Chasing The Dragon Vivaldi in Venice Vinyl Review
Neville Roberts reviews a new vinyl release from this esteemed British audiophile label…
Chasing The Dragon
Vivaldi in Venice 2LP Review
AUD $139 RRP
This exquisite double album was recorded in front of a live audience, inside a Venetian church, at a session I was invited to by Chasing the Dragon’s husband-and-wife team of Mike and Françoise Valentine. Since I was able to listen to the performance in person, I had a rather good yardstick against which to measure the quality of this audiophile vinyl release!
The Venice recordings were made at the beautiful and world-renowned San Vidal Church, home of the internationally famous Interpreti Veneziani performing one of my favourite genres of music, Italian baroque. Previously, they had travelled to AIR Studios in London to produce a direct-to-disc LP release of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons for CTD.
This time, Mike Valentine and his team travelled to Venice to record on Interpreti Veneziani’s home territory. San Vidal Church is an excellent venue with superb acoustics, which have been carefully controlled for recording projects by the use of carpeting fitted to some of the church pillars. One of Valentine’s main goals was to capture the acoustics of the church during the recording sessions so that the resultant LPs could re-create not only the music but also the ambience of the venue.
Valentine took with him top quality Flea C12 and Neumann U47 microphones, a Neumann KU-100 dummy head to produce binaural recordings, a Studer A810 analogue tape record for the stereo feed, and around £30,000 of cables. The cables included Nordost Ax Angel power cables and Heimdall 2 headphone cables, together with ZenSati Zorro balanced interconnect cables. On returning to the UK, the LPs were mastered on a Neumann VMS 80 cutting lathe at AIR Studios in London.
Side A of the first LP kicks off with a spirited Allegro from Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto in B minor, RV386. Right from the outset, the energy, enthusiasm and effortless mastery of the music performed by Interpreti Veneziani are splendidly captured on LP. The recording quality of the whole album is exceptional, and I was immediately transported back to Venice and my experience of the concerts. Side A closes with the beautiful largo from Tartini’s Violin Concerto in A major, D96. Side B features another violin concerto by Tartini and a concerto grosso by Corelli.
The second LP is devoted entirely to Vivaldi and includes masterful cello pieces played by internationally acclaimed cellist Davide Amadio. To record the cello, Valentine used a Neumann U47 valve microphone placed directly in front of the instrument, as this classic mic is particularly suited to recording this instrument. There is also a brilliantly executed bassoon concerto performed by Andrea Bressan, whose sprightly playing of the solos is both accomplished and tuneful.
If you want to sample the quality of the recordings, and experience for yourself the ambience of the church and the excellence of the playing, CTD has kindly made available a low resolution 16/44 digital download of the final allegro from Corelli Op. 6 No. 4 (an encore played at one of the concerts). You can download a sample recording here.
The goal of any great recording engineer is to add an extra dimension of reality by conveying the magic of the recording venue. This requires considerable skill, as exemplified by these Chasing The Dragon recordings, which somehow manage to capture the essence of reality and transport the listener to the recording venue. The result is a spectacular listening experience – one that’s much closer to a live performance – that can be enjoyed in the comfort of your own home. At $139 it is not cheap, but if ever there was a reference classical recording to have, this is surely it.
A Chartered Scientist, Chartered Engineer, Chartered Physicist and a Fellow of the British Institution of Engineering and Technology, Neville has worked as a Director of the British National Health Service, for the Ministry of Defence and in private industry. He’s a lifelong audio enthusiast and regular contributor to British hi-fi magazines, with a passion for valves and vinyl.