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 Bahn Frei (Shep's Theme) Restoration
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Posted - 09/12/2011 :  15:28:31  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
As you probably know, audio quality of existing copies of Shep's signature theme "Bahn Frei" sound pretty bad. I was able to trace the original recording back to 1946, which predates the use of magnetic tape for mastering. The session would have been cut on an aluminum disc coated with lacquer. According to a Wiki on the history of RCA records it's also unlikely any of the original masters, mothers, or stampers would have survived.
RCA Victor decided to demolish their Camden warehouse in the early 1960s. This warehouse held four floors' worth of catalog and vault masters (most of them were pre-tape wax and metal discs), test pressings, lacquer discs, matrix ledgers, and rehearsal recordings. A few days before the demolition took place, some collectors from the US and Europe were allowed to go through the warehouse and salvage whatever they could carry with them for their personal collections. Soon after, collectors and RCA Records officials watched from a nearby bridge as the warehouse was demolished, with many studio masters still intact in the building. The remnants were bulldozed into the Delaware River and a pier was built on top of them. In 1973, when the company decided to release all of Rachmaninoff's recordings on LPs (to celebrate the centennial of the composer's birth), RCA was forced to go to record collectors for materials, as documented by Time.

Given that it's unlikely the original recording will ever surface, I thought it might be a worthwhile effort to attempt a restoration. The process required several days and used some of the same techniqes I've worked on to restore Shep's taped material. The only editing liberty was to place the result into a "stereo space" optimized for headphone listening. The original recording, of course, was not in stereo.

Included in the restoration file is a copy of the full page Ad that appeared in Life Magazine on April 29, 1946, promoting the release of this album. Price for the 3 disc set was $3.00!

Bahn Frei Restoration - 4.2 MB

Flicklives' Bahn Frei page:

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