Pristine Newsletter - 12 December 2014   
Schumann Lieder
Newsletter Archive
Beethoven Trios 

One week only: 
Save 10%
on all downloads and of this release 


PACM094 [63:33]



Audiophile Audition Review 

Engineer and producer Andrew Rose has resuscitated patently important recordings - much criticized originally for their lack of acoustical reverberation - from RCA, inscribed 1957 and 1960 (String Trio in D Major), by the so-called "Million Dollar  Trio" of Heifetz, Primrose, and Piatagorsky. Isaac Stern once described the Twentieth Century as "the age of Heifetz," insofar as great violin performance standards were concerned. Noted for tonal accuracy and refined intensity, Jascha Heifetz (1901-1987) was a Lithuanian-born American violinist. He was born in Vilnius. He is widely regarded as the most important and influential violinist of the twentieth century, and violinists and musicians alike consider him to be the greatest violinist of all time. A child prodigy, he moved with his family to the United States where his Carnegie Hall debut won rapturous reviews. He had a long and successful recording career; after an injury to his right (bowing) arm, he focused on teaching.

The present remasterings of the Beethoven string trios projects an intensely clear focus, well-balanced, considering the Heifetz propensity for self-aggrandizement by way of microphone placement. The fine collaborative contributions by William Primrose and Gregor Piatagosky ensure an often fiery blend of Beethoven's lyric and suddenly passionate impulses.

Among the nobles who served as Beethoven's patrons after his arrival in Vienna in 1792 was Count Johann Georg von Browne-Camus. He is said to have squandered his fortune, and ended his days in a public institution. But in the mid-1790s, Beethoven received such generous support from Browne that he dedicated several works to him and his wife, including the three string trios of Op. 9. In response, Browne presented Beethoven with a horse, which the preoccupied composer promptly forgot, thereby allowing his servant to rent out the beast and pocket the profits!

The first of the triptych, the G Major Trio (27 March 1957), proceeds by small but pert gestures in the first movement, often in sizzling display - in rockets and imitative effects - from our principals. The second movement could aptly be called Romanze rather than Adagio, so operatic sings the major idea, especially from the violin. A deft Scherzo-Allegro ensues, followed by an energetic sonata-allegro, Presto, in Haydn (or later, Mendelssohn) terms that tests the virtuosity of our instrumentalists.

The opening material of the D Major Trio, Op. 9, No. 2 (27 August 1960) serves as something of an introduction, followed by the presentation of the main theme, a five-note turn that becomes predominant in the movement. The second theme provides contrast with a calm repeated-note viola accompaniment as the violin and the Piatagorsky cello sing a marvelous duet. The development explores the harmonic implications of the movement's opening gesture until the return of the five-note theme in the recapitulation.

The highly rhetorical second movement opens with a series of questioning chords. Once we have received an answer, the movement proceeds with a rapturous theme from Heifetz, answered by Piatagorsky in his highest register, and completed finally by Heifetz and Primrose in unison at the octave. After the opening chords return in a more dramatic version, a dropping arpeggiated motive comes to the fore, leading to a coda, which gently brings the movement to a close.

The Menuetto presents a plethora of slurs over the bar-line; its trio is minimal, a bare outline of a few progressions spelled out economically, the whole thing marked pianissimo. The main theme of the brilliant Rondo is presented each time by the cello in its high register and marked "solo" - perhaps a trace of Beethoven's visit to Berlin where he heard the brilliant playing of Jean-Pierre Duport, a gifted contemporary. Piatagorsky reminds us how much his warm tone garnered high praise from admirers.

Beethoven already treats the key of C minor as a special domain for the expression of intense feeling. The first four notes even suggest the dramatic intensity - and here our "million dollars" is well invested - of his later music. The first movement of this Trio proffers dramatic tension and a sense of urgency, in complete contrast with the heavenly Adagio con espressione in C Major. Here, Beethoven writes the opening bars in four parts (using double-stopping), as if he were already warming up for the later string quartets. A solid "symphonic" sound emanates from our principals. The Scherzo in C Minor exerts great vitality and rhythmic bite, complemented by a contrasting Trio section in major. The work ends with an even quicker presto, full of scurrying scales and a whimsical, Haydnesque ending. By 1798 Beethoven already told us always to expect the unexpected, except when the expected sufficed.   


Gary Lemco          

Dec 2014    


Audiophile Audition

19 DECEMBER 2014 

Schnabel's Schubert   
Artur Schnabel, piano

Studio recordings � 1950



PAKM 064 (57:18) 



 Artur Schnabel remains an inspiration for anyone who believes in his philosophy of performance, which simply stated is "play the music first, the piano second." When he was coming of age at the turn of the century, the prevailing style was decidedly to put the piano first, often as brazenly as possible. It was a golden age of showoffs, and Schnabel's seriousness rubbed against the grain of virtuosos who grumbled that he didn't have the fingers to compete with them in the first place. That may be true, but as this classic set of Schubert impromptus indicates, Schnabel could go into the studio in 1950 at age 68, with less than a year to live, and execute the score with authority and passion.

If musical value were the only issue, one could declare flatly that no one has played this music with such depth and insight since Schnabel's death. The first impromptu of the D 899 set recalls one of the most haunting songs in Winterreise, "Der Wegweiser" (The Signpost) in its melodic shape and the agitated march rhythm that accompanies it. I've never heard anyone impart a tragic undertone as poignantly as Schnabel does here. His quick repeated triplets were criticized for being wayward by the unknowing, who failed to recognize how Schnabel was faintly suggesting tears and sighs. That first impromptu is one of the great Schubert recordings, and the other seven are filled with their own unique artistry.

The fly in the ointment is the recorded sound, which has caused teeth to gnash for 60 years and rained down blows on EMI for botching the job. The piano has sounded harsh and clangy despite every new remastering by the company. Andrew Rose took up what he considered a very difficult challenge, first correcting the wrong pitch on some of the original 78s, along with "pitch drift." But the big obstacle was the hard tone of the piano, which as Rose notes ruefully is an unforgiving instrument. Using his trademark XR process, he considers the final result a success. I agree, but not if your playback system features bright high frequencies. It requires a lenient treble and upper midrange to soften the sound to the point where you can play the recording at louder volume levels (there should be no problem if your goal isn't to reproduce the piano as it sounds in the hall).

Otherwise, this is a cherishable release, one I can't imagine any lover of the Schubert impromptus being without. Pristine Audio offers a variety of download and CD options at its web site.     


Huntley Dent           

Jan-Feb 2015   


Fanfare Magazine  

Available to all Pristine Streaming subscribers

New This Week:

Nathan Milstein

Arthur Balsam

Violin Sonata in D major, op. 1, no. 13
Capitol, 1955  

CatNum: P-8315
Date: 1955-01-26
Venue: New York, Capitol Studios
Label: Capitol

Transfer by Dr John Duffy. 
Nathan Milstein

This Week     Suzanne Danco's Schumann Lieder
Best of '14     Four entries in the Sunday Times' Top Ten
Schumann    Dichterliebe - Liederkreis  
PSXclusive   Nathan Milstein fiddles again 
Offer              Save 10% on The Million Dollar Trio  
This week's new release

For the first time in the history of Pristine Audio I have to tell you this week that I have, if only in a rather distant and tangential manner, a conflict of interest with regard to this week's release. I discovered when researching the pianist Guido Agosti (who accompanies brilliantly the Belgian soprano Suzanne Danco in both her Schumann recordings), that he taught my own piano teacher - albeit someone (who will remain anonymous for his own protection!) who gave me lessons across the academic year 1987-88 and who I suspect will have suppressed all memories of my dismal efforts at the keyboard! (It was his first year as a piano professor at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama - one suspects he was given the hopeless cases to start with...)

Anyway, that aside, this is a rather lovely release. It is now about a year ago that I received a package of carefully-boxed 78s from collector Richard Morris, which included the first electrical recordings of Dichterliebe and Schubert's Schwangesang, both of which can be heard on PACO109, packed together with Danco's fine 1949 Dichterliebe as heard here.

Since then I've been scouring the globe for copies of Ms. Danco's 1952 recording of Liederkreis in order to bring together for the first time both of her Decca Schumann recordings, which (as far as I can tell) appear to be her only recordings of music by the German composer.

My first copy was to be found in the hands of a Swiss collector, selling online. I paid the money and awaited the disc, only to get a message from him telling me he'd examined the record and decided he'd graded its condition too highly in his original ad, and was thus withdrawing it from sale. After a little pleading and begging he relented - I pointed out that a few clicks and scratches were my forte and problem, not his - and the (signed) record was sent. Mindful of his warnings though I tracked down another copy - the only other I could find anywhere - which claimed Near Mint condition, and had this shipped over from the USA.

The Swiss copy turned out to be a French pressing, whilst the US copy, on London Records, was a British pressing. While there were indeed a few clicks on the French pressing, there was nothing that couldn't be easily dealt with in the restoration studio. Meanwhile the almost-as-new British pressing suffered from appalling swish, hard-baked decades ago into the vinyl, and could never have produced a usable transfer. Such are the uncertainties of early 1950s vinyl...

Anyway, I hope you'll like it. I've included two selections from each cycle in the excerpt you can listen to either by downloading it from this e-mail (see below) or by listening online. In the words of The Gramophone's critic of the day: "Her tone is by nature bright and cool, her legato singing very fine ...  Suzanne Danco's musicianly phrasing and pure tone are as pleasing as ever".

The Sunday Times - Four entries in year's the Top Ten!

Four Pristine releases grace the London Sunday Times top ten classical reissues section in this years 100 best records of the year

Here are Pristine's entries in the list:

5 MOZART Symphonies Nos 31, 35, 36 RPO, cond Sir Thomas Beecham (Pristine) (PASC409)

Vivacious performances (1951-54), with the startling bonus of acoustic recordings of the Figaro and Magic Flute overtures (1915-17).

7 SCHUBERT Impromptus D899, D935 Artur Schnabel (Pristine) (PAKM064)

Schnabel's 1950 recordings still hold their own, even in today's golden age of Schubert pianists.

8 MAHLER Symphony No 5 Berlin Philharmonic, cond Jascha Horenstein (Pristine) (PASC416)

Horenstein and the Berlin Phil do justice to the Fifth's ever-astonishing invention in this 1961 broadcast from Edinburgh.

9 TOSCANINI All-Verdi Concert (Pristine) (PACO106)

The 1943 concert broadcast after the news of Mussolini's fall. Rigoletto Act IV blazes with appropriate intensity.

Andrew Rose

Last week's release - in case you missed it:



The complete Schumann recordings of Suzanne Danco


First digital release of her 1949 Dichterliebe

"The present recording will give
much pleasure" -The Gramophone


SCHUMANN   Dichterliebe, Op. 48
SCHUMANN   Liederkreis, Op. 39   
Suzanne Danco, soprano
Guido Agosti, piano 


Recorded 1949 & 1952  



Producer and Audio Restoration Engineer:

Andrew Rose               


Total duration: 51:35                                    

Website page link: PACO 116    


Review: Dichterliebe - original 78rpm release

It would seem, on the face of it, inconsistent to make no objection to a woman singing Schubert's Die Winterreise, as Elena Gerhardt used to do so superbly, and to object to a woman singing Schumann's Dichterliebe, as Lotte Lehmann used beautifully to do. The fact is, however, that Schumann's song cycle is less universal in character than Schubert's and that there are three of the songs, at least, that are ineffectively sung by a soprano as they demand the male timbre and weight of voice. These songs are Im Rhein, im heiligen Strome (No. 6) and the last two.

Suzanne Danco, like Lotte Lehmann, is far too good a singer and musician to fail in her task, and I doubt if even, in the Askel Schiotz-Gerald Moore recording which I reviewed in April, 1946, that the balance was as good as it is here. Oddly enough some of the criticisms I made on that occasion about Mr. Schiotz' interpretations apply almost word for word here. Neither singer gives enough emotional warmth to the second and fourth songs but Miss Danco's Die Rose, die Lilie is done with greater lightness of tone. Her tone is by nature bright and cool, her legato singing very fine, and she does bring tenderness into the tenth and twelfth songs, which are quite lovely. Ich grolle nicht is another of the songs that needs deeper tones, and it is here sung rather jerkily. The pianist, Guido Agosti, is in the Gerald Moore class, than which there can be no higher praise, and his performance is a delight throughout. It is years since I heard it but possibly no recorded version has been so good, in the matter of vocal interpretation, as that of Gerhard H�sch, whose voice had all the romantic warmth so many of these songs need. I am nevertheless sure that the present recording will give much pleasure...


The Gramophone, March 1950


Review: Liederkreis - original LP issue

This group of twelve songs was composed during Schumann's great burgeoning of song writing in 1840, as was also another group under the same title with words by Heine. The latter, with the exception of Sch�ne Wiege meiner Leiden and Mit Myrthen und Rosen, are not so interesting as the Eichendorf set and contain nothing so lovely as Mondnacht and Fr�hlingsnacht, the gems of that set; and as we rarely hear the whole cycle it is good to have this excellent record. Suzanne Danco's musicianly phrasing and pure tone are as pleasing as ever, but these highly romantic songs need more warmth and also a more vivid sense of the words. There is little feeling of the haunted wood in which the Loreley appears to the terrified girl in Waldesgespr�ch, not enough spring magic in Fr�hlingsnacht, and in Mondnacht the singer blurs an otherwise excellent performance by failing to keep a perfect legato in the first two of the rising phrases characteristic of the song.

She is at her best in the first song, In der Fremde (In a strange land), the cry of an orphaned girl who will lie beneath the rustling woods forgotten by everyone, and in the equally pathetic Zwielicht (Twilight), a song that betrays a lack of trust in man�kind and concludes with advice to be on guard against the wounds life can inflict.

Of the remaining songs, Intermezzo, Sch�ne Fremde (Strange and beautiful) and Auf einer Burg (On a castle), which has an astonishing cadence at the end of its first verse, are the most enjoyable.

Guido Agosti, the excellent accompanist, is, as nearly always happens, recorded too distantly, but the disc, as a whole, will give much pleasure. I presume that Decca will issue a leaflet with the words of the songs, but I do not envy the unfortunate person who has the job of translating the romantic conceits of many of the songs into plain English!


The Gramophone, April 1953

Producer's Note

The Belgian soprano Suzanne Danco (22 January 1911 - 10 August 2000) sang in and recorded a number of operas, but is perhaps better known and remembered for her concert recitals and song cycle recordings. Yet in her twenty-two studio engagements for Decca between 1947 and 1956 she made only two recordings of the music of Robert Schumann - the two song cycles presented here. In both instances the Italian pianist Guido Agosti (11 August 1901 - 2 June 1989) accompanied her, as he would do for the majority of her song recordings.

Once again I am grateful to collector Richard Morris for loaning the rare Decca 78s for the present transfer of Dichterliebe - its first appearance in the digital age. The recording apparently also appeared on a 10" LP, LX.3039, but I was unable to source a copy on vinyl. It is therefore unclear as to whether the vinyl issue was a 78rpm transfer or directly mastered from tape. The answer may in fact be somewhat academic as Decca's earliest LP pressings were not the best: I managed to find two copies of Liederkreis on 10" LP, one a near-mint British pressing on the US London label, the other a French pressing acquired from a Swiss collector. Despite the latter having acquired more clicks and crackles over the years, the former suffered considerably from surface swish baked into the vinyl, and proved decidedly inferior. Of the two it's the earlier which is perhaps the better recorded, with a more even balance between singer and piano and a very slightly better tone for the latter. Both managed to capture the clarity and purity of Suzanne Danco's voice very well indeed.

Andrew Rose

Long sample:
Two Lieder from each cycle
Download and listen

Join Our Mailing List