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Pristine Classical



Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Sonata No. 9 in A major Op.47 Kreutzer (1803) [30:23]
Jacques Thibaud (violin)
Alfred Cortot (piano)
rec. Salle Chopin and Salle Pleyel, Paris, 27-29 May 1929


Pristine Audio’s XR technology is a claimed miracle of the transfer engineer’s art. Go to www.pristineclassical.com for specifics. Andrew Rose claims that pre-1945 78s now have their audible upper frequency range increased from between 5-6 kHz to somewhere between 11-13 kHz. He also goes further, boldly announcing that these transfers render “all previous transfers and restorations …entirely obsolete.” Since he’s embarking on a wide programme of XR restorations this is a defiant claim. He takes a modern recording of the work in question and utilises it as a reference file – as he did in bass-stiffening and percussion-enhancing the famous Heward Moeran Symphony recording. I’ve just reviewed his XR work on Kathleen Long’s post-war, 78-based, Fauré Deccas (see review). The sonic improvements in immediacy were certainly apparent.  Here however he takes on a much earlier 1929 Paris classic, the Thibaud-Cortot Kreutzer Sonata.

After the science what do one’s ears tell one? I set up an A-B-C test and took my (Italian) HMV DB1328-1331 – the one that announces the violinist as a certain G. Thibaud – and stacked it up against Mark Obert-Thorn’s transfer on Biddulph LAB028 (a 1990 transfer) and the XR. Then as usual in this kind of examination I continually switched between the three. The results to my ears remained constant. The noise suppression – Cedar-ing I suppose – leaves a grainy, steely subculture of sound. Fair enough. The main point of interest however is the XR work itself. Doubtless Andrew Rose would say I can’t hear properly – or hear what I want to hear. Well, so be it, but I find this, after the Long, rather disappointing. To me this transfer sounds curiously synthetic and treble starved; the constriction also, in a way I can’t explain, seems to affect Thibaud’s tone, which seems fractionally to become cloudy, as it certainly doesn’t on the 78 or in Obert-Thorn’s quite noisy but essentially unfussy transfer.

In the end it doesn’t matter about graphs, reference copies, Natural Sound, predictive elements and finding harmonics embedded in high frequency noise – it depends on how the transfer appeals. I appreciate Rose will not agree. Many other people also won’t agree and will enjoy this – download it and see. If possible have access to another transfer and better still go and listen to the 78. I liked Rose’s work with the Long Deccas but not this Kreutzer. It’s going to be trial and error, one at a time it seems, in my XR experience.

Jonathan Woolf



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