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Every Day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

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Pristine Classical



Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Die schöne Müllerin D795 (1823) [58:34]
Gerhard Hüsch (baritone)
Hanns Udo Müller (piano)
rec. January-March 1934


This is the second review on this site of Die schöne Müllerin, the Society edition 78 set of 1934, sung by the ardent Nazi sympathiser and rabble-rouser Gerhard Hüsch. His Winterreise, also a premiere recording on disc in its entirety, was reviewed at the same time by Anne Ozorio so you can to read her incisive comments on the performances there (see review).  This new transfer, though it shares the same release number as the older one which it replaces, is a Pristine Audio XR and the latest in my reviewing round of the transfer world’s claimed equivalent of a cure for cancer. As before I’m afraid I reject Pristine Audio’s unfortunate boast that their XR system “renders all previous transfers… entirely obsolete” not because I find no merit in their work – I do – but because the results have been, for me, consistently inconsistent in listening pleasure and furthermore on the Shakespearean grounds that There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio/ Than are dreamt of in your philosophy…and all that. 

Actually I have no real complaint with the kind of boast made by Pristine Audio – the reissue market for historic material is small and one has to shout to make oneself heard – but of course if one lives by the sword then one dies by it. Clearly Pristine’s Andrew Rose has been doing something right because Music & Arts have entrusted him with a wholesale XR restoration programme. But I’ve had problems with the batch I received for review. I liked the Kathleen Long Fauré; I disliked the Thibaud-Cortot Kreutzer Sonata; I was ambivalent-bordering-on-sceptical regarding the Weingartner Vienna Eroica. As before I strongly suggest, should you be interested, going to their site for specifics www.pristineclassical.com.  Briefly they claim, amongst other things, that pre-1945 78s now have their audible upper frequency range increased from between 5-6 kHz to somewhere between 11-13 kHz.

The results here centre mainly on the piano. The methodology by which XR works includes the use of a modern recording reference file, and its curve fulfils a basis for the restorative technique. The predictive element of the system ensures that at least the results here are consistent in themselves. The original set had Hanns Udo Müller’s piano set at a distance and this relative lack of projection has been the main focus of the restoration work from the sound of it. It’s the kind of thing that worked in the post-war Decca Kathleen Long recital. The Schubert now has a much more visceral and immediate piano image; closer to Hüsch and not recessed from him. Therefore there’s a significant increase in the verticality and depth of dynamics - the bass extension is noticeable. It means that both men now occupy a degree of aural parity and that was not the case in 1934. The interventionist technique therefore seeks to rectify an imbalance and not to reflect the original circumstances of the recording. I find though that the results have also somewhat compromised the openness of the sound. Preiser’s sound on both LP and their 2 CD Hüsch set is that much brighter, though obviously it preserves the rather unsatisfactory imbalance between singer and pianist.

The foregoing should give you some idea of the principles and ramifications involved. The most obvious test resides in your ears. And as ever when a system such as XR promises the earth you should listen to other transfers if possible, and the original set of the 78 – if at all practicable – and then decide whether you like what has been done here. 

Jonathan Woolf 



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