Vivaldi-Four Seasons, The (Anne Sophie Mutter) (DVD-Audio) (1999) (NTSC)
|Year Of Production||1999|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||None Given|
Universal Pictures Home Video
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Audio MLP 48/24 2.0
Audio MLP 48/24 5.1
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||480i (NTSC)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
A few years ago, the British radio guide The Radio Times conducted a poll to determine the most popular classical music piece amongst its readers. Antonio Vivaldi's set of four violin concertos, named The Four Seasons, was the number one placegetter. Not merely one of the most popular classical pieces, it is one of the most recognisable, excerpts regularly featuring in films, television commercials and the like.
Given this popularity, it is not surprising that there are several hundred recordings in the catalogue of available recordings, not counting many hundreds more from the past. To stand out amongst this plethora of discs, a new version must possess something special, or at least be different. This 1999 recording has two differences to the norm: it is on DVD-Audio, and rather than an orchestra, the soloist is backed by a chamber orchestra.
The Four Seasons come from a set of twelve concertos published in 1725 entitled Il cimento dell'armonia e dell'inventione, or The Trial Between Harmony and Invention. I would call it a draw. The four concertos are so named because they are programmatic works. Each concerto is named for a season and includes text at various points indicating the ideas or events being depicted. The set also included four sonnets on the subject of the seasons, which were possibly written by Vivaldi himself. For example, the first movement of the first concerto, La Primavera (Spring), has the following notations: Spring's Awakening, Song of the Birds, The Springs Gush Out, Thunder and Song of the Birds.
The performance on this disc is by the Trondheim Soloists, and the violinist is Anne-Sophie Mutter, who also conducts. The Trondheim Soloists consist of five first violins, four second violins, three violas, two cellos, a double bass and a harpsichord, so this is quite a smaller group than your average symphony orchestra.
Mutter is a German violin player who came to prominence in the 1980s under the patronage of the conductor Herbert von Karajan, and an earlier performance of this work from 1985 has already been released on DVD-Video and reviewed on this site. The new performance dates from 1999 and was recorded in the concert hall of the Tivoli in Copenhagen. It has previously been released on CD.
In terms of the performance, this is very well done and is enjoyable, but I would not call it exceptional. Unlike many other performances, the use of chamber forces means that the soloist does not stand out as much as normal, and blends in with the overall texture. Mutter also seems to try to squeeze every bit of emotion out of her phrasing and this makes the work seem a little bit less like Baroque and more like Romantic era music, which may not be to everyone's taste. I would have preferred something a bit more idiomatic, such as is provided on the rival Naxos disc, though that is not as warmly recorded as this one.
Included on the disc is a performance of the Sonata in G minor by Giuseppe Tartini, known as the Devil's Trill. Not being very familiar with this work, I cannot comment on the performance except to say it is in keeping with the rest of the disc.
The video is a series of still photos of Mutter and the Trondheim Soloists, which change with each movement. While in NTSC format, there are no issues with these photos.
There are three audio tracks on this disc, and I listened to them all.
For those with DVD-Audio capability, the default audio track is a DVD-Audio only MLP 48kHz/24 bit 5.1 track. There is an alternative DVD-Audio only MLP 48kHz/24 bit 2.0 track Also on this disc is a DVD-Video compatible Dolby Digital 5.1 track at 448 kb/s, but this cannot be selected from any menu on the disc as far as I can tell. I could only access this track by using a different player without DVD-Audio capability.
All of the audio tracks on this disc sound superb, though they are somewhat different. The DVD-Audio 5.1 track has most of the soundstage across the front channels, with the rear channels being used for ambient sound, to give the reverberation of the recording venue, thus placing the listener in the audience rather than in the middle of the players. The DVD-Video track has more of the players coming from the rear channels, as if the listener was placed with the orchestra, though this is not a convincing audio experience. While an LFE channel is present, I found virtually all of the bass was directed to the main speakers, and little to the subwoofer. Of course, there is little in the way of deep bass sounds in these works, making the subwoofer practically unnecessary.
I found the DVD-Audio 2.0 track to be the best of the three. There seemed to be a richer bass sound, much more focused than the other tracks, and the soundstage seemed much firmer. I could place each of the performers in their place in the soundstage, something that I found difficult with the other tracks.
In terms of recording quality, all of the instruments are well captured, lifelike and warmly recorded. There is a wide dynamic range in the concertos, with some very quiet passages followed by loud tuttis, and the recording presents all of this in a believable manner, without any distortion whatsoever. The rival Naxos disc sounds a little astringent, more in keeping with the typical Baroque recording. That one is also a fine performance, and if you love this music you will want both. Incidentally, the Naxos disc is recorded at 96 kHz/24 bit and will allow output of this resolution in Linear PCM through the digital connections, the only DVD-Audio disc I have that will allow this.
For those who are sensitive to extraneous noise, I could quite clearly hear someone cough at 0:55 on track 6.
|Surround Channel Use|
The 22-page booklet features several glamour shots of the violinist, a track listing, the text of the four sonnets appended to the main work, a highly pretentious interview between Mutter and Harald Wieser, some text from painter Gotthard Graubner and information about the Trondheim Soloists. The booklet is dedicated to the violinist's late husband, who died in 1995. She is now married to Hollywood composer and conductor Andre Previn, many years her senior.
A big mistake. This video is some of the Spring concerto done as if it was to be shown on a pop music channel, with lots of bizarre angles and images, and you get to see none of Mutter's technique. This is one example of how the major recording companies have lost touch with their roots. Presented in a widescreen format but not 16x9 enhanced.
17 stills which are much the same as those shown while the performances are playing.
10 CDs and 2 DVDs featuring Mutter are shown. Each of the CD pages has an option to play an excerpt from that disc lasting about 2 minutes. There are no previews for the DVDs.
DVD production credits.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
This disc is designed for release in all regions. As far as I can tell, the disc is the same everywhere.
A fine performance, beautifully recorded. The extras do not amount to much, but that is fairly immaterial. Worth seeking out.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-S733A, using Component output|
|Display||Sony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Speakers||Main: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175|