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"New CD Label Captures the Vitality of Historical Recordings"

by Robert Baxter, Courier-Post, 5 October 1997

Technology has revolutionized the way people hear old recordings. Using computers and digital processes, technicians have cleaned away surface noise and restored vibrancy and clarity to recordings made at the turn of the century.

No one cleans up old recordings better than Ward Marston. In the studio of his home in Swarthmore, Pa., Marston has liberated the voice of Enrico Caruso from the grooves of old 78s and discovered new vitality in the historical records Leopold Stokowski made with the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Up to now, Marston has freelanced for a number of CD firms. Now he is launching Marston, his own label of historical reissues.

The producer and engineer insists quality sets the standard for the recordings that carry his name.

I want a unity of concept," he explains. "The photos, liner notes and the transfers must all be of the highest quality. The total look and sound of the package is important."

The initial releases, due in record stores this month, show Marston's range of interests. Double-CD sets commemorate the art of Johanna Gadski and Alma Gluck, two of the great sopranos who recorded for RCA Victor in Camden at the turn of the century.

A double-CD set is also devoted to legendary pianist Josef Hoffman. The first complete recording of Massenet's Manon, made in 1923, rounds out the initial release.

Gadski reigned for two decades at the Met and made some important recordings. The German soprano's voice leaps with incredible impact from Marston's CD transfers. The 1903 Victors sound amazingly powerful and vivid.

Gluck's voice, too, emerges with astonishing purity in Marston's transfers. He has culled the best of her Victor recordings far his two-CD set.

Marston uses digital techniques and processes sparingly Too many engineers, he says, try to remove every pop and click and, in the process, drain the musical vitality from old records.

In contrast, Marston puts the music first. He refuses to sacrifice the musical sound simply to smooth away all the surface noises.

Some CD reissues are derived from LP dubbings of old records. Marston always uses the original 78s and tracks down the best copy of a recording.

For his releases, Marston utilizes his own ample collection but also taps the resources of collectors in Europe and the U.S. He has access to the celebrated Yale Collection and also receives help from private collectors like John Paul Getty in London.

Upcoming releases whet the appetite. Marston plans to release recordings by Olimpia Boronat, the Italian soprano who reigned in St. Petersburg at the turn of the century. He also plans complete issues of the recordings of the legendary 19th-century diva Adelina Patti and dramatic soprano Rosa Baisa.

Marston's affection for the French vocal school is also evident. He will be issuing records by Victor Maurel and Marcel Journet, both neglected on CD, and such French stars as Maurice Renaud, Ninon Vallin, Claire Croiza and Jane Bathori.

Marston also plans to issue a series of CDs devoted to the Edison label. Some releases will feature rare, unpublished takes of singers like Emmy Destinn and Emmi Leisner.


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