SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

ROSSINI: Sonate a Quattro for two violins, cello & doublebass – Salvatore Accardo/Sylvia Gazeau/Alain Meunier/Franco Petracchi/Bruno Canino – Philips/F.I.M.

A worthwhile upgrading of a classic classical chamber music recording.

Published on November 23, 2012

ROSSINI: Sonate a Quattro for two violins, cello & doublebass – Salvatore Accardo/Sylvia Gazeau/Alain Meunier/Franco Petracchi/Bruno Canino – Philips/First Impression Music Ultra HD LIM UHD 049, 70:13 *****:

Rossini’s Quattro are among his most acclaimed works out of his large output. It is mind-boggling to realize that they were composed at about age 12, making Rossini a competitor for Mozart’s and Mendelssohn’s mantles in that regard. All six sonatas won’t fit on one CD, nor will half of them fit on one LP. Thus all I had to compare this to was an Argo vinyl of three of the sonatas.  Unfortunately, it was the string orchestra version, so really wasn’t a useable comparison, though it sounded fabulous.

Winston Ma at First Impression Music is always striving to find a superior method to bring some of these classic analog tape masters to digital exposure on super-high-quality CDs. He had the original Philips double-LP of these glorious recordings and when demonstrating it at an audio group meeting, the discs disappeared, and it was out of print. This digital resurrection involved several people from the former Telarc SACD-production crew, who now constitute Five/Four Productions. The latest of Winston Ma’s enhanced-fidelity process is called Ultra HD for its 32-bit mastering approach, which does not necessarily depend on the highest sampling rate of 192K, since they have discovered that for certain source material lower sampling rates actually produce better sonics.

Rossini’s attention during his career was mostly on his various opera productions, but these works from his childhood (as well as his Sins of Old Age from near the end of his life), show his mastery of instrumental music.  Each sonata is in three movements, with the slow one in the middle. It seems on most recordings No. 2 is the one omitted to make the available time, so that one must be less than genius-level, to be omitted. The 1 thru 6 sonatas here (except for No. 2) are all presented in superb performances and in superb sonics. There were what is described as “slight disturbing noises” at the start of every single track on the original tapes.  After long effort, F.I.M. was able to have two of the staff people of Five/Fouir Production remaster the originals and remove the slight disturbing noises. Winston does not reveal if the second version of the originals (used for this remastering) was the actual analog open-reel tapes or some sort of digital coy of them, but the sonics are superb.

Yes, some of this audiophile perfectionism may be gimmicks in search of additional income, but whatever efforts were made on behalf of this important recording were worth it. The sound is lovely, and without any special decoding required, since this is standard 44.1K/16-bit format CD. I turned up the volume excessively high and was unable to hear any remaining “disturbing noises” on the left channel of any track.

—John Sunier




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