a shame. This is a fine selection of recordings, thoughtfully
complementary to Malibran’s Selva disc (see review
which has been compiled with intelligence, given Selva’s
august position in the annals of French – and international – pianism.
The Franck violin sonata recording with Joan Massia has
never, to my knowledge, been released in any form since
its appearance on 78s in 1930. It joins the Malibran transfer
of the Massia-Selva recording of the Spring
similarly unissued until then. Given the paucity of recordings
by Selva – she died before a long run could be undertaken – this
represents her entire discography as far as I’m aware.
shame concerns the transfers. It’s one thing to go to the
trouble to decide to restore these important recordings
but another entirely to do it like this. The pity of it
all is that the commercial realities – financial imperatives,
copyright extension fears, sub-prime belt-tightening – mean
that recordings such as these may only get one shot in
the marketplace. Internet groups are good at disseminating
rare material such as this – I’ve seen the Sammons-Murdoch
Grieg Violin Sonata No.2 produced by a well known and admired
transfer engineer who envisages no commercial opportunities
for releasing it - and it’s one of the great performances
of the work; similarly the rare, excellent Catterall-Murdoch
Franck sonata has been made available as a good download.
This little detour is to make one simple point; if you
are going to misjudge your transfers – as these Selva ones
have been and as were, say, the Hallé historical reissues
and plenty of others – no matter how awful the restoration
work it means that the chances of a competing and far superior
transfer appearing will be exceptionally small. There’s
no point any other transfer engineer pursuing a very small
rabbit down a very small hole.
final point. If you do ever listen to this disc then for
the love of Mike don’t think that 78s sound like this.
I’ve got the Massia-Selva Franck set on Columbia and it’s
not at all bad as a recording. The noise suppression computer
however has been switched on like a cement mixer and has
done its absolute worst – the result is indescribably horrible.
I really can’t be bothered to tell you about the Catalan
Massia’s singing but essentially limited tone, the on/off
vibrato, his occasionally laboured lower (gut, I think,
not metal) strings. Nor really that the balance is skewed
in favour of Selva – she was a powerful, squat woman and
Massia a tall elegant slim man and they play like they
look. Ought I to dare to hope that someone will retrieve
the Cantrelle/Descaves 1928 set of the Franck, alongside
the Catterall mentioned above? Well, not if it’s done like
other pieces are equally sad examples of what happens to
78s when engineers understand them. The pieces associated
with Selva and played by other notables are certainly worth
resurrecting. How could the Rosenthal, say, not be worth
revisiting? But the poor, scratchy copies used, the treacle
of noise suppression, the blasting in fortes and wrong
sized styli used to do the work all vitiate the good intentions.
Only the Dukas escapes censure to a degree - always wonderful
to hear Lefébure, especially in this masterpiece.
to think that the Association Blanche Selva
the Centre International Albert-Roussel
their names to this disc. Sacré bleu.