– Serge Koussevitzky and The Boston Symphony – E. Power Biggs, Organ – April 13, 1946 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
The music of Walter Piston, performed by The Boston Symphony under Serge Koussevitzky with E. Power Biggs, organ solo. It was from the broadcast of April 13, 1946.
Walter Piston – Prelude And Allegro For Organ And Orchestra.
This one comes with an apology from the get-go. This broadcast was, to put it mildly, heartbreaking – not because of the Piston but because it also included the broadcast premier of Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes by Benjamin Britten. The broadcast ended with Copland’s Appalachian Spring.
I bring those up because the piece I’m posting is the only one that survived, and even with that, it was a minor miracle pulling any useable sound out. Of the four sides of the 16″ transcriptions this broadcast came from – only this disc was remotely playable, and suffered extensive water damage which managed to eat away at the precious grooves. The other three sides suffered extensive acetate peel – the black coating which contained the recorded material had simply fallen off, exposing the aluminum base – there was nothing to be done – the acetate simply was gone.
So, in trying to drag out as much useable sound as I could, I employed a lot of noise reduction. Some of it is admittedly hit rather hard and the sound comes across as artificial in places – that was where the grooves were mostly rotted away.
In short, it’s an important piece of music by an important figure in 20th Century American Classical music that has suffered at the hands of the elements – whether the discs were in a flood or being wet from exposure to an extended period of humidity and moisture, it’s unclear. But the damage has been done and all that’s left is what you hear.
As you know, I hate presenting history in a dim and distorted light – it’s not the way it was originally recorded or broadcast. Sometimes restoration is done poorly and the listener suffers needlessly. But sometimes the damage is physical and you do all you can to save what is left.
So with that, I beg your indulgence and some understanding that, until a better copy of this broadcast comes along, this is all there is at the moment.
Listen with caution. But enjoy nonetheless.
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