Carlo Rizzi, Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra
oreloB, Boléro, La Valse, LP, TACET L207, 2013
Inspiring Tube Sound – 180 g
Recorded By – Roland Kistner
Recorded By, Edited By, Mixed By, Producer – Andreas Spreer
Recorded March and April 2012 at Beurs van Berlage, Amsterdam, by Andreas Spreer and Roland Kistner
“A little festival” – that’s how Mirko Weber concluded his review of the CD version of this recording in “Die Zeit”. He was delighted with how Carlo Rizzi and the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra took pleasure in relishing all the fine details.
– Well, then, here comes the big festival now, at least for vinyl fans. Never before, we dare to predict, has Bolero sounded as good on an LP as it does here. How is that possible? It’s amazingly simple: place the needle in the groove on the inside, instead of, as is customary, on the outside. And as the needle slowly wanders outwards, the ability of the record player becomes better able, along with the increased tension in the music, to scan ever higher volumes. If you don’t believe it, listen to it.
Audio Activity (06/16/2014):
This review will be different and therefore will be put in the editorial section. It is intended to highlight the mastering technique and will not deal with the artistic impressions or the recording techniques as we usually do. This record is made in such a way that the stylus reads the groove from the inside outwards. It’s not a matter of reading the groove in the wrong direction to discover hidden satanic meanings or things like this. This record was born this way, to be played backwards.
Is it an exaggeration if we define it brilliant? We do not know if there are other examples of this, because we in Audio-Activity were not aware of such a recording technique and all the people we have questioned about the issue did not know either. Let’s take a look at the reasons behind it and let’s find out its importance for classical music. Which is the main dynamic feature of of the recording of a symphony? Very simple, the fortissimo in the final part that undergoes to some distortions due to the low speed of the stylus in the groove and to the reduced space available to modulate it. And here comes the brilliant idea of Andreas Spreer – deus ex machina of Tacet – an inversion of the groove. The part of the composition that needs room and speed is recorded where there is room and speed while the pianissimo in this Bolero is in a position where there are no hurdles for it.
Does it work? Yes it does! Timpani, bass drums and winds can explode all together in the external part of the record where there is no problem with the tracking and finding thus a solution to one of the crucial issues of the recordings on vinyl.
As for the recording technique, well, with Tacet there’s not much to say! Timbre and dynamics are of a great level and the final outcome is extremely enjoyable. The technical execution is very good even if, being a drummer, I think that classical music many times is not precise in the speed and in the measure. There are few Directors that can direct an orchestra with the precision of a metronome, Von Karajan is surely one of them. Moreover the Bolero, with its constant and regular gait for more than 15 minutes is an extremely hard test for the percussionist that has to start slowly and delicately to increase the pace constantly without losing the rhythm or accelerate. There is an extreme need of concentration to be aware every second of the exact score position of the pattern played to avoid to perform as a solo player, separate from the rest of the orchestra. Or even worst to follow the orchestra instead of leading it. This is something that sometimes happen with a poor result indeed.
Well, apart from some vagueness from this point of view, it is a record that one must have both for the execution and for the peculiar technique used for the vinyl. On the website catalogue we have discovered another Tacet vinyl recorded backwards. There are more pieces of music by Ravel performed by the same orchestra directed by Rizzi. We must buy this one too before it goes sold out.
(English translation: Francesca Rubino)
The cover to this record advises, “Play backwards!” Why? Has it just been discovered that Ravel encoded satanic messages into these scores, or that, when you hear them backwards, you hear “Turn me on, dead Composer”, or perhaps, “I buried Claude”? No, nothing of the sort. Perhaps it would have been more accurate for Tacet to indicate, “Play inside out!”, but that sounds less sexy. Indeed, the gimmick behind this LP release is that, on both sides, one is supposed to place the stylus in the inner groove. Then, throughout the course of the side, it travels away from the center of the record and finishes at the outermost groove. (The record has been pressed in such a way as to facilitate this—that is, both the innermost and outermost grooves are “locked” grooves, so there is no danger to the stylus, etc.) No special equipment is required and no adjustments are needed to your turntable; the groove pulls, one might say, the tone arm in the appropriate direction.
But why? Actually, there is a very good reason, and perhaps this isn’t a gimmick at all. Vinyl junkies like myself know that, on a standard LP, the outermost grooves generally have the most surface noise, and the innermost grooves generally have the most distortion. Both Boléro and La Valse start quietly and end loudly. In other words, the quiet music is most likely to be affected by surface noise and the loud music is most likely to be affected by distortion. If the LP is pressed inside out, however, the relationship is reversed, and the potential faults are minimized. (Relatively short LP sides help.) It’s rather clever. Tacet has sweetened the deal by using high-quality 180g vinyl, and the label touts the use of tube technology as well. The results are sonically outstanding: This is one of the best sounding records you’ll ever hear, and anyone who still appreciates records needs this, although it is a little bit pricey.
This is hardly the first record to be pressed in this manner—see kempa.com/2004/03/04/oh-inverted-grooves for information on prior uses of this technique. (Also, see elsewhere on that site for a discussion of the even more arcane topic of parallel grooves!) It’s not likely to become a habit, at least in the classical world, because it really only makes sense to press a record inside-out if the music it contains has the same dynamic architecture as the present two works. (If you’re lying awake in bed some night, try making a mental list of such works!) What about the performances? Rizzi’s Boléro is quite good. He takes 16:33 to play it, which places it among the slower recordings, and those that have more cumulative power. The various solos are characterfully played by the members of the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, and even if the performance is not the most overwhelming or the most thrillingly played to be released on any medium, there is nothing wrong with it, and I enjoyed it without reservation. La Valse is a little less successful. Simply put, it is not menacing enough for me, and as it reaches ist climax, some of the orchestral playing seems uninspired, or at least unimaginative. Still, it’s not a bad performance, and the sound quality helps put it over. You won’t want to get rid of Dutoit, however, or Munch, or Bernstein, or…well, as is sung in The Mikado, “the task of filling in the blanks I’d rather leave to you.”
The CD equivalent to this release also includes the Pavane for a Dead Princess, Tzigane, and Mother Goose. I haven’t heard it, but since Tzigane also would benefit from a backwards LP, perhaps there will be a sequel to “oreloB,” as Tacet playfully has dubbed this LP release.
!dednemoccer ylhgiH elttuT dnomyaR
American Record Guide (05/20/2013):
(…) Tacet has used this inventive approach to make a sumptuously rich, stunningly detailed, and immensely powerful (bass drums are positively tectonic) rendering of Ravel’s two sonic showpieces, played here with tonal sheen and brio by the Netherlands Philharmonic under Carlo Rizzi. (…) Gnizama!
Marc L Lehman
Audiophile Audition (03/12/2013):
Well, leave it to the Germans to come up with this solution to the fact that many classical works of a quarter-hour or so length begin rather quietly and build up to a great climax at the end, while mastering them on standard LPs starts at the outside edge (where there is the best frequency response and least distortion) and ends near the center label where there is the most frequency dropoff and possible distortion. This problem has concerned mastering engineers for some time. So Mr. Tacet, engineer Andreas Spreer, decided to master these two recordings the way some radio transcriptions have been mastered in the past: the grooves going from the inside label to the outer edge instead of the other way ‘round.
Thus if you still have a record changer (horrors!) or some type of semi-automatic tonearm on your turntable, you may not be able to play this special disc. Otherwise there’s no problem with the freely-moving tonearm going from the inside grooves to the outside instead of vice versa. Makes a lot of sense. Spreer has even given the album the overall title of “oreloB” to make his point. There are loads of notes inside both the double-fold sleeve and on the back, but those in English fail to reveal if the original recording for this disc was digital or analog. Either way, there is a definite improvement in the fidelity of the climatic portions of both works here. And as with most Tacet releases, the sonics are of the highest quality. Neither climax, however, is quite as impressive as on some other competing versions, in spite of the Netherlands Philharmonic being the nation’s largest symphonic aggregation at 130 players.