Turtle Records
TRSA0018, label website

Pietro Locatelli must have been the Jimi Hendrix of his time. Way back in the 18th century, born in 1695, Locatelli was a true virtuoso. When he moved from Italy to Amsterdam in 1729, he had mastered every contemporary composer of the violin. Before him, Geminiani, Torelli, Corelli, Tartine and Vivaldi held no secrets nor challenges. However, this move to Amsterdam boosted Pietro's keen intellect yet further. He ended up owning an immense library of books covering philosophy, theology, history and ornithology. Kepler, Newton and Galileo kept his mind sharp and working at full speed.

In Amsterdam, he established a concert series to provide for his living while composing his own revolutionary pieces. At the time, the violin was only played to the 7th stop. Locatelli explored the possibilities and improbabilities of playing well beyond this stop. Only very skilled violinists are able to play these very high notes without making them sound like the proverbial cat in heat. One of his masterpieces is the 12-part L'arte del Violino. In these concertos, Locatelli not only explores the violin as a virtuoso instrument of music, he uses it to paint a complete environment. Like Vermeer who painted his room in dozens of paintings with a different central subject for each occasion, Locatelli paints his world with a violin.

The masterful composer takes elements from the Baroque and adds his own spiritual light to it for which the open and progressive climate of Amsterdam seemed the perfectly fertile soil. As with most radical elements in an established environ, his new techniques and sound effects were not always appreciated. It took a virtuosi like Paganini another 100 years to catch up with the Locatelli inventions and transform them into his trademarks. However, the Paganini tuning of the violin, his use of staccato and bowing techniques are all based on Locatelli's.

Turtle Records is a small Dutch record label with an interesting philosophy. The three friends and founders of the label all have different backgrounds in music which includes pure Rock'n'Roll, classical recording and mastering engineering and music journalism. Another bonding factor is the love of audio gear, with many of their records produced or mastered with audiophile equipment. For the Locatelli project, a bank provided the necessary sponsorship funding to allow young Luxemburgian violinist Sandrine Cantoreggi to ask the Latvian Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra to join the project with fellow Luxemburg director Carlo Jans at the helm.

The recording took place in the Galaxy Studios of Mol/Belgium and Turtle used their favorite dCS converters to go from the analogue feed of Neuman tube and Sonodore omnidirectional microphones via an Audio Electronics Holland pre-amp and mixer to disc. Avalon and Audio Physic monitor loudspeakers were powered by a PassLabs X-5. And yes, the recording is in DSD and multichannel. The resultant CD is a hybrid SACD/CD. We listened exclusively to the stereo CD layer.

When talented people play music with enthusiasm; and when that enthusiasm is captured for posterity with the same spirit - the outcome will be predictably captivating. And this record very much is. Sandrine elected to play three of the twelve pieces of L'arte del Violino, the concertos 11, 5 and 12 in that order.

From the first note to the last, this record grabs the listener, with the tension sustained from beginning to end and the variations between soloist and orchestra making for lively contrasts. On top of that, the well-balanced recording especially in the difficult ultra-high violin notes is clean and open. While down-converted DSD recordings can occasionally be a little edgy, here there's no trace to be found. The violins, violas, cello and double bass are simply present in your room, with the harpsichord in the middle just left of Sandrine's Guadagini violin. The only problem with a recording this revealing is that when you play it on a system where one component does not match the others, it becomes strikingly obvious as when we played this CD with an insufficiently burned-in interconnect - the resultant sound then was trying to loosen our every dental filling...