Vivaldi: The Four Seasons - Ayo

Vivaldi: The Four Seasons - Ayo

Esoteric  ESSD-90238

Stereo Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral

Vivaldi: The Four Seasons*, Concertos from Op. 3: No. 6^, No. 8^/**, No. 10^/**/^^

Felix Ayo*, Roberto Michelucci^, Anna Maria Cotogni**, Walter Gallozzi^^ & Luciano Vicari^^ (violins)
Enzo Altobelli^^ (cello)
I Musici

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1 of 2 recommend this, would you recommend it?  yes | no

Analogue recording
Comments (29)

Comment by sancho santos - April 2, 2021 (1 of 29)

One of the best souding Disc that I have listened in my life.
Funy that Stereo Sound Have the same disc.
absolutely mandatory to buy.................

Comment by Hui Zhu - April 8, 2021 (2 of 29)

I am a big fan of SS remastering, so will skip Esoteric and get SS instead.

Comment by Contrapunctus - May 10, 2021 (3 of 29)

This sacd sounds very good - as long as you haven't listened to the stereo sound version. I now own both editions and have compared them. The Esoteric edition has a slightly warmer sound. In comparison, the overall sound appears a bit flatter with less depth and resolution.

After making this comparison, I start to brood seriously. I wonder if Esoteric is really doing its own remastering of the original tapes. (I'm only referring to analog recordings!) I now have serious doubts and more likely to suspect that PCM files (24/96) are being converted and refreshed.

Comment by Athenaeus - May 11, 2021 (4 of 29)

Contrapunctus, I have the same doubts as you. The fact that Esoteric never provide any information about the provenance of their transfers as well as the large number of PCM recordings they re-release as SACDs have led me to suspect that all they do is upsample whatever digital files are provided to them. (This also applies to old analogue recordings.) However, a lot of players and DACs now automatically upsample and probably do it just as well as the folks at Esoteric. So, what's the point of these releases?! It makes more sense to buy a player or DAC that upsamples and purchase good ol' RBCDs (as well as SACDs that contain original recordings or superior transfers and remasterings, of course).

Comment by Contrapunctus - May 12, 2021 (5 of 29)

Athenaeus, although I really like the packaging and fancy colors of their sacds, I'm now going to ignore ALL upcomming Esoteric's releases. No more Esoterics for me. They look lovely in the shelf - but that's most of their benefits to be honest.

Comment by Athenaeus - May 14, 2021 (6 of 29)

Yes, you'll gather by my comment that I have also stopped buying Esoteric's releases. But let's hope they eventually improve their methods and start offering products that are worth purchasing and become more transparent about the work that goes into their releases.

Comment by ubertrout - May 18, 2021 (7 of 29)

I thought Esoteric has always made fairly clear that they're taking the digital source they're given and then playing it back through their own proprietary analog recording chain and recording the analog output as a new digital file.

Comment by Contrapunctus - May 18, 2021 (8 of 29)

Ubertrout, I agree with you in case of the genuine digital (PCM) recordings. But you won't find any information about the source of Esoteric's releases of analogue recordings like this Vivaldi album. There's zero information in the booklet.

Comment by Steven Harrison - May 18, 2021 (9 of 29)

Long ago on the old forum a member wrote to Esoteric about their process. The reply was that they receive a digital master from the source company. They then convert that to analogue and convert that to their own DSD master for the sacd disc. Quite obviously with the source companies half the world away from Japan, Esoteric is going to receive some kind of digital file.
It is true that they never print anything on the source of the music with the analogue recordings. And it is only in the past 2-3 years that they have started to print information regarding the source of the digital recordings.

Comment by Athenaeus - May 18, 2021 (10 of 29)

So, when we're listening to one of Esoteric's re-releases of an older recording (like this Vivaldi disc for example), we're hearing an analogue signal that was converted to digital, then to analogue, then to digital and then back to analogue. Interesting...

Comment by Steven Harrison - May 19, 2021 (11 of 29)

Well, given the difficulty in language translation it is hard to really know without definitive statement from Esoteric.
Also, I think you have an extra conversion to analogue in your post.

Comment by Mark Werlin - May 19, 2021 (12 of 29)

In the case of this album, there is a 24bit/48kHz "2017 Digital Remaster" available on Qobuz, from the Jube Classic company. What was the source of the 24/48 remaster? The Felix Ayo Four Seasons was recorded in 1959. Did Philips or Universal commission a transfer from an original master tape or a safety copy, to 24/48? Did the rights to a copy of the tape fall into public domain under EU copyright law? Or is the Qobuz download a resampled 16/44 file? Did Esoteric use the 24/48 "remaster" as the source of this SACD, or a 16/44 file?

If the label will not disclose the source, it is impossible to make an informed choice to purchase.

Comment by ubertrout - May 19, 2021 (13 of 29)

Esoteric has pretty much said they don't do their own transfers from original tape, we know the Ring Cycle was from the same 24/48 masters that Universal has released on blu-ray. I'd assume this is from the same 24/48 remastering then.

Comment by Contrapunctus - May 20, 2021 (14 of 29)

There is probably only one way to debunk Esoteric's myth: compare and listen! I openly admit that I fell for the beautiful appearance for a long time and probably lied to myself a little too.

Actually, I should correct some earlier comments on other Esoteric SACDs. I am thinking, for example, of the Brandenburg Concerts with Karl Richter. I am now firmly convinced that both the Esoteric edition and the old SHM-SACDs use one and the same remastering. Namely a 24/96 remastering, which was made as part of the "Originals series" and which is also available as a 24/96 download. Only one source. The sonical differences can therefore only be minimal.

I would now divide the analog esoteric editions into 2 categories:

1.) Editions that all use the same remastering, because there is only one: e.g. Bach / Brandenburg Concerts / Richter; Smetana / Ma Vlast / Kubelik; Chopin / Etudes / Pollini

2.) There are different remasterings. In these cases Esoteric will most certainly use the oldest remastering, while the more recent remasterings were carried out or commissioned by TowerRecords, Universal Japan, Stereo Sound or Analog Productions. Examples:
(this Vivaldi album); Mozart / symphonies / Böhm; Brahms / 1. Symphony / Böhm; Bach / Partita etc./Argerich

While the differences in category 1) are only very small and can ultimately only be traced back to further signal processing, there are serious differences in the second category. The difference in the Mozart symphonies (Böhm / BPO) is unmistakable. The new remasterings for these recordings were made in 2018 by both EBS and MSM (EBS = SHM-SACD / Universal Japan; MSM = BluRay / Universal). The Esoteric edition, on the other hand, uses an old remastering - this becomes clear when comparing it with SHM-SACD or BD. A difference like night and day.

Comment by Adrian Quanjer - May 20, 2021 (15 of 29)

Hey you guys, interesting though this technical discussion is, there are some very good and GENUINE Hi-Res recordings of the Four Seasons on offer. BTW I owned the original LP with the same cover. Gone With the Wind. I did like it.

Comment by Athenaeus - May 20, 2021 (16 of 29)

It isn't necessary to remind us that there are more recent recordings out there every time we're discussing the sonics of an older recording. You make it sound like there are two camps on this forum: the old fogies who are stuck in some purported golden age that happened a long, long time ago and, on the other side, the modern enlightened music-lovers who are encouraging today's musicians.

I think most of us are buying and listening to both new and old recordings and I doubt many of us would say that one category is better that the other. But these older recordings can offer things that are rarely heard today. For example, a lot of them were done in the days when a few orchestras still had a local sound (e.g. the Czech Philharmonic used to be famous for its marked "Central European sound"). A lot of older recordings let us experience interpretations and practices that have gone out of fashion since. Again, this doesn't make these older recordings better; but it certainly makes them worth hearing.

As I said in one of my comments under Boulez's Mahler 6, it's often difficult to find information about the sonics of re-releases. Since they can be quite pricey, I'm glad that this forum often provides me with some helpful information about this.

Comment by Adrian Quanjer - May 21, 2021 (17 of 29)

Athenaeus, no reason to be upset. You complained about the quality of Esoteric re-releases to the point of no longer wanting to purchase them. The two camps you refer to, is not how I see things. My point is that if we stop buying new Hi-Res releases there will soon be no more, many labels having already given up on SACD. There are now no more than two SACD pressing facilities in Europe and none in the USA!

BTW, I think you are right to suggest buying the original CD if you value listening to differences in orchestral playing of the past. Many are still available, including Vivaldi 4 Seasons from Philips.

Comment by Contrapunctus - May 21, 2021 (18 of 29)

Adrian, after reading your comment yesterday, I thought very much like Athenaeus. I even wrote a similar comment - but deleted it shortly afterwards. I wasn't sure if I understood your comment correctly. After your comment today, I am sure that I understand you correctly. Unfortunately.

I've registered here in this forum because I am interested in exactly what apparently bothers you: discussions about sonical differencies of different releases of one and the same recording - mostly OLD ANALOGUE recordings. I think the suggestion to buy a CD for old recordings is ridiculous. If I follow this logic, I can save myself the entire HiRes discussion and this forum - and listen to EVERYTHING on plain CD!

And yes, I feel a bit pressured when I am subliminally accused of contributing with my preference for the decline of current SACD production. To be very clear: I am not responsible for these developments and I don't care!

Did I miss something when I registered? Is there an ethical code of conduct that prompts users to comment on / discuss a certain number of new SACD recordings?

In my opinion, the number of ACTIVE users here is very manageable. But I have no problem further reducing this number with my account deletion.

Comment by Athenaeus - May 21, 2021 (19 of 29)

Adrian, the pressing plants don't care if they're churning out a brand-new recording or the tenth re-release of some sixty-year-old recording. As long as they have something to press, they're happy.

I agree with you that we have to encourage the production of new recordings on SACD. I try to do so myself. But I do sense an insinuation that enthusiasm about older recordings is somehow keeping us away from more recent recordings. This isn't true. I must admit I don't comment as much on new recordings but that doesn't mean I'm not buying any. It's just that other people are already writing some good reviews and comments (here and elsewhere) and I don't feel I have much to add.

I never said that we can be content with an RBCD when it's an old analogue recording (original PCM recordings are another matter, of course). I'm sorry if I wasn't clear there. On the contrary, I love transfers of old analogue sources to DSD. I find they sound better than the usual RBCD remasters.

And Contrapunctus, please don't go. It's normal for online discussions to get a bit heated sometimes. But this is a civilized forum and there's no reason to leave. It's best to just continue the discussion.

Comment by Mark Werlin - May 22, 2021 (20 of 29)

Contrapunctus, your presence on this site is much appreciated. The reviewers cannot write about all the new releases and reissues; your willingness to purchase the Esoteric and Stereo Sound reissue SACDs of Vivaldi: The Four Seasons - Ayo, and to share critical listening comparisons, is only one example of the valuable contributions you bring to the broader discussion.

My practice of reviewing contemporary classical music recordings rather than reissues is based on a desire to bring attention to talented artists and composers, and to the record labels that are committed to SACD production of new and lesser-known works. In no way should that be construed as disrespectful of the artistry of the past, or of classical music SACD collectors who value high standards in remastering of older recordings.

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