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Penguin Guide, January 2009

Naxos are beginning to issue Elgar’s own classic recordings on their label. Luckily, the transfers are good; they are warm and with less surface noise, but this may not be to all tastes (transfers of 78s are always a controversial matter). However, at bargain price, no one should hesitate. The novelty on this CD is a highly controversial ‘accidental stereo’ excerpt of the Cockaigne Overture, much talked about in 78-r.p.m. circles. The apparent stereo seems to have been made possible because, as was normal in recordings of this time, two turntables would be running during the cutting of the wax recording master discs, usually fed from the same microphone. Sometimes, as appears to be the case here, two separate microphones were used and (to cut a long story short) were in effect left and right channels. When synchronized together, they give a crude but discernible stereo effect. The producer of this CD, Mark Obert-Thorn, who has written a fascinating note included in the booklet, has made a superb job of this process. It undoubtedly adds another dimension to Elgar’s recorded legacy.

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