As before in my
examination of the first commercially available batch of Pristine
XR transfers, I’ll reprise my comments on Weingartner’s 1936
Eroica for those unfamiliar with it and then get to grips with
the aesthetic that underpins Pristine’s work.
The Eroica displays
many of Weingartner’s greatest strengths; the opening has a
splendid drive - virile, lithe with clear accents, precision
of chording and little variation in tempi. He is wise over distinctions
between sforzati and equally so in terms of the trajectory of
the movement as a whole. The funeral march however is the movement
that will encourage most debate because here, famously, Weingartner
ignores the stricture he himself made in his book on the performance
of the Beethoven symphonies. The movement is certainly one of
great - but typically not grandiose - nobility and restraint,
the clarinet singing out with affecting depth, balance between
string choirs splendidly maintained. But whereas he counselled
specifically against hurrying at bar 69 et seq here he
does pretty much precisely that – as he does in the fugal section
– and he ignores his earlier stern suggestion of crotchet =
66-72 by taking it at something more like 56-96, thus subjecting
the movement to far wider tempo extremes than one would otherwise
have expected of someone of Weingartner’s assumed sobriety.
Whether one accepts his solution is an individual matter – and
it goes, presumably, to show that prescriptive concordats are
modified over time and through experience. Very few things are
writ in stone. The scherzo though is wonderfully animated and
the Finale splendid – crisp and dramatic.
This happened to
be one of the best recorded of the Weingartner Beethoven cycle.
True, the acoustic was inclined to be a touch cramped and airless
– “boxy” in the well-known terminology – but the immediacy of
the performance was audible then and is still audible today.
It makes a terrific impression, and packs a powerful punch,
even now. Restoration priorities differ. In his Naxos transfer
[8.110956] Mark Obert-Thorn did what in my experience he doesn’t
often do now – he added a certain amount of artificial reverberation
to soften the Vienna sound.
The Naxos has more
audible surface noise than the XR but, whether because of the
reverb or other reasons, retains more sense of a room ambience.
The lower strings – celli and basses – sound more charismatic
and characteristic in Naxos’ work as well. More importantly
the string choir balance seems more natural as well. Partly
this has to do with a sense of bass overloading, or what seems
like such, in the XR – though doubtless the rejoinder may be
that we are now hearing things we didn’t hear before. Until
that’s definitively proved one may justly have cause to wonder
whether the conductor’s control of dynamics is being faithfully
reflected. I ought to advise you, once again, to visit the company’s
and to consider the ramifications of their level of frequency
extraction/intervention. What remains true however is the solid
immediacy of the XR sound. Regarding the extravagant claims
made for this new XR process you might want to read my review
of the Thibaud/Cortot Kreutzer
sonata for further details of the process.
Enthusiasm for this
transfer depends on the level of intervention one welcomes.
The use of modern reference recordings to “fill in” poor detailing
in the original (percussion, bass line etc.) through graphs
and the like, is scientific work and this was an approach Andrew
Rose took in his Moeran Symphony transfer. This earlier Weingartner
recording however will sound, according to taste, either very
exciting or exaggerated - or maybe both simultaneously.
his review of the new Pristine XR transfer
of Weingartner's 1935 VPO recording
of Beethoven's Eroica Symphony, Jonathan
Woolf incorrectly states that I added
artificial reverberation in my Naxos
transfer of this same recording. He
was probably thinking of the same conductor's
LPO recording of the Beethoven 4th,
which appears on the same CD, to which
I did add artificial reverb (due to
the extreme boxiness of the recording)
and stated so in my booklet note. The
bloom he heard in the Naxos transfer
of the Eroica, however, is on the original