Heiichiro Ohyama performs Vivaldi. SAC LP, Teldec vinyl LP Record
Of all the great Sonic Arts abums, this is our favorite. Heiichiro Ohyama conducts the Cremona Chamber Ensemble in an all Vivaldi program. Selections include “Spring” Concerto in E Major, Sonata for Violin and Basso Continuo in A Major, and Concerto Groso for 2 Violins and violincello with String Orchestra in D minor. Recorded in 1978, pressed in West Germany by Teldec, 140 gram extra heavy disk, in the original box. Recorded February 1977, SAC Lab Series #8.
"The LP leads off with Vivaldi’s “Spring,” of course, and we hear what I’d call a “lead violin forward” version of this old chestnut, with Ohyama’s instrument taking a prominent, though not overly dominant role throughout the three movements. The piece is taken neither too quickly nor with much languor…it is well paced and the interpretation is clearly “personalized” without being overly idiosyncratic. As one does, I pulled out the other three versions of The Four Seasons that I have on vinyl for the sake of comparison (I held off listening to the CD versions that I own…there can be too much of a good thing).
Least satisfying of these is the Deutsche Grammophon Privilege recording by Wolfgang Schneiderhan and the Festival Strings Lucerne…a workmanlike performance without much flair. The Telarc LP of Joseph Silverstein and the BSO is much preferred…another “standard” read of the piece, but with far better sonics. My current favorite recording of this piece is a recent Cisco reissue of a Divox Antiqua LP featuring Giuliano Carmignola and the Sonatori de la Gioiosa Marca…a wonderfully idiosyncratic rendition recorded and pressed superbly.
Placed against the competition, the Ohyama performance stacks up well…it has the idiosyncrasy and intimacy of the Carmignola recording, if not quite the sound quality (more on that anon). The sense of intimacy continues, particularly in the Sonata for Violin and Basso Continuo, Opus 2, No. 2 (not such a frequently-heard piece), but also in the Concerto Grosso for two violins and violoncello Opus 3, No. 11. The effect is very much that of a lead violin, backed up by other instruments, and if that is your preference then this performance should make you very happy indeed.
These pieces were recorded direct-to-disc, and thus the onus was on the performers not to err. D to D recordings benefit from better sonics, but the performers can be overcautious, leading to a “flat” performance, artistically. I sensed none of that in this effort. This LP was beautifully recorded, and the nuances of the performance are nicely captured. At the beginning of “Spring,” I sensed somewhat of a veil over the sound, but this reduced as I listened to the LP a second and third time. Subsequent listening to other LPs indicated recording quality on par with my Telarc LPs (which I view as among the best vinyl ever recorded). This recording managed to pick up some very subtle nuances (such as the shifting of the performers on their seats, and their fingers on their instruments) during the breaks between movements). The result is very much a “you are there” feel.
I also compared the quality of the pressing to my Telarc and Cisco vinyl, and this Teldec pressing more than holds its own: Even after many years in storage, the vinyl is perfectly flat and dead quiet.
A final note on packaging, which is often overlooked when records are reviewed: This single LP is, unusually, packaged in a box, complete with a plastic-lined paper innersleeve and a foam insert to keep things from rattling around. Deluxe indeed, and a nice upgrade from the typical single-sleeve packaging. Complete liner notes are printed on the back side of the box.
This is a thoroughly enjoyable record: Even if you already own many recordings of The Four Seasons, it is well worth adding this LP to the collection. It is well-performed, well-recorded and well-pressed. It gives vinyl a good name.
Reviewer: Peter D’Amario
The Sonic Arts catalog of LP’s was recorded by Golden State Recorders and Mastered by Sonic Arts. Under the stewardship of San Francisco’s legendary Leo De Gar Kulka, GSR and SAC were home to famous famous performances and recordings that ran the gamut from Janis Joplin to Turk Murphy to Vivaldi.
Mr. Kulka’s Laboratory Series records feature realistic sounding, “live” recordings beautifully recorded in stereo without effects or processing, and then precision mastered to a Neumann VMS-70 lathe using a simple, pristine signal chain. The LP’s were manufactured to the highest standards by Teldec in West Germany and include detailed liner notes about the performance and the technical concept of the recordings. We are proud to being you these superb vinyl recordings -- great values on original, mint records from the SAC Lab Series Catalog.
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