Vivaldi: The Four Seasons - Steinbacher

Vivaldi: The Four Seasons - Steinbacher

PentaTone Classics  PTC 5186746

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral

Vivaldi: The Four Seasons
Piazzolla: 4 Estaciones Porteñas

Arabella Steinbacher, violin
Münchener Kammerorchester


Star violinist Arabella Steinbacher presents Antonio Vivaldi’s world-famous Four Seasons alongside Astor Piazzolla’s Cuatro estaciones porteñas, creating a lively combination of baroque and tango. The enormous popularity of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons tends to make us forget the original and ground-breaking nature of these violin concertos. Coupling them with Piazzolla’s tango-inspired Four Seasons of Buenos Aires makes both pieces sound fresher than ever before, thanks to Steinbacher’s personal engagement with the repertoire and the inspired accompaniment of the Münchener Kammerorchester. Piazzolla’s music is performed here in a new arrangement for violin and string orchestra by Peter von Wienhardt, whose Strauss song arrangements on Steinbacher’s previous album Aber der Richtige … (2018) were extensively praised by the press.

Arabella Steinbacher, a multiple award-winner with an extensive PENTATONE discography, is accompanied by the players of the Münchener Kammerorchester, who make their PENTATONE debut.


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DSD recording
Comments (28)

Comment by hiredfox - June 2, 2020 (1 of 28)

This is not a DSD recording please note. Pentatone list it as PCM

Comment by Scott A. - June 2, 2020 (2 of 28)

Also note that they decided to intersperse the composer's works, so you get Vivaldi/Spring, Piazzolla/Spring, Vivaldi/Summer, Piazzolla/Summer, Vivaldi/Autumn, etc. I probably would have ordered it, but for that.

Comment by breydon_music - June 2, 2020 (3 of 28)

Whatever is happening at Pentatone? The latest Weilerstein disc was a CD. This is the second Steinbacher disc to be recorded as PCM. There is no word about their recording policy changes on their website. Indeed, there is still a page you can navigate to which specifically says that all their releases are SACD's, nearly a year after that ceased to be the case! I understand that we live in the real world and perhaps real world economics have dictated this, but I would wish they would follow the example of Robert (BIS) in the past and share some of their policy thinking with us. It's a sad loss.

Comment by Dissonance - June 2, 2020 (4 of 28)

At least this is an SACD! It's a real loss indeed when Pentatone is gradually turning to record and release in PCM, just a few record labels are anymore recording and releasing in DSD (Reference Recordings, Exton, LSO Live). Pentatone’s statement ”Premium Sound” becomes more and more misleading...

Comment by Gilbert Burnett - June 2, 2020 (5 of 28)

Apparently 80% of DSD releases (SACDs and files) are edited in DXD nowadays even if converted to DSD for release. I think Pentatone probably record and edit in DXD as does 2L. Theses files are then converted to DSD for SACD. If a recording is made in DSD then edited in DXD I wonder if it can really be described as a DSD recording? According to Tom Caulfield converting from DXD to DSD produces a 'more natural, spacious and lifelike sound' than the original DXD file so all is not lost. It looks as if some of the CD only releases from Pentatone may be product licensed from outside.

Comment by Dissonance - June 3, 2020 (6 of 28)

’Winter’ is available at Presto Music as an high-resolution download (FLAC 24-bit / 96 kHz). It's very likely this is not the original sample rate - I'm assuming the same as Gilbert that the recording was made in DXD - but whatever is the real case, to the present-day ears and possibilities this seems to be far too modest way to record.

Some may argue we are not dealing only with a sample rates, it's the music what matters. Yes, that's true, but when recording with the best possible audio stream available the result is in favor both to the efforts of the musicians and the composers (and even to the emotional context of the music itself!). These are small details, yes, but the great whole is building up with small bits and in that context every choice matters. Pentatone has become famous for its high-quality SACD products so it's indeed a great pity to see the label has turned to release more and more CDs, even though those may only be re-releases!

Comment by hiredfox - June 3, 2020 (7 of 28)

Jared's Native DSD website lists all recordings that are recorded in DSD and remain in that configuration throughout editing and mastering. Most native DSD recordings offered to us now are exactly that. It is perfectly feasible to edit in DSD and most do so.

More to the point is why houses that still insist on recording in PCM and claim advantages for doing so - including Chandos & BIS - have stubbornly refused to move their game forward to DXD over the last ten or so years. We are supposed to be grateful that they still offer recordings at 96kHz rather than the old 48KHz that they used to get away with and slap a SA-CD label on them. They should follow the example of Ondine.

Any audiophile with decent hearing knows full well that low rate PCM recordings are anything but high resolution when compared to 64fs DSD let alone the 512fs DSD standard that one or two recording houses are now using. Tom was right about many things but also quite wrong in some of his negative assertions about higher rate DSD. As he is not part of this forum it is unfair to go any further than that.

Comment by Dissonance - June 3, 2020 (8 of 28)

Speaking about Chandos it's worth to note the SACD albums made with Soundmirror Inc. were recorded and mastered in DXD (24-bit / 352,8 kHz) instead of Chandos’s default 24-bit / 96 kHz. Whatever is the barrier at Chandos it is hoped the higher resolution would to be taken into projects as a default, e.g. just 24-bit / 192 kHz. The improvement is noticeable and a pleasant one.

Comment by Scott A. - June 4, 2020 (9 of 28)

I also notice that Marc Albrecht's new "Seejungfrau" by Zemlinsky is on CD. There is no filler, so all you get is 47.30 of playing time. Geez, if they didn't feel anything else by Zemlinsky merited recording, you'd think they could have added a piece by Schreker or someone like that. Oh, well, Pentatone has given me a reason not to buy yet another one of their discs.

Comment by Gilbert Burnett - June 5, 2020 (10 of 28)

Further to Hiredfox comments above, I was completely of that opinion until I read part of NativeDSD website and noted the following: 'NativeDSD sells only recordings that were originally recorded in DSD or DXD (352.8KHz PCM). With the exception described below, the overwhelming majority of these recordings were edited and post processed in DXD, then converted (modulated) into one or more DSD deliverable bit rates by the label' The exception: 'The exception to the above are the few label recordings (Yarlung, Eudora, Just Listen etc.) that record in DSD, and do no PCM post process mixing, level balancing, or EQ etc. That's achieved by restricting post processing to just editing where, if there were edits, only the edit transition interval (typically 100ms or less) is PCM converted, leaving the DSD music content unaltered when published. For these recordings, the DSD edited master (the actual recording master) is used with HQPlayer Pro to re-modulate and create the missing DSD bitrates'. That quote comes from the 'Higher Rates Program' section of their website and directly contradicts their description of what they were doing when they launched. A bit confusing I agree. Things may have moved on and perhaps most recent recordings are now recorded in DXD or at least edited in DXD.
I would not be surprised, though, if a lot of the SACDs we have thought to be 'pure' dsd were in fact edited in PCM. I mentioned in my earlier post that I was unsure whether the term DSD should be allowed to be used for a recording which is not in DSD throughout. We already know that the DSD label on an SACD refers to the format of the Disc and not necessarily to the original recording.
However, I am sure that a great number of DACs (mine included) convert DSD to analogue with a more pleasing result (especially for classical music) which seems to have a lot do with filtering. So for most of us SACD is still the best way to go - even if the original master was in decent rate PCM.

Comment by Dissonance - June 5, 2020 (11 of 28)

I’m not a recording engineer myself so the exact technical things are a bit unsettle area. But as a professional and versatile musician it has become clear it’s the instrumental resonance and timbre that will make the most profounding impression for both the listener and performer. To achieve this on recording, it’s crucial to utilize the best audio stream available, as I already mentioned above.

What about all the non-high-resolution recordings, are they useless then? Absolutely not, most of those are superb in the terms of an interpretation and also fascinating audio documents on how the recording techniques and methods have development. But now do we have the equipment and tools in hand to serve the music and the interpretations as comprehensive as ever possible. Although most people does not complain about a standard CD resolution, for those who really care and love music, DSD (and it’s variants) is the only path to the richest and memorable listening experience. The difference is clearly audible and such a significant one that it should not be ignored.

Comment by Tony Reif - June 5, 2020 (12 of 28)

When I wrote elsewhere that the DSD logo was often used to identify a disc as an SACD, whether it was recorded in DSD or not, I should have noted that the SACD logo would have been sufficient for that purpose. Why the DSD logo wasn't reserved for original DSD recordings and/or mixes rather than DSD mastering I'm not sure, but that's what happened.

Comment by hiredfox - June 6, 2020 (13 of 28)

It all boils down to a lack of an indisputable standard being set for SA-CD recording by Sony / Philips when the DSD format was promoted as a way of extending their proprietary rights to CD. In contrast the Red Book standard for CD specified 44kHz / 16 bit PCM recording.

It did not work out for S/P as SA-CD never caught on in the mass market and was immediately challenged by DVD-Audio. With more thoughtfulness and greater support from the promoters SA-CD may well have been a huge success.

At the time both companies ran into increasingly stiff competition for all their products world-wide; falling revenues led to rationalisation of product portfolios and SA-CD was a victim.

Comment by Tom Caulfield - June 6, 2020 (14 of 28)

Hi everyone; long time. If I may make a correction. The Pentatone Steinbacher Vivaldi: Four Seasons to be released June 19 is a DSD recording:

However, as stated by Gilbert, the session takes were post processed in DXD (352.8KHz PCM), and converted back to DSD for release on both SACD (DSD64), and as DSD download files. That's the normal processing workflow for DSD recorded projects that ultimately materialize on a SACD. We at NativeDSD receive the actual Pentatone DXD Edited Masters, and produce the four DSD bitrate download deliverables as first generation DSD modulations, the same process as the first generation DSD64 sold as a SACD. We do the same for all labels providing us a DXD edited Master under our HRP program. I apologize if my explanation as posted by Gilbert is confusing, but it is exactly the original NativeDSD objective and commitment. I'd be happy to discuss further if requested and allowed here. I can also be reached at

Marketing claims aside, labels are wedded to and limited by the supported recording and processing format capabilities of the recording hardware and post processing software they've invested. The vast majority of DSD and DXD recordings are recorded and processed with Merging Technologies hardware and Pyramix software. Outside of simple editing, Merging's exclusive DXD post processing methodology is the only currently available means of altering the DSD session master's channel mixing, level changing/balancing, EQ'ing, and the many other available post processing/mastering functions. The result of that one pass processing is a DXD Edited Master.

I don't know the basis of hiredfox's statement of my "some of his negative assertions about higher rate DSD", other than a years ago statement that the frequency response of DSD64 is not bettered by higher bitrate DSD. That's still true, but not the advantage of higher bitrate DSD. The advantage of higher bitrates, especially DSD256 and DSD512 is the increasingly larger frequency band above the highest audible frequencies, and the onset of the inherent DSD modulation noise. The practical advantage is the gentler filter shapes that are employed by the DAC reconstruction filters used in playing the recording. That's what makes the higher bitrate DSD recordings sound more analog.

Thanks all for your time and continued interest in DSD recording products.


Comment by hiredfox - June 7, 2020 (15 of 28)

Wow! Good to hear from you again Tom. Hope you are keeping well and safe.

Checked out the Pentatone website and they have changed the recording description from PCM to DSD as Tom noted. Hope they are not making too many unforced errors in cataloguing.

Comment by Adrian Quanjer - June 7, 2020 (16 of 28)

People who think that SACD makes no sense, the difference being barely or not at all audible, saying: "when you buy into high-resolution audio, all you end up with is a healthy dose of pseudoscience", are wrong. There was that (in)famous Boston Audio Society study about hearing any difference between CD and SACD, claiming that the 49 or so percent correct answers 'suggested' that it had all been 'guesswork'. If I remember it well, the listening material was NOT original DSD and partly up-sampled stereo of the seventies, and that part of the listeners were technical students (cheaper to hire?). So, no cross-selection including musicians and sound engineers or, for that matter, music school students.

And what about the following statement: " .. even a properly encoded MP3 can satisfy most listeners"? Don't get me wrong. It is most likely true. Most people with a run of the mill equipment and little listening experience, preferring noisy beat, won't hear the difference. So, why should they invest in up-market, expensive systems? Saves them a lot of money, too. Seen in that light, I think they are right.

Regular visitors to, however, take a different view and are prepared to get the best possible (surround) system money (their money) can buy. Only then becomes the difference in quality audible. Many of us are concert-goers and know how music sounds in real life. At least that is how I see it. At home, it won't be the same, but under the best conditions it can get pretty close.

That's where the technical discussion above comes in. Not only more detail is important, but also the dynamics, like one hears in the concert hall with a large orchestra playing Shostakovich. Impossible to get that 'with even the most satisfying MP3'.

But it is also true that not all Hi-Res is satisfactory. Badly played (mustn't forget that), badly mastered and all other things that can go wrong, or even outright cheating (as some of us have noticed with at least one label) spoil the end result irrespective of DSD, PCM or DXD.

At the end of the day, all I'm looking for is: the quality of the composition, the quality of the interpretation and how well the musicians play, then comes the detail and the dynamics, and finally, how well the engineer masters it, putting it all together on file or disc. How it's done, technically speaking, is not my first concern. I trust my ears best. But it may be clear, and we all know it, that sound wise some labels do it better than others.

This discussion started with Pentatone. (Thanks Tom for your explanation). I, too, have noticed that things are changing. Labels seem to be turning, for all sorts of economical reasons, more and more to releasing the Hi-Res recording via dedicated download sites, whilst keeping the physical format to CD only.

(Sorry for these lengthy, no doubt incomplete thoughts. That's what lockdown, confinement and stay at home does with elderly people!)

Comment by Dissonance - June 7, 2020 (17 of 28)

Thanks for your analytical comment, Tom!

The higher the audio resolution is more nuanced details will pop up to one’s ears. That’s obvious. Of course the recording venue and instruments used have effects but briefly speaking it’s all about audio resolution on the process to carry out the timbre.

It is surprising both BIS and Chandos have been settled for to record only in 24-bit / 96 kHz (the highest possible audio resolution for the 6-channel layer on DVD-Audio), although both labels do have (as far as I have understood) Pyramix Workstations and other necessary recording tools to record and edit in higher resolution, let’s say in DXD (24-bit / 352.8 kHz). Therefore 24-bit / 96 kHz seems to be old-fashioned on nowadays and despite pressure on the increasing use of online streaming services, it is hoped the best possible audio resolution should to be used.

I’m repeating myself but the improvement provided by the highest audio resolutions can’t be underlined too much!

Comment by hiredfox - June 7, 2020 (18 of 28)

There is a lot to be said for straightforward transcription of old analogue tape recordings to DSD without editing. I have commented several times on here that some of the most realistic sounding discs (to me) have been old analogue recordings re-mastered in DSD and released on the Universal (Japan) label. They are pricey but if you want the best then 'best' it has to be.

Try von Karajan's "Also Sprach" and "Sibelius Symphony 5".

Comment by Tom Caulfield - June 7, 2020 (19 of 28)

For those who can play 5.0 surround DSD256, if you mail me at I'll send you an unedited session master file of a professional string quartet playing a short work from a acclaimed living composer. You may find it useful as a reference of the native capabilities of ITU 5.0 DSD256 recording.


Comment by Tony Reif - June 11, 2020 (20 of 28)

Hiredfox, are you referring to Karajan's Vienna Also Sprach on Decca, and his Sibelius 5 with Berlin or with the Philharmonia on EMI/Warners?

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