Beethoven Complete Works For Cello and Piano ( New: Source Clarification)

How the original single LP of cellist Fournier and pianist Gulda performing Beethoven’s Cello Sonata in D (Deutsche Gramophon SLPM 138 083) ended up in my collection isn’t clear to me but I can narrow it down to either my college Beethoven symphony music appreciation class professor, or to Duane, the classical music expert at Minuteman Records in Harvard Square.

Just received: email from Rainer Maillard at Emile Berliner Studios, where this set was cut. Maillard says DGG hasn't a "clear strategy" about how best to use their analog archives for cutting. Sometimes it's "pure analog, sometimes they send 192/24 files". He says he's trying hard to convince DGG to let him cut from tape whenever possible. In this case he wrote, ".... (Gulda/Fournier) (is) a digital cut (and) is not the worse solution ever. We had to do a lot of restoration work which could not be realized in the analogue domain with this quality…."

So, here the cut was, of necessity, from a digital source. And in this case the reissue sounds better than the original.

Rainer added: "Starting about a year ago in addition to the catalog number, we sign the lacquer with "PURE ANALOGUE if the cut is 100% analog (e.g. see all Speakers Corner LPs), we sign DIRECT-TO-DISC if it is 100% direct to disc and analog. If you see nothing, it is digital (from our studio it's about 80% digital, worldwide it's about 99.9%).

I remember being told that these two guys made for an unlikely pair and that I should pay attention to the disparate musical sensibilities of the French cellist and the Austrian pianist.

The cellist, I was told, was kind of wild and would make the instrument sometimes bark and at other times screech, while the Viennese pianist would compensate with intense precision for the Frenchman’s flamboyance.

Whoever told this to me was probably trying to entice a rocker into chamber music but I didn’t find Fournier’s playing “wild” (maybe I was expecting The Flock’s Jerry Goodman?). Nonetheless I did note the cello’s lower notes croaking and the upper ones sometimes if not screeching, then pushing towards edgy. The new liner notes consider the two distinctive playing styles.

More importantly, the music’s elegance moved me and made it easy for me to switch between the Cello Sonata in D and Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water album.

Admittedly I haven’t played this record in years but when a Ume publicist sent me this box set of Beethoven’s Complete works for Cello and Piano I pulled it out and gave it a spin. It sounded much better than I last remember it since my system’s much better. I particularly noted how easy it now was to hear acoustics of the relatively small Musikverein, Brahms -Saal concert space—a 600 seater located in Vienna.

The new 3 LP box includes Beethoven’s complete works for cello and piano that includes the original LP’s side two program of variations on Handel’s oratorio “Judas Maccabee” and Mozart’s “The Magic Flute”.

Of course, I began with the familiar Sonata #1 and within a few bars it became obvious that this reissue cut ½ speed at the Emile Berliner Studios in Berlin was sonically way better than the original. Instrumental focus was better, everything was better and the pressing probablyh at Optimal was dead silent too.

The presentation includes a high quality glossy laminated box and as with this year’s excellent and highly recommended reissue of Beethoven’s 9 symphonies with Bernstein conducting the Vienna Philharmonic, this set includes facsimiles of the DGG production paperwork. It was exciting (for a record geek) to see the sheets produced for the original LP I’ve had for so many years.

About the only think missing from this box set were the tulips around the label. Otherwise, if you want more high quality all-analog produced classical music reissues you’d do well to support this effort even if you don’t think you like chamber music. You might be surprised! Now I’ll play Bridge Over Troubled Water to complete the cycle!

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volvic's picture

Funny all my recordings of Fournier reveal a very reserved and well controlled cellist. It was always Gulda that used to "wander off" in his performances. I do like the Kempff and Fournier DG version as well and the Richter/Rostropovich is commendable as well, but for DG to release them on vinyl is very welcome indeed. Pulling the CC once I finish typing.

Michael Fremer's picture
Kempff//Fournier box (DGG 138993-5_ and the Richter/Rostropovich (Philips PHS 2-920) that I suspect was recorded by Robert Fine because the photo credit is "Harold Lawrence". For the purposes of this review I stuck to just this one!
bkinthebk's picture

“newly remastered at Half-Speed from original sources”

This seems vague.

I’d like to hear more about this Duane character. We had a guy named Guido at our local shop when I was in high school. Tried to get us into classical but we only wanted rock, alt/grunge, or hip hop. I’d love to run into him again at this stage in my life.

Giorgiovinyl's picture

Michael are you sure that this (wonderful) set is all analog? I always assumed the DG vinyl remaster has a digital hires step. If you have more informations please let share it with us.
I am really interested in Bernstein Beethoven symphonic cycle too.

Charlieboy's picture

I'd like to buy but 'from original sources" is not enough info for me. Its $60 in Europe BTW

DaK's picture

Thanks for the review, was on the edge of buying it for a while!

"...but when a Ume publicist sent me this box set of Beethoven’s Complete works for Cello and Piano".

Is there any way you could ask the Ume guy which DGG reissue are AAA? And are you 100% sure this reissue is AAA?

Michael Fremer's picture
That the indie publicist would have no idea! I could ask Rainer Maillard but honestly here the sound is so overwhelmingly good I don't care about the source and that would be my take on the Beatles 45 box if it sounded great....
Giorgiovinyl's picture

to have the answer. Micheal I absolutely trust you (you are my preferite reviewer) and I am sure these vinyl sound magnificent.
But I would like to have the answer not only for this set but for other like Tchaikowsky Mravinsky, Beethoven Lenny, Beethoven-Brahms Karajan. Only an authority like you you can solve this mystery...

Jack Gilvey's picture

A 12 for Sound?

Kashio's picture

I Loved your post about Cello and Piano information. Please keep sharing in future.

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vogelzang's picture

From the Amazon listing for the CD version of this recording

"Pierre Fournier's and Friedrich Gulda's legendary 1959 recordings of Beethoven's complete works for cello and piano (5 Sonatas, 3 Variation Cycles), remastered at Emil Berliner Studios in 24 bit/192kHz, DTS-HD Master Audio. Cover adapted from the original artwork, booklet including iconic artist photos of Pierre Fournier and Friedrich Gulda."

bkinthebk's picture

Thanks for the clarification on provenance. Very good info. Much appreciated.

Giorgiovinyl's picture

Thank you very much Micheal.
I assumed the Dg vinyl reissues were all from Hires files. You have opened my eyes.
Yesterday I have listened to the Tchaikovsky Mravinskij vinyl box, printed at Pallas, same inscriptions in the deadwax of the Analogphonic box set. I have received Beethoven Symphonies directed by Bernstein too and just ordered Brahms Karajan.
This site is precious for analog lovers

Jan5512's picture

I just received this set and the performance and sound are breathtaking. I’m glad DG is going through their archives and reproducing these classics ON LP ! Thanks for reviewing such a wide variety of genres.