A D2D "Four Seasons" That Hits All of the Right Notes

If you've already got a version of Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" that you like, I'm not suggesting you need a "second opinion" though in my world any well-produced, good-sounding musically worthwhile and well-performed D2D record is a treasure worth owning

However, if you don't have a copy of the old seasonal chestnut, this one, recorded 'direct to disk" would be a good one to own both for sonics and for the performance by Interpreti Venziani—an appropriately Italian ensemble that the producer describes as "the leading Venetian chamber orchestra."

For those unfamiliar, a "direct-to-disk" recording is one where the musicians play, the microphones feed a mixing board (or not) and the board output goes directly to the cutting lathe. There's no tape or digital recorder in between.

There have been many classic D2D recordings such as M&K's For Duke that combine spectacularly natural and transparent sonics with worthwhile performances and many that have great sound and mediocre performances due to "performance nerves": neither performance nor mixing mistakes can later be fixed so what you play is what you get.

What's more, the side has to be played in real time. The cutting stylus hits the lacquer and the musicians must play until the side ends. It can be unnerving for even the best musicians.

In this case the playing is spirited and unrestrained and the recording superbly transparent and three-dimensional, though those who prefer "purist minimally miked recordings" may prefer the more distant, "group in a space" kind of recording. For this kind of small, nine person ensemble, I think producer Mike Valentine's, "minimalist with some spotlight mike enhancement" approach works really well.

The performance was captured at London's AIR Studios and recorded direct to disc to a Neumann VMS 80 lathe. The Gefell, AKG and Flea tube microphones fed an AIR custom Neve board. Record Industry pressed the 180 gram vinyl. The combination of D2D and perfectly quiet disc surfaces produce impressively wide dynamic swings that descend into pitch darkness and ascend to occasionally explosive heights (within the context of a small string ensemble).

I've heard more intensely three-dimensional recordings of small string ensembles but if harmonic structure is King and transparency Queen, then this recording rules. Just don't play it at too high an SPL level. Despite the D2D inhibitions, the Interpreti Veneziani plays here with great spirit. There's also a nice balance of direct to reflected sound—and not as in Bose 901s!

A superbly produced, engineered, performed and presented edition of the "Four Seasons".

Music Direct Buy It Now

isaacrivera's picture

The sound is exceptional. It requires a quiet listening room not miss all the subtle detail.

MazeAnalogue's picture

Has anyone else heard the cell phone interference on this recording? Someone forgot to turn off their phone!! :-)

portfair's picture

Yes to the mobile phone pulsing. I'm surprised that it's not mentioned in the sleeve notes or in Michael's review as it stick out like a sore thumb!

Muso's picture

...for the cellular buzzing :-) My copy arrives this week. Odd that it would turn up though - I am a musician, and I always turn off my cell phone when I play or record. It must have been somebody on the other side of the glass.

Muso's picture

I'm glad I read this recommendation and received my copy today - just on my first play, it is a wonderful, lively performance by the musicians and the sound quality is fabulous. Oddly, I didn't already own a recording of this music. As Mr. Fremer suggested, if you are to own but one copy, this is certainly one to consider. The performance also seems less "regimented" than many I've heard and feels to me more like Vivaldi intended. It seems more... Italian!

I'm extraordinarily pleased that this was made. Direct to Disk recording is very challenging for the musicians and the engineers. If a musician playing or the engineer operating the lathe fumbles something on the last note of Side 1, the lacquer gets binned and everybody plays the whole side again. If "stuff" happens on the first note of Side Two, the lacquer gets binned and everybody starts again. If that lacquer gets damaged after everyone's flown home, you don't have a Direct to Disk recording anymore and you have to decide whether to press an lp from the 2-track safety... or start over. It is a challenging way to record. The results are certainly appreciated.

It is such a pleasure to hear some popular music recorded this way. Thanks for pointing me toward this - I probably wouldn't have known about it otherwise.


jimhb's picture

This is a great recording. No doubt. My problem is the loud pops I have throughout both sides. Arrgghh!

BKsabath's picture

First of all it is a very good recording but...
the ambient noise spoils things for me, listen to the end of the 3 cut for example.
and it is to much in your face, no 3D, nothing like when I was at the live concert in San Vidal a few years ago
The interpreti Veneziany have been playing this for quite a few years now, probably 2 times a week, and are still doing so, I was there last week,same of the emotion I am afraid is gone.
Take those as same personal comments, things that MR. Fremer can't tell you as he is making a living out of this.
Still it is an album worth having in your collection and deserve the 10 10 rating a further away microphone placement could have made it a 12

tfranzky's picture

I received this direct to disk recording from the UK recently and had very high hopes for its fidelity, given the approach and care that Chasing The Dragon appears to take in their recording process. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. The clarity was there, but the sound-stage was essentially mono. Most of the sound appears to be constrained to the center rather than a convincing distribution of instruments between the speakers. I don't mind the ambient sounds, though the cell phone pulsing did take way from the moment.

I'm puzzled by the difference in my experience compared to the positive experience of others who have commented. Has anyone else experienced what I did with the near-mono presentation?