Hi-Res Downloads, August 2020

hfnalbumAkademie Für Alte Musik Berlin/ Bernhard Forck
Handel: Concerti grossi, Op.6:7-12 (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC/DSD64)
www.highresaudio.com; Pentatone PTC5186738

Handel wrote his 12 concerti grossi Op.6 in a short space of time in 1739, borrowing here and there from others or from his own music (eg, Nos 11 and 12 are reworkings from two of his organ concertos). The music, for strings and continuo, was slotted into London oratorio performances and the scores sold on a subscription basis. The earlier Pentatone release of Nos 1-6 prompted some criticism for including wind parts taken from the composer's own later markings in working scores, but here it's 15 string players led by Forck, organ, harpsichord and lute. The group's Beethoven 'Pastoral' [HFN Jun '20] has been a 250th anniversary highlight and, recorded in a Berlin church, they make a beautiful sound from the deep rich opening Largo of No 6 to the dancing Allegro finale to No 12, with added colour from the continuos. CB

Sound Quality: 95%


Lab Report
Recorded at the Nikodemuskirche Berlin, in early 2019, the full bandwidth offered by 96kHz sampling is used by harmonics from both higher strings and harpsichord that extend up to ~40kHz. This is where 'high-res' comes into its own. PM


Yael NaÏm
Nightsongs (44.1kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.qobuz.com; Tôt Ou Tard

Having your music chosen for an Apple commercial can do a career no harm, especially when word goes out that the late Steve Jobs had selected it himself. That was 12 years ago, giving French-Israeli singer/songwriter Yael Naïm her first big hit. Six albums and two Best Female Artists awards from the French equivalent of the Grammys later, we have the gorgeous-sounding Nightsongs. Its shimmering production showcases Naïm's breathy, occasionally husky voice with a lovely intimacy. And whereas some tracks are stripped back, others – such as 'She', with its ethereal choir – up the layering a little more to dramatic effect. But they do this without ever seeming overdone. It'll all be a bit fragile and close up for some tastes, but it's none the worse for that – and, despite the roots of Naïm's fame, it just about swerves the 'John Lewis ad' effect. AE

Sound Quality: 90%


Lab Report
While the CD sample rate is necessarily limited, and (analogue) noise evident on the guitar/vocal feeds, the dynamic range is still well used, particularly on trk12 [see Graph]. Peak levels are close to the digital wire at –0.1dBFs. PM


Giovanni Antonini/Il Giardino Armonico
Vivaldi: Flute Concertos (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.highresaudio.com; Alpha ALPHA364

Flautist/director Giovanni Antonini founded the period-instrument Giardino Armonico in 1985 – they are currently embarked on a longterm Haydn Symphony project [see HFN Oct '18]. Here, we have the popular 'Tempesta di mare', Op.10 (Warner Classics has an earlier version by these artists), and five other concertos for flute or recorder, together with a solo from Vivaldi's dark Nisi Dominus setting. It's played on the chalumeau, a predecessor of the clarinet with a monochrome pipe sound. Antonini is a brilliant and expressive performer but his group is taken to extremes of speed and dynamic contrasts – the Largo of RV443, for instance, is very slow. It's a far cry from Gazzelloni/I Musici in the old Philips Vivaldi Edition. Period-instruments here, of course, and a bold continuo presence with theorbo, Baroque harp and harpsichord. CB

Sound Quality: 85%


Lab Report
Recorded in 2011 and 2017 at Italy's Academia Montis Regalis, the period flute and harpsichord occupy the full 96kHz sample rate. However, all trks except 10 and 15-19 show identical ultrasonic spuriae on the R channel [black trace]. PM


Priya Darshini
Periphery (96kHz/192kHz/24-bit, FLAC/AIF)
www.hdtracks.com; n/a cat no.

In a video for the single previewing this album, 'Home', Darshini floats, Ophelia-like, in a lake, her arms folded across her chest, roses strewn around. Fortunately this debut album is rather more original! It draws on her Indian heritage while an unusual lineup of musicians includes hammered dulcimer player Max ZT, cellist Dave Eggar, percussionist Chuck Palmer and Living Colour drummer Will Calhoun. There's light and shade here, not least due to the way the album was recorded – in one take, on a single omni-directional microphone, and with no compression or equalisation. Darshini says: 'To me, the "recording" itself is a piece of art and lies at the intersection between our music, architecture, and the recording technology'. Subscribe to that analysis or not, there's no denying that this set has a vitality sadly lacking in many a more overly 'produced' release. AE

Sound Quality: 85%


Lab Report
Tested in its native 192kHz guise, most tracks [excluding trk 8 with its pulses of percussion – see Graph] would easily be accommodated at the lower 96kHz rate. Maximum level is –0.3dBFs (trks 2 and 3) and the dynamic range is excellent. PM


Martin Helmchen, Deutsches SO/Andrew Manze
Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos 1 and 4 (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.linnrecords.com; Alpha ALPHA575

Stephen Hough's new Hyperion cycle [HFN Sep '20] sets the bar high for recordings of the Beethoven Concertos – especially No 4.

But Helmchen is warmer, more personal in his approach (the Andante is marginally more spacious here). He doesn't spread the opening chord like Hough; and in 1(i) at the recapitulation makes a dramatic glissando effect which Hough eschews. Manze I think brings a more 'period' feel to the accompaniments than Hannu Lintu and I find his expositions more appealing. The earlier work was recorded at the Teldex Studio Berlin (Oct '18) and No 4 in the Philharmonie concert hall (May '19). Unfortunately, in both Concertos – and in Nos 2/5 [ALPHA555] – you hear a lot of pedalling noise with Helmchen, but thankfully none in the Andante of No 4. CB

Sound Quality: 85%


Lab Report
Recorded in 2018 and 2019 but with Pyramix/Merging Technologies throughout, there's tremendous dynamic range here over a full 40kHz+ bandwidth. The spurious 32.2kHz peak is in the Concerto No 4 only [black trace]. PM