Hi-Res Downloads

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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.
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Apr 16, 2018
Forget the PDF booklet hyperbole about a project ‘opening new doors’ and seeking the ‘spirituality and sounds’ of Bach. Now 27, Christian Grøvlen plays 18 works – the Chromatic Fantasy And Fugue, Sinfonias Nos 1-15; French Suite No 3, Partita No 5 – on a modern Steinway and he’s recorded with an array of mics set up in a Norwegian church. There’s a pleasing ambience to the sound which is as clean as Grøvlen’s own fingerwork. He’s a thoughtful interpreter and unafraid to use the pedals (which András Schiff avoids in Bach keyboard works), while his ornamentation ripples and gives a fluidity to the musical line.
B. Willis (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Apr 09, 2018
This contemplative, introspective collection by saxophonist David Haudrechy and pianist Grégoire Aguilar is what classical composers would have called ‘variations on a theme’. The key to what lies ahead is all contained in the opener, ‘Melancholia’. In the ensuing tracks, the two musicians do their best to find out how many ways they can plough the same plot of ground, but it’s a refined and delicate kind of ploughing. Lost Lake would serve well as background music for a moody French film, in which two obsessed lovers quarrel and copulate until they’ve exhausted their enthusiasm for both.
B. Willis (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Apr 02, 2018
The latest from a stellar group – drummer Gerald Cleaver, pianist David Virelles, bassist Reuben Rogers, and trumpeter Stanko – December Avenue is a collection of beautifully rendered tone-poems. There is a great delicacy to the musicianship – they are all fully engaged with their bandmates – and each track seems approached as if they have all the time in the world, and all the space they could possibly need to explore it. Even at his most upbeat, Stanko has a sweetly mournful quality. The opposite of frantic jazz, this collection is maturely intelligent, emotionally resonant, aesthetically unassailable, and gorgeously executed, without a hint of cliché.
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Mar 26, 2018
96kHz & 192kHz/24-bit, FLAC*; Linn CKD572 (supplied by www. linnrecords. com) Sibelius’s First Symphony has long attracted hi-fi enthusiasts with landmark recordings by Collins, Maazel, and Vänskä that showed off your system – not least in the exciting scherzo with its textural contrasts. The Sixth, by contrast, was his most austere symphony, described by the composer as offering ‘pure cold spring water’.
B. Willis (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Mar 19, 2018
Remember Ten Years After? This is the sort of ‘roots music’ that inspired that band, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Golden Earring, Little Feat, and countless others. Heavy white-boy blues, simple lyrics, extremely repetitive rock arrangements with almost no rhythmic variation, an exaggerated bottom octave, and too much slide guitar all add up to minimal interest for this reviewer, but despite its utter familiarity, or perhaps because of it, lots of blues-rock fans will likely devour this album. Opinions vary, and that’s a very good thing. Many of its songs have been done better by other bands (‘You Got To Move,’ ‘Bid You Goodnight’) and fortunately, none of them runs longer than five minutes.

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