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Pristine News: Friday 4th December, 2009


In this week's newsletter:

Editorial - The quest for silence: a look into the future

This morning I performed one of the simplest and easiest upgrades to a PC that I can remember beyond adding new memory chips. Some might consider it a downgrade, even, but I believe it's a first step into the future of computing. It took five minutes to remove eight screws, replace a small metal box with another, and put it back together, then precisely 9 minutes with some idiot-proof software to set up the new system. I'll come back to it in a moment, but first some background.

I had some interesting e-mails following up my comments on the tagging of digital sound files and the potential difficulties of cataloguing a hard drive full of music as opposed to shelves of CDs or records. A couple of comments stuck out - first up, what happens when the hard drive fails? And secondly (and I admit, not a direct comment on my newsletter) why put a noisy hard drive in my living room?

I also was directed to the website of Olive, a US company selling high-end digital audio replay systems, whose latest device features a 2TB disk drive and what they claim to be high-end digital to audio converters for excellent sound (the chip in question wholesales at around $10 - their device costs a dollar short of two thousand - not the only gripe I have with their products and publicity, but that would take another article...).

In my view the Olive device potentially fails on both the aforementioned counts when you consider the two questions I had raised. Although you can indeed attach an external hard drive to back up your Olive, via its USB port, it sounds a rather cumbersome prospect and far from automatic. Secondly, no matter how well-engineered their system is, that internal drive will start to whine and wheeze after a couple of years or so, as they all do. And if it does fail you'd want to be very sure you'd recently backed up your precious music collection...

So what about that upgrade I started this column with? It's a new hard drive. "So what?" you may ask - just another disk drive in a computer. Well, in fact, it isn't. It's one of a new generation of solid state drives, in this case from computer memory manufacturer Kingston Technology. The drive itself has no discs - nor indeed any moving parts, despite being described on the box in French as a "Disque électronique". It's actually a set of memory chips inside a little box that's the same size as a 2.5" hard disc drive, with the same connections and a little circuit board inside which controls the chips and looks to the PC for all the world like a regular disc drive.

As I mentioned earlier, some might see this as a downgrade - I've just replaced a perfectly good, nearly new 320GB disk drive with a much smaller, 64GB solid state drive. This is most certainly the first time I've replaced a drive with one that is smaller in capacity. (I remember about 15 years ago replacing a 40MB drive with a 400MB drive and confidently declaring I'd never need another upgrade in capacity. How wrong I was! There are now at least three 2TB drives in our system, along with several 1.5TB and an assortment of 500GB boxes. The 320GB is going on the shelf - it's too small to be of any use.)

But this 64GB drive is perfect for its purpose. It's now sitting in the ASRock Ion 330 PC which serves as my audio and video player. It has no moving parts, therefore it is completely and utterly silent. My data is stored on a 2x2TB RAID server in an office two storeys away from my living room, with a 300Mbps wireless link, so it can make all the noise it likes and I won't hear it. The operating system and various items of software on the player add up to about 15GB of disk space - a quarter of what's available on this new 64GB drive.

OK, so it's silent. But that's not all. It uses a fraction of the elctricity of the regular disk drive, and runs much, much cooler, which has allowed me to switch the PC's internal cooling fan down into "UltraSilent" mode and further reduce any sound coming from the unit. Excellent news for hearing those very pianissimo passages even when you're sitting right next to it. It also seems to shift data much faster than the regular hard drive did - booting into Windows appears much quicker, as do application load times.

But the best bit I'm saving until last. How long do you expect a disk drive to last? I've had them fail after 18-24 months. I've had others that have gone on for enough years that their demise has come around due to lack of capacity rather than drive failure. Maybe five years would be a reasonable expectation, maybe more.

But the Kingston solid state drive has a claimed average failure rate, or to use the official terminology, a "MTBF" (Mean Time Before Failure) of 1.0 million hours - or a little over 114 years. In other words, the average life expectancy of my new drive suggests it'll carry on until at least the year 2123, by which time the human race will either be driving around in hovercars and holidaying on Mars or will have been consumed by global warming and rising sea levels, or some other calamity will have befallen us. Either way, it'll be long after I've stopped caring - or breathing, for that matter, unless someone discovers the elixir of eternal youth soon.

Right now the cost of this drive,. by comparison to a disc drive of similar capacity, is still high - though at €105 it's not quite broken the Pristine Audio bank. And I can promise you one thing - a year from now that will look like a ridiculously high sum to pay for such a thing. I would also suggest that by the time I'm starting to think about the possible (or actual) death of the regular hard drives which currently hold my audio and video data, I'll be replacing them with something which isn't expected to go round and round at 7200 revolutions per minute for years at a time, using up a lot of power and generating a lot of heat and noise, but perhaps something that'll last until my grandchildren are ready to hand them down to their grandchildren as working relics of another age.

The future is silent - and it's already here...

The Technical Bit: For those who are interested, this is what I did. The ASRock Ion's lid is held on by two screws. Undo these and it lifts off to reveal a cradle also held in place by two screws, which holds the 320GB hard drive and a CD-ROM or Blu-Ray drive. Unplug each drive and remove these screws and the cradle and drives easily lift out. The hard disk drive itself has four screws to hold it in place. Remove these and it'll slide out, to be replaced with the Kingston drive - a 2.5" V-Series 64GB drive which, in their desktop kit edition, comes with a CD of Acronis backup software which, amongst other things, clones disk drives. Once I'd screwed everything back together I plugged the old drive into an external disc 'cradle' adapter and plugged this into one of the USB ports (there's no way of attaching a second internal hard drive inside the ASRock). The PC was booted up using the software CD, and I selected the automatic disc clone option. This took 9 minutes to fully format and copy the contents of the old drive to the new one. I closed down the PC, unplugged the old drive and booted up to the new Kingston drive, which presented me with exactly what I've been seeing with the old drive, and started the PC up considerably faster and quieter.

Andrew Rose, Pristine Audio

Also of interest today:
  • Archive Classics - excellent weekly online radio programme dedicated to historic recordings. This week, they say:

    "Archive Classics tx 04/12/2009

    This week our Featured Recording is Chopin’s set of 24 Preludes, Op.28, inspired by Bach’s `48’ Preludes and Fugues, but imbued with poetic and romantic sensibility. Stephen Johnson has chosen a recording by the idiosyncratic Austrian pianist Friedrich Gulda (1930 - 2000), who began his career as a fine exponent of the Viennese classical repertoire, but later developed a keen interest in jazz. This recording dates from 1953, when the young pianist, then aged 23, was establishing a major international career in Europe and the USA.

    Only two of the Preludes are available on the free podcast: subscribers can access the complete set.

    And Chopin opens this week’s podcast – his brilliant Etude Op.25 No.11, `Winter Wind’. That’s played in a 1956 recording by another fine Viennese pianist – Paul Badura-Skoda ( b.1927 ), who with Gulda and Jorg Demus formed the so-called `Austrian troika’ of great 20th-century pianists.

    >From midwinter to midsummer – the magical overture from Mendelssohn’s incidental music to `A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, written in 1826 when he was just 17 years old. Stephen has chosen a performance by the NBC Symphony orchestra under Arturo Toscanini, recorded at a live broadcast on 24 January 1942.

    Now for a composer who hasn’t features on Archive Classics until now – Edvard Grieg. Jascha Heifetz and Emanuel Bay play his gorgeous Second Violin Sonata, in a vintage recording dating from 1936.

    Bonus track for subscribers only:

    • Debussy’s charming Petite Suite, originally written for piano and later orchestrated. Fritz Reiner conducts the NBC Symphony Orchestra in this 1952 recording."

New release today:

SIBELIUS: A 78rpm Anthology
Pristine Audio PASC 204

Featuring various orchestras conducted by: 
Beecham, Heward, Kajanus, Koussevitzky, Ormandy 
plus chamber music rcordings featuring: 
Emil Telmanyi and Louis Jensen
Recorded 1930-41

Transfers and XR remastering by Andrew Rose at Pristine Audio, November 2009 
All disc information below taken from transfers used for this compilation 
Cover artwork based on a photograph of Jean Sibelius

Total duration: 73:44 
©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

A fascinating collection of shorter works from the 78rpm era

Featuring some of the finest conductors, orchestras and performers


  • Karelia Suite, Op.11
    1. Intermezzo 
    3. Alla marcia
    The Royal Philharmonic Society's Orchestra*
    conducted by Robert Kajanus, May 1930
    UK Columbia DX307, Matrices WYX19-20, 1st takes

  • Rakastava (The Lover), Op. 14
  • King Christian II, Suite Op.27 
    The Leslie Heward String Orchestra**
    (Drawn from the City of Birmingham Orchestra's string section)
    conducted by Leslie Heward, February 14, 1941
    UK Columbia DX.1004-5, Matrices CAX 8834-7, 1st takes

  • The Swan of Tuonela, Op.22, No.2
    The Philadelphia Orchestra
    conducted by Eugene Ormandy, October 20, 1940
    HMV DB.5832, Matrices 2A.047823-4

  • Scenes Historiques, Op. 25 
    3. Festivo (Tempo di Bolero)
    London Philharmonic Orchestra
    conducted by Sir Thomas Beechem, December 14, 1935
    UK Columbia LX.501, Matrices CAX 7769-70, 1st takes

  • Belshazzar's Feast, Op. 51
    London Symphony Orchestra
    conducted by Robert Kajanus, June 24 & 29, 1932
    HMV DB.3937-8, Matrices 2B.2943-5 & 2960 Takes 1, 2, 1, 1

  • Swanwhite, Op. 54 
    3. The Maidens with Roses
    Boston Symphony Orchestra
    conducted by Serge Koussevitzky, December 12, 1936
    HMV DB.3171, Matrix 2A.03175

  • Danses Champêtres, Op. 106
    1. Largamente assai
    2. Alla polacca
  • Romance in F major, Op.78, No.2
    Emil Telmanyi, violin
    Georg Vasarhelyi, piano (Op106/1), March 3, 1936
    Gerald Moore, piano (Op106/2, Op78/2), March 28, 1935
    HMV DB.2893, Matrices 2RA.1042, 2EA.1348, Takes 1,3

  • Malinconia, Op. 20
    Louis Jensen, cello
    Galina Werschenskaya, piano, August 26, 1936
    HMV DB.5223, Matrices 2CS.955-6, 2nd takes 

*This recording is sometimes ascribed to the London Symphony Orchestra. However, the orchestra's discography, compiled by Philip Stuart, states: "Kajanus’ recordings of the first two symphonies were made in May 30 with an anonymous orchestra, sometimes labelled as the LSO, but now identified as the Royal Philharmonic Society’s orchestra" - likewise this recording does not appear in the LSO discography, was recorded at the same time, and is simply labelled "Symphony Orchestra"

**Although labelled as "The Leslie Heward String Orchestra", it was in fact the string section of the City of Birmingham Orchestra, now the CBSO. This was confirmed in an e-mail from the CBSO's current archivist, Beresford King-Smith: "I can confirm that the information you have about that 1941 Sibelius recording is absolutely correct - the players were members of the City of Birmingham Orchestra, but Walter Legge (who always had his own nefarious reasons for what he decided to do !) opted to use the 'Leslie Heward String Orchestra' formula, instead. The recording took place on 14th February 1941, in Birmingham Town Hall."


8th December 2009 marks the 144th birthday of Sibelius, and this week we're marking his twelve dozen years with two major releases covering a wide range of his music.

This collection brings together the majority of 78rpm recordings available in the UK by the early 1940s outside of the mammoth 6-volume Sibelius Society collection.

It includes recordings by five major conductors - from Sibelius' great friend Robert Kajanus, to some of his finest interpreters, among them Beecham, Koussevitzky and, of course, Eugene Ormandy.

The set is rounded off with a series of short chamber music pieces, including his virtuoso Danses Champêtres and popular Romance in F.

All are presented in brand new, superb XR-remastered transfers.

Download listening sample: Sample MP3 (The Swan of Tuonela, 224kbps Ambient Stereo)

Notes on the recordings:

This anthology of recordings was entirely drawn from a single album compiled by the late professor of music at a UK university whose extensive collection of 78s was acquired by Pristine Audio some years ago. It supplemented the Sibelius Society collection of some six volumes, and together with a handful of other recordings, represents a pretty successful attempt to bring together just about all of the recordings of Sibelius available to the British record buyer in the 1930s and early 1940s from the two major record companies.

I have kept very closely to the professor's order of discs, merely reversing the two recordings made by Emil Telmanyi and Gerald Moore from their order on a single disc side in order to bring together the two Danses Champêtres. Alas two discs arrived broken - the perpetual peril in shipping shellac discs, and thus we do not have Beecham's RPO Tapiola. However, the rest of the discs survived in remarkably good condition, with very few scratches indeed, and almost no evidence of wear. All possessed the typical 'bacon frying' crackle of British pressings, all replayed well, and swish was remarkable by its general absence. Although there is some difference in sound quality between the earlier and later recordings, all have responded exceptionally well to XR remastering, and sound quality is generally excellent.

N.B. Further notes by Andrew Rose on all of the pieces in this collection are available online.


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 Sibelius and Alfvén
Pristine Audio PASC 205

The Philadelphia Orchestra
conducted by Eugene Ormandy 

Recorded 1953 and 1955

Producer and Audio Restoration Engineer: Mark Obert-Thorn
Cover artwork based on a photograph of Eugene Ormandy
Optional Ambient Stereo processing by Andrew Rose
N.B. This recording has not received XR remastering treatment.

Total duration: 65:58 
©2009 Pristine Audio

For more download and CD options, see our website

The FLAC downloads:

16-bit Mono FLAC

Ambient Stereo FLAC

Ormandy's excellent mid-fifties Sibelius & Alfvén Tone Poems

New transfers by Mark Obert-Thorn perhaps the first to fix major technical flaws

  • SIBELIUS En Saga, Op.9 
  • SIBELIUS Pohjola's Daughter, Op.49
  • SIBELIUS Oceanides, Op.73
  • SIBELIUS Tapiola, Op.112
  • ALFVÉN Swedish Rhapsody No.1, Op.19 ("Midsommarvaka")
    The Philadelphia Orchestra
    conductor Eugene Ormandy
    Recorded 10th March, 1955 (1, 2) and 24th December, 1955 (3, 4) 
    and 15th February, 1953 (5) in the Academy of Music, Philadelphia
    First issued on AL-35 (Alfvén) and ML-5249 (Sibelius) 

"...the Philadelphia Orchestra fully maintains its high reputation in these four tone-poems: some details indeed, such as the sul ponticello passage in En Saga, emerge more effectively than in any other recording..."

from review of the Sibelius recordings by L.S. in The Gramophone, January 1959


Mark Obert-Thorn, presents these excellent 1950s Tone Poem recordings from Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra, featuring some of the composer's finest and best-loved works outside of his seven symphonies.

As always, Mark has selected the finest source material for his transfers, and the sound quality here is all one would expect from an Obert-Thorn production.

Furthermore, he's been able to add Aflvén's much-loved Swedish Rhapsody No. 1 in a transfer which - perhaps for the first time - addresses major technical issues with pitch variance which affected the original releases of this recording.

It's a treat for Sibelians and a treat for Ormandy fans alike!

Download listening sample: Sample MP3  (Pohjola's Daughter, 224kbps mono)

Notes on the recordings:

The Alfvén was transferred from its 12-inch reissue on ML-5181. I have not heard the original 10-inch release (AL-35), but on this LP, it is plagued by severe pitch instability. The work starts more than a half-tone flat, and gets progressively flatter as it goes on. Through careful pitch checking, I have corrected the playback speed so that, perhaps for the first time, it may be heard at the proper pitch throughout.

Mark Obert-Thorn


Available as 320kbps MP3, 16-bit FLAC, 16-bit 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

Blech conducts Mozart & more

Leo Blech
Leo Blech

Symphony 34 in C K338

Berlin State Opera Orch.
Leo Blech 
Recorded 1932

Secret Marriage Overture 

London Symphony Orch.
Leo Blech 
Recorded 1931

Anacreon Overture 

Berlin Philharmonic Orch.
Leo Blech 
Recorded 1932

These three recordings formed the the second side of a multi-disc set entitled "Historical Anthology of Orchestral Music", a collection of historic recordings culled from the library of Thomas L Clear.

All three recordings date from the same period in the early 1930s. They are presented here with Ambient Stereo remastering by Dr. John Duffy.

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

Latest review at Audiophile Audition

SIBELIUS: Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 43
NWDR Symphony Orchestra, Hamburg/Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt

Pristine Audio PASC186, 44:07 (choice of MP3 or FLAC downloads in XR-remastered or ambient stereo, or custom physical CD-Rs) [] ****

"Schmidt-Isserstedt’s. . . results leave us astounded by the breadth of the reading, certainly on a par with the classic conceptions by Kajanus, Koussevitzky, and Beecham."

Published on November 22, 2009

The name of Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt (1900-1973) seldom arises in Sibelius contexts, but Pristine revivifies a Capitol LP (18009; produced by John Culshaw) that contains a beautifully sensitive reading of the D Major Symphony from 1956. The response from the North German strings, horns, and woodwinds proves articulate and eminently stylistic, with the conductor’s calling up the Scandinavian ethos embedded in the wind-blown “topography” of the score. The fugal episode in the first movement contains a feverish, grinding tension, the sonata-form itself twisted to suit Sibelius’ emotional urgency. The devotion to space may take precedence over interior drama for its own sake, but the results leave us astounded by the breadth of the reading, certainly on a par with the classic conceptions by Kajanus, Koussevitzky, and Beecham.

The second movement will charm and disarm auditors, with Schmidt-Isserstedt’s detailed care in the cello and bass pizzicati, which avoids open strings. As the music gains momentum, it does not lose the natural warmth in the strings, but even gains in acerbic drive from the cellos and violas and the whiplash virtuosity of the timpanist. A natural hymn emanates out of the Finnish soil, a transcendental orison of molded power, intimate, mystical. If we find some dramatic reticence in the opening Allegretto, the Vivacissimo third movement holds no such reservations, a thrilling ride in hues of tremulous acceleration. Alternately, the lyric interlude with oboe, strings, and horns emanates a wistful nostalgia for an irretrievable innocence. Schmidt-Isserstedt graduates the hefty transition to the extensive final movement, the so-called “chorale of independence” for those who project political connotations into the often imperious writing of the Allegro moderato. Schmidt-Isserstedt incorporates an expanded timpani part--adopted from Koussevitzky--for the finale that never became an authorized emendation but still proves immensely effective. Conductor Schmidt-Isserstedt has managed to fuse the grandly--even grandiloquently--epic aspects of the score with a devoutly personal statement of spiritual beatitude, a splendid account that will provide some of the best Sibelius we will audition in 2009. Kudos to Andrew Rose for a masterly restoration.

--Gary Lemco

Pristine's Sibelius Downloads

The quickest and easiest way to find recordings by a particular composer is to use our alphabetical text listings. You'll find all listings for composers whose name begins with "S" here.

Here are all the listings for Sibelius at Pristine Classical:

Sibelius - Belshazzar's Feast, Op. 51 - Kajanus, London Symphony Orchestra (1932)

Sibelius - Danses Champêtres 1 & 2 - Telmanyi, acc. by Vasarhelyi/Moore (1936/35)

Sibelius - En Saga, Op. 9 - Ormandy, Philadelphia Orchestra (1955)

Sibelius - Finlandia - Ormandy, Philadelphia Orchestra (1950)

Sibelius - Karelia Suite, Op.11 - Kajanus, Royal Philharmonic Society's Orchestra (1930)

Sibelius - King Christian II, Op. 27, 2. Elegie - Heward, Leslie Heward String Orchestra (AKA City of Birmingham Orchestra) (1941)

Sibelius - Lemminkainen Suite - Jensen, Danish Radio Orchestra (1953)

Sibelius - Malinconia, Op. 20 - Jensen, acc. by Werschenskaya (1936)

Sibelius - Oceanides, Op. 73 - Ormandy, Philadelphia Orchestra (1955)

Sibelius - Pohjola's Daughter, Op. 49 - Ormandy, Philadelphia Orchestra (1955)

Sibelius - Rakastava (The Lover), Op. 14 - Heward, Leslie Heward String Orchestra (AKA City of Birmingham Orchestra) (1941)

Sibelius - Romance in F major, Op. 78 No. 2 - Telmanyi, acc. by Moore (1935)

Sibelius - Scenes Historiques, Op. 25, No. 3: Festivo - Beecham, London Philharmonic Orchestra (1935)

Sibelius - The Swan of Tuonela, Op. 22, No. 3 - Ormandy, Philadelphia Orchestra (1940)

Sibelius - The Swan of Tuonela, Op. 22, No. 3 - Ormandy, Philadelphia Orchestra (1950)

Sibelius - Swanwhite, Op. 54 - The Maidens with Roses - Koussevitzky, Boston Symphony Orchestra (1936)

Sibelius - Symphony No 2 in D, Op. 43 - Schmidt-Isserstedt, NWDR Symphony Orchestra (1956)

Sibelius - Symphony No 4 in A minor, Op. 63 - Ormandy, Philadelphia Orchestra (1954)

Sibelius - Symphony No 4 in A minor, Op. 63 - Toscanini, NBC Symphony Orchestra (1940)

Sibelius - Symphony No 5 in E flat, Op. 82 - Ormandy, Philadelphia Orchestra (1954)

Sibelius - Symphony No 6 - Beecham, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (rec. 15th Sept. 1954)

Sibelius - Tapiola, Op. 112 - Ormandy, Philadelphia Orchestra (1955)

Sibelius - Violin Concerto - Heifetz, LPO, Beecham (rec. 1935)

Check out all of our text indexes, listed both by composer and artist:

Text-only indexes, listed by Composer:

A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z

Text-only indexes, listed by Artist:

A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z




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