

by R.E.B.


"Grand performances with surging climaxes and that distinctive Moiseiwitsch sound"

PASC 358

Ukraine-born pianist Benno Moiseiwitsch (1890-1963), a legendary figure of the pianistic world, had a flawless technique and unique sound. He was particularly famous for his Rachmaninoff performances; the composer was a good friend of his, and Moiseiwitsch recorded a number of Rachmaninoff's works. He always wanted to record Rachmaninoff's transcription of the Scherzo from Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream, but never had the opportunity until a recording session ended early and there was time for a single take of the work. It was a phenomenal performance, unmatched to this day-you can hear it on YouTube. This important Pristine Audio CD offers music of Rachmaninoff: Concerto No. 1 recorded December 29, 1948, Concerto No. 2 November 24 and December 19, 1937, and the Rhapsody December 5, 1938. These are grand performances with surging climaxes and that distinctive Moiseiwitsch sound. It seemss to me there is a very small cut in the first movement cadenza of Concerto No. 1-it's almost hard to tell as so much is going on at that momnent-1:12 before the end. Perhaps the pianist was so taken up by the exciting (and VERY difficult) music that he skipped a bar? Or could it be an editing error? Anyone else notice this? It surely doesn't distract from the vivid performance. Thanks to Pristine Audio's remastering, these performances sound better than ever before. This is available from PRISTINE AUDIO. Collectors might wish to investigate the Naxos series of Moiseiwitsch recordings available only in Europe.



PASC 358  (78:19) 


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Editorial     Stoki in Philly in 24/96 - competition winners
Stokowski  Webern, Sibelius, Debussy, Mussorgsky
PADA           Beethoven's Hammerklavier: Eloise Polk

Another year begins - welcome to 1962!

Possibly as late as we'll ever get in historic recordings...      

Yes, welcome to 1962! As we welcome in the new year there is surely a lot to look forward to. I gather a young Liverpool quartet might be due to release their first single later in the year and change the face of popular music for ever...

...which is why we'll probably never reach 1963 at Pristine Classical, assuming the 27 states that make up the European Union all manage to ratify changes to EU copyright laws in their member parliaments by the November deadline. Assuming they do, then sometime around 20th November 2013 the new rules will come into effect across the continent, drawing a metaphorical line in the sand, dated 1st January 1963.

Currently (and for many decades) European copyright in recordings has lasted for 50 years from publication; thereafter the recordings fall into the public domain, lifting a whole raft of potential financial hurdles for companies like ours working in the tiny niche market for historic classical music recordings.

As easy as it would be at this point to castigate the ever-dwindling number of major record companies (and I've no doubt that Beatles royalties from 1963 onwards - only two Beatles songs were issued in 1962 - have played a huge part in the push here to change the law), it's not as simple as that.

We could license recordings from the likes of EMI (or whoever owns them this week), though financially it would be a suicidal move. But much tougher is the licensing for the kind of recording we've issued today: live concert recordings, broadcast on the radio. Typical agreements with orchestras for these broadcast (in the UK at least) would permit one initial broadcast and one repeat broadcast. Thereafter the rights are held by the orchestra and the broadcaster needs to renegotiate for further broadcasts.

Sounds simple, but it isn't. Because it's not "the orchestra" as a sole entity which owns the copyright, but "the orchestra" as a body of individuals, each of whom holds rights and each of whom needs to be paid if a recording is to be broadcast - or released commercially. And if that concert took place 50 years ago, to license it you need to contact everyone who played in it, or their estates, in order to negotiate a license fee. That's perhaps 100 people, the majority no longer with us, to track down - and without all of them there can be no legal deal.

Anyone here fancy contacting everyone who played in The Philadelphia Orchestra in Stokowski's 1963 concerts to ask them how much they'd like from an obscure French record company to reissue a couple of concerts they played in that year? Or perhaps we should wait and see whether the Estonian parliament lets its timetable slip, or the Greeks find they've got more important things to do, or a change of government or two in Italy confuses their legislature, thereby missing the deadline and opening the doors to 1963 as well...

Free The Beatles

Anyway, in celebration of the law the British press likes to refer to as "Cliff's Law" (singer Cliff Richard campaigned for it on behalf of the British music industry, though it'll have very little effect on his royalties or considerable wealth), here for one time only (I promise) is that first, 1962 Beatles single, now in the public domain, in a new 24-bit XR remastered FLAC. It's a free download for all Pristine Classical newsletter readers: Love Me Do. If you like it please buy their album - they need the money, though you won't get an XR-remastered version from EMI, I'm afraid.

Pristine's 24/96 2013 Competition

Thank you for all your entries, almost half of which correctly read something like this:

2.Pictures at an Exhibition
3.Philadelphia Orchestra
5.March 16, 1962

As promised, I've drawn five entries from the hat, and copies of the recording are already on their way to these lucky winners: Roger Fordham, Mike Ashman, Charles Slater, Terry Preece and Nelson Cardona. Congratulations and well done to everyone who got the right answers - most were very close!

The recording is one of two 1962 Philadelphia concerts which have come our way from Edward Johnson of the now-defunct Stokowski Society, recordings bequeathed to him by Jack Baumgarten from the conductor's own collection. We've been here before, the 1960 "return" concert being of particular note, and this week's free low-resolution album is the first half of that concert.

There's another 1962 Stokowski recording to come in a few weeks - the concert of 17 December, featuring a wide range of music and a lot of encores. And if those governments miss their deadline, we have more from 1963 that I'd love to be writing here about this time next year.

Win Klemperer's Beethoven Symphonies

Finally this week, we've partnered with the Audiophile Audition website to offer five copies of the complete Beethoven symphonies as conducted by Klemperer and issued over recent weeks in new XR remastered editions on the Pristine label. All you need to do is visit their extensive website at www.audaud.com and register there during the month of January 2013.

At the end of the month the website's editor, broadcaster and reviewer John Sunier, will draw 5 names from his own hat (there are a lot of hats in this week's newsletter - a new trend for 2013 perhaps?) and the winners will get to choose from CDs, FLACs or MP3s of the 6-CD set. You don't even need to answer any tricky questions! And while you're there, don't forget to check out the classical reissues pages, where Gary Lemco regularly contributes reviews of Pristine releases, some of which you're sure to have read here before now.

Wishing you a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2013!


Andrew Rose
4 January 2013 
Go Digital

Stokowski in Philadelphia, 1962 - a fabulous concert in stunning sound quality

Our first ever 24-96 ultra high-resolution transfer and download, from Stokowski's own master tapes       



PASC 372


Sibelius Symphony No. 4
Debussy La Soirée dans Grenade
Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition

Recorded 1962               

Producer and Audio Restoration Engineer: 

Andrew Rose          


The Philadelphia Orchestra
Leopold Stokowski conductor


Web page: PASC 372  




Short Notes  

This album documents a superb example of the coming together of a brilliant conductor and a top-rank orchestra, with a long history of working together, for an occasional series of very special concerts.

Here Leopold Stokowski conducts not only a composer he championed and promoted in the US, Sibelius (maongst other things he conducted American premières of three Sibelius symphonies) but also he adds a new composer, Webern, to the Stokowski discography in a compelling performance of the Passacaglia, Op. 1.

Then we get to Stokowski the brilliant orchestrator, with his fabulous arrangements of piano works by Debussy and Mussorgsky.

All of this has been transferred from Stokowski's own master tapes at ultra-high resolution to create our first 24/96 album download, also available of course at CD quality and as an MP3. Don't miss this! 






Notes On this recording   


Stokowski's long association with The Philadelphia Orchestra began in 1912 when, at the age of 30, he gave his first concert in the city with the orchestra. He stayed in Philadelphia for almost thiry years, handing over to Eugene Ormandy at the end of the 1940-41 season. However, Stokowski returned in 1960 as a guest conductor and continued a series of occasional concerts with the orchestra in the years which followed.

The present concert, which took place on 16 March 1962, is taken from broadcast master tapes originally held in the conductor's own archives, and supplied for transfer for this release by Edward Johnson, who for many years put great efforts into the running of the Stokowski Society, and who obtained a number of recordings from Stokowski's assistant, Jack Baumgarten. This is its first public issue.

We took the unusual step in preparing this release of making all transfers and restoration at a very high sampling rate of 96kHz in order to preserve the highest frequencies captured on tape. Although these exceptionally high frequencies cannot be reproduced on CD, they are available in a 24/96 FLAC download from our website.

Remastering took heed of Stokowski's frequent instruction to producers of his recordings. He liked a full and reverberant sound, as Edward Johnson explains: "The thing to remember with Stokowski is that he started life as a church organist and in his recitals usually played orchestral works transcribed for the organ. So when he became a conductor he recalled the days when he had his feet on the deep 32' pedals and heard the final chord of the piece dying away down the nave for a couple of seconds. Consequently, his correction notes to record producers always asked for "more lows" and "more reverberation," as in the example attached to the producer of his LP of the "The Planets."" [See online] I have been careful in my application of this, using a convolution reverb of one of the world's great symphony halls to give the recording the space and texture lacking in the original radio tapes.


The choice of works is of interest. Stokowski never recorded any Webern commercially - this release adds a new composer to the Stokowski discography. He was always a great champion of Sibelius in his early Philadelphia years. He made the first American recordings of Finlandia and The Swan of Tuonela on 78s, and also the World Premiere Recording of the 4th Symphony in 1932, as well as giving the US concert premieres of Sibelius's 5th, 6th and 7th Symphonies in the 1920s.

Both the Debussy and Mussorgsky here are Stokowski's own orchestrations. His efforts in the latter, more commonly heard in Ravel's version, were designed to make the music sound less French and more Russian, which may explain the omission of the two France-related movements in this version.     

Andrew Rose     




MP3 Sample  Pictures at an Exhibition excerpt                      



24/96 FLAC Sample  Pictures at an Exhibition excerpt  



Download purchase links:

Stereo MP3  

Stereo 16-bit FLAC    

Stereo 24-bit 96kHz FLAC 



CD purchase links and all other information:

PASC 372 - webpage at Pristine Classical     

Eloise Polk plays Beethoven

Eloise Polk
Eloise Polk
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Piano Sonata No. 29 in B-flat major, Op. 106, "Hammerklavier"

Eloise Polk   piano

Recorded c. 1950s

Transfers by Dr. John Duffy

Additional pitch stabilisation and remastering by Andrew Rose  



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