"Le Quattro Stagioni" Or "The Four Seasons" To You, on Double 45rpm Featuring Sonatori de la Gioiosa Marca
As with Pachelbel's Canon in D played at every wedding known to mankind and probably at some divorces too, “The Four Seasons" has probably been in more movies than John Wayne but probably in fewer than Pachelbel's Canon.
Each of the four pieces relates to one season and each contains musical allusions to the particular season’s events and meteorological phenomena. You can hear rain, snow, thunder, dogs “barking”, breezes blowing etc.
"The Four Seasons" is a musical staple that can almost always be found among a classical music lover's collection and while the more into classical music one is, the less likely he or she is to regularly play it, “The Four Seasons” makes a fine and easy portal into becoming a classical music enthusiast.
This particular version issued by the Italian label (and who better?) AudioNautes, was recorded back in 1992 in the picturesque Col San Martino, Church of San Vigilio performed by Sonatori de la Gioiosa Marca a group formed in 1982 in the Northern Italian city of Treviso, part of which is within the Venetian walls. The ensemble performs on authentic period instruments. The violin soloist Giuliano Carmignola plays a Pietro Guarnari violin.
The reissue producer Fabio Camorani, who also is a high performance audio manufacturer, licensed the title from the Swiss Divox label and set about getting the most from the master tape, which was a DAT tape. The engineer, Michael Seberich used four Schoeps microphones and a custom mic preamp and an Apogee AD1000 A/D, D/A converter.
Now, the reason Mr. Camorani chose to reissue this particular recording is because of both the fluidity and depth of the performances and its superb sonics aided by the church’s wonderful acoustics. Regarding the performance, the reviews I’ve read suggest there are other, superior performances on CD, including one featuring the same solo violinist and the Venice Baroque Orchestra on Sony Classical SK 51352.
As for the sonics here, Cameroon transferred the DAT tape to analog reel-to-reel analogue tape using a proprietary DAC and Telefunken and Studer recorders but ultimately chose to use the DAT master tape and let veteran mastering engineer Stan Ricker use his DAC with which he’s most familiar.
Now before you go all hysterical on me about a digital recording transferred to vinyl, remember: when digital recording started what was the first piece of gear many studios began buying? Right! Tube compressors and equalizers. The sound was too sterile, even if it was “accurate” to the microphone. Microphones generally are not all that great. Stuffing a large symphony orchestra or a smaller baroque chamber group for that matter down the “throats” of a few microphones is conceptually and practically ridiculous, doubly so if you consider the results somehow sacrosanct. It’s all about signal processing!
So if transferring a DAT tape to lacquer can produce a record that sounds more life-like than the original DAT tape, there’s nothing wrong with doing so and plenty right just as digital recordings can often be “improved” by running them through some tube gear.
Anyway, Stan cut the lacquers at 45rpm on his Neumann VMS-66 lathe and SX-74 cutter head using custom Keith O. Johnson electronics and was damn happy with the results.
Ricker warns of mis-tracking if everything’s not set-up just so. I like to think I have that accomplished but I had one tiny “whoops” on side four that nothing could correct but otherwise the sound was flawless as were the four sides pressed at Pallas.
As for the recording, it’s spacious and not at all overtly “digital” in the negative sense. You will hear richer studio recordings but that’s mostly because of the controlled environment. Here you have natural, reflective acoustics. Close your eyes and it is church-like, though utmost clarity and inner detail is well-maintained. A bit more tonal richness would be welcomed.
Still, the balance between the instruments and the reverberant venue is nearly ideal. Just don’t turn the volume up to unnaturally high SPLs. You’re not sitting in the front row.
I don’t claim to be a classical music expert but it’s clear this group is filled with great talent. The playing is lusciously fluid and emotionally evocative, as you’d expect from Italians playing homey music. And as the excellent bassist Ricker says, “They are really playing their parts, not just faking it on the really tough writing.” I suppose a professional classical music critic might have come up with some other words, but those will suffice!
This is not the first vinyl release of this recording. A DMM version mastered by Pauler Acoustics in Germany has previously been released. A sealed copy sold on Ebay last year for $60.00.
An interesting, gatefold double 45 romp reissue done with a great deal of love and attention to detail. A "re-composed" "The Four Seasons" by Max Richter on DGG vinyl is on its way, recommended by a reader who had no idea I was preparing this review. Must be telepathy.
The "music" rating is not for Vivaldi's composition. Obviously that rates an "11". It is for the performance, which is very accomplished but there are others, including one I have by Neville Mariner on contemporary instruments that I prefer and I defer to others who know more than I do who say that this one is very good but not the best.