Everest Records Returns in All its Glory
Among the gems of the Everest catalog are the very first recording of Aaron Copland conducted of his own work, the Symphony No.3 that includes the spectacular "Fanfare for a Common Man"; Sir Adrian Boult's premiere recording of Ralph Vaughan Williams' Symphony No.9, made on the day the composer died and issued as a tribute; Sir Malcolm Arnold conducting his own works; pianist Jorge Bolet performing Chopin; Ernst von Dohnanyi playing his own piano music; Leopold Stokowski's versions of Tchaikovsky's Francesca da Rimini and Hamlet; Eugene Goosens' prized disc of ballet suites from Antill's Corroboree and Ginastera's Panambi; and Sir Malcolm Sargent conducting Tchaikovsky's Symphony No.5. Some of these titles are in the latest batch of Everest releases, and are due to arrive at HDTracks in the not too distant future.
HDTracks' David Chesky, responding to email shortly after returning from a production of one of his operas in Poland, says, "I like the pairing of Villa-Lobos' Little Train of Caipira with Ginastera's ballet suites a lot. In truth, I find all of the Everests to be wonderful. Bert Whyte [Everest producer and engineer, who, together with label co-founder Harry Belock, decided to record on 35mm film rather than ½" magnetic tape because they considered 35mm sonically superior] was laying the foundation for all audiophiles to follow."
Lutz Rippe, a classically trained clarinetist who has restored and remastered the titles for the master tapes' owner, Countdown Media in Hamburg (a subsidiary of BMG Rights Management), told Stereophile that he began working on the project in 2009. It took a few months to become familiar with the tapes and how to perform post-processing before the first releases, most of Beethoven's nine Symphonies performed by the London Symphony Orchestra under Josef Krips, could see the light of day.
"Many of the tapes are quite deteriorated or have suffered from vinegar syndrome, which is a common problem for 35mm tapes that have not been stored optimally," he explained. "The tapes contain acetic acid, and over time, the acetic acid precipitates and the tapes' components fall apart. The effect is that the tape shrinks, and the sides curl a bit. Thus, you may have problems with wow and flutter on the recording, which are time-consuming to fix."
Countdown Media's Albrecht MB-51 conversion machine is equipped with a special laser shrinkage detector that was specifically designed to handle tapes that suffer from vinegar syndrome. Instead of using a sprocket wheel for playback, which on shrunken tapes can result in damage and lead to occasional skips that cause the tape to run fast, the machine uses a laser to detect the sprocket holes in the tapes and play them back at the desired speed. In addition, a special replay head increases the pressure of the tape against the head to reduce wow and flutter effects.
Rippe reports that there's no particular reason why the current 61 titles were remastered before the remaining batch sees the light of the day. Remastering is a time-consuming process, and must be accomplished while working on a host of other projects, one of which includes re-releasing the Vox catalog, which is rich with early recordings by Alfred Brendel.
"Everything that is published and released has its special story," says Rippe. "My honest opinion is that the vast majority of recordings sound very good, and are absolutely worth listening to. If you were to see how torn the masters sometimes are, you'd be amazed at the sound that comes out of them."
He also notes that about 15 of the Everest titles, including Tchaikovsky's Fifth, were originally transferred in 24/192 by Bernie Grundman Mastering for reissue by Classic Records some time back. "I did some additional restoration work on those transfers," Rippe says. "They were excellent in general, but some of them suffered from wow and flutter in certain places. Now that our specialized software has repaired those problems, we've ended up with great remasterings that mate perfectly with the other titles we're remastered in Hamburg."