Hi-Res Downloads

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C. Joseph (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Sep 03, 2018
Like Mavis Staples, Gregory Porter brings an awareness of civil rights issues to his music, but this tribute to his hero, Nat ‘King’ Cole, was clearly made for the easy-listening Christmas market. The album opens with a swirl of strings as he launches into ‘Mona Lisa’. Porter’s voice has always sounded very much like that of Cole, of course, and his rich tones are undeniably warm and attractive. Yet his performance on many of these tracks is so note-perfect that it often feels like an impersonation rather than his own interpretation.
Reviews: Hi-Fi News Team, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 01, 2018
This month we review and test: RCO/Daniele Gatti, Sullivan Fortner, Quatuor Cambini-Paris, Brenda Navarrete, and Leo Sidran.
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Aug 27, 2018
A sequel to their demanding Adès/Nørgård/Abrahamsen ECM album [HFN Dec ’16], this is a self-produced, helpfully annotated 16-track collection of mainly Nordic folk music, arranged by the group and including a reel after Dowland, ‘Shine You No More’, by the leader, Rune Tonsgard Sørenson. To add textural variety, he also plays harmonium, piano and glockenspiel. And cellist/bass player Fredrik Schøyen Sjölin contributes three compositions, ‘Shore’, ‘Intermezzo’ – especially delightful – and the unwinding ‘Naja’s Waltz’ with pizzicato backing. The traditional pieces also include ‘Unst Boat Song’ from the Shetlands and the Faroese ‘Stædelil’.
C. Joseph (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Aug 20, 2018
That sombre cover portrait sets the tone for Benny Andersson’s latest solo project, which consists of 21 tracks from his decades-long career reinterpreted for piano. The mood is generally melancholy, and the album largely concentrates on Andersson’s post-Abba material, including songs written for musicals such as Chess, as well as his current ‘group’ – the Benny Andersson Orkester. Inevitably, though, it’s the handful of familiar Abba classics that stand out. The piano version of ‘My Love, My Life’ lacks the lush harmonies of the original, but the bittersweet melody still shines through.
C. Joseph (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Aug 13, 2018
‘This life surrounds you, guns are loaded. . . .
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Aug 06, 2018
The time when the Manfred Symphony was cut (Toscanini, Kletzki) or worse, cut and pasted (Ahronovitch), has long gone; and it now seems it was Balakirev who first suggested replacing harmonium with organ in the finale – which nearly all conductors do (Markevitch excepted). In this marvellous recording from Prague’s ample Rudolfinum it’s the way Bychkov integrates all those finale episodes and flashbacks into a coherent whole that impresses most. Back in 1972 a HFN editorial review suggested that Decca’s earlier VPO/Maazel version ‘would be unlikely to be surpassed’ as an orchestral recording – but it clearly is by this one over 45 years later! Bychkov’s is a powerfully dramatic account with a glowing richness missing from Pletnev’s cooler Pentatone Manfred with the Russian National Orchestra, which we also reviewed in this section [Album Choice, HFN Jun ’14]. CB Sound Quality: 90% Hi-Fi News Lab Report Digital throughout (recording, mixing and mastering) and mercifully free of obvious distortion or compression, this file still shows some low-level (<–80dBFs) spuriae, particularly 20kHz-48kHz.
Reviews: Hi-Fi News Team, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 01, 2018
This month we review and test: Bobo Stenson Trio, Bahamas, Bettye Lavette, Chris Thile, and Imelda May.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Jul 30, 2018
As one whose knowledge of the accordion stretches all the way from ’Allo ’Allo! to the Tour de France theme music, I approached this homage to the instrument over the years with un peu d’inquiétude. However, led by Vincent Peirani – ‘le “Jimi Hendrix” de l’accordéon’, apparently – this set is strangely captivating, with a mixture of ‘where have I heard that before?’ and unfamiliar music. It’s all very Gallic, and there might be a temptation for quite a lot of the tracks here to sound a bit similar on a casual listen, but both the performances and the recording justify closer attention, at which point it’s much easier to appreciate the quality of both. Yes, the artists will be new to most listeners, but this is actually a fascinating set, and one that rewards repeated listens.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Jul 23, 2018
We’re constantly being told times are tough, so if you’ve had to tighten the old belt and forgo this year’s cruise, then this one could be for you. Put yourself back in the ‘late night and rather overfed Ocean Bar & Lounge’ mood with this collection of ‘so lightweight they’re almost flimsy’ jazz covers. Austrian singer Kopmajer is big in Japan, and that’s not surprising, given that this is audiophile jazz at its finest, of the kind essayed by many a Japanese chanteuse. True, PM has his own observations on the provenance of some of the tracks – see his Lab Report below –, but there’s no denying the smoothness of the entire enterprise.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Jul 16, 2018
There’s not exactly a shortage of piano trio albums out there (despite the strong challenge seemingly being staged by accordions in this month’s hi-res selection), and while Martin Tingvall’s trio’s album starts unpromisingly with the low-key ‘Evighetsmaskinen’ (it means ‘Eternity Machine’) – a mid-set track if ever I heard one – it soon hits its groove with the impetus of ‘Bumerang’. That sets the pace for the rest of the album, notably the pacy ‘Skånsk Blues’ and ‘Sjuan’, and while the set has its contemplative, introspective moments – well, it is a jazz trio album, after all! – there’s more than enough here to have the listener coming back for second helpings. True, this isn’t the cleanest-sounding recording ever, with occasionally a bit too much cymbal splash, for example, but it’s certainly punchy and definitely enjoyable – and goes out with bang. AE Sound Quality: 85% Hi-Fi News Lab Report There’s evidence of mixed sample rate content here (trks 3, 4, 7, 8, 11 and 13) while the piano feed carries a deal of spuriae at 26kHz, 28kHz and 33.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Jul 09, 2018
Those of the view that audiophiles only like obscure and ‘plinky-plonky’ music, of the kind no-one would actually sit down to listen to for pleasure, are going to have a field day with the title of this one, but behind the ‘lost in translation’ is a truly lovely album. In contrast to our other squeezebox offering this month on p95 (and there’s a phrase I never thought I’d find myself writing!), this album is of tango pieces associated with guitarist Roberto Grela, and beautifully played by Louise Jallu on bandoneon together with acclaimed Japanese guitarist Hiroki Fukui. It’s a delightfully simple set, treated to a wonderfully intimate recording, combining crispness and warmth to winning effect. And boy, can these two play, with an easy rapport and that sense of firing off each other that’s the sign of true musicianship.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Jul 02, 2018
Definitely smarter than your average charity album, this one has been produced by the veteran pianist to benefit the Southern Californian hospital where he received bone transplant surgery a few years back, spending his recovery time in the hospital auditorium composing the pieces here. OK, so all very worthy, but this is also a great album, both in the ease and fluidity of the playing and above all in the superb sound quality on offer. For anyone thinking that dynamics are all about the punch of a rock track or the Sturm und Drang of a big orchestra, the way this set captures the power, light and shade of Winston’s piano will be quite an eye-opener. From the tinkling ‘Carousel 1’, opening the album, through to the infectious ‘Requited Love’, this is a masterclass in vibrant, enchanting piano recording.
Reviews: Hi-Fi News Team, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jul 01, 2018
This month we review and test: Jakob Bro, Jamison Ross, Legacy, Kacey Musgraves, and Corinne Morris/Scottish CO.
B. Willis (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Apr 30, 2018
Fleet Foxes, insofar as I have been able to determine, is a millennial cult item from Seattle. Their first album in six years, Crack-Up is an exercise in high-minded art for art’s sake, in which densely orchestrated and intensely overproduced music obscures reverb-heavy lyrics whose meaning is known only to their author or his acolytes. Was the reverb intended to evoke the sensation of a live performance? Throughout most of these inscrutable compositions, one can hear echoes of every ambitious big-statement pop-rock album of the past 40 years. Some tracks are intriguing – or have intriguing parts – and the musicianship is very good, but for the most part Crack-Up is heavy-handed, self-indulgent, pretentious, overwrought, over-engineered, and baffling beyond comprehension.
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Apr 23, 2018
These four young Spanish musicians decided they would like to undertake the three Brahms Piano Quartets – composed for piano, violin, viola and cello and first heard in 1861, ’62 and ’75. No 1 is by far the most popular, not least for its final ‘Rondo alla Zingarese’, and it was later orchestrated by Schoenberg (and twice recorded by Rattle). The 1949 set by Serkin and the Busch players is still current and these new recordings face huge competition. The stage width in this Zaragoza studio production is rather narrow and the 1862 Vuillaume violin sounds less generous in tone than I would have liked.

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