Hi-Res Downloads, July 2021

hfnalbumJuilliard String Quartet
String Quartets by Bartók (No 3), Beethoven (Op.59:2) and Dvorak (Op.96, 'American') (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.highresaudio.com; Sony Classical G010004516958U

Founded in 1946, the Juilliard Quartet has had various changes of personnel: these recordings are the first to feature lead-violinist Areta Zhulla, who joined in 2018. Her companions are Ronald Copes (vln), Roger Tapping (vla) – ex-Takács Qt and from the UK – and Astrid Schween (vlc). You can see videos of them playing the complete Bartók and recording the Beethoven finale, on their website's home page. We had admirable mono and stereo Bartók cycles with earlier lineups but the Juillards' Beethoven was mostly considered 'transatlantic' and hard-bitten. It's a different picture now, with a closer-knit production sound too. There's raptness in the Beethoven Adagio, brio in the 'thème russe' scherzo and finale. Acerbity and 'night sounds' in the Bartók [trk 6] give way to the affable Dvořák Qt – in all a really enjoyable programme. CB

Sound Quality: 90%


Lab Report
With no booklet available, I can at least confirm this is a genuine 96kHz file, free of spuriae. The higher strings stretch out to an impressive 38kHz and dynamic range is excellent, only nudging 0dBFs in the Bartók No 3 [trk 5, see Graph]. PM


David Chesky
Songs For A Broken World (48kHz/24-bit, WAV)
www.hdtracks.com; Chesky Records JD466

Dave's worried, and he wants to unburden. More specifically, this is 'a sincere statement of worries the composer feels necessary to share with the world, in which all of us live and die. Its monumental form allows us to reflect on many tragic events (such as the latest disaster of COVID-19). By entering our lives, it unavoidably demands us to define our beliefs'. Take that on board before hearing the opening ten-minute-plus 'Remembrance For The Victims Of The Vietnam War' and concluding 'Sacred Child Of Aleppo'. It's surprising that this is actually an uplifting series of meditative pieces, combining choir and orchestra with soloists including mezzo J'Nai Bridges and – in a purely speaking role, naming the White Rose resistance members, some of whom were executed by the Nazis in 1943 – Ute Lemper. It's all rather bleak, but there's no denying the recording sounds fabulous. AE

Sound Quality: 90%


Lab Report
Available as a downsampled CD or as a native 48kHz file, tested here, the ~22kHz bandwidth is just sufficient to capture the vocal range of the mezzo soprano. Otherwise peaks never exceed –0.3dBFs and dynamic range is very good. PM


Aaron Pilsan
JS Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier (Book 1) (48kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.highresaudio.com; Alpha ALPHA669

Aaron Pilsan is a 26-year-old Austrian pianist. A young pupil first at the Salzburg Mozarteum he moved to Hanover and is still studying there with Lars Vogt. In the booklet interview he says how much Bach's keyboard works have fascinated him, and he has performed the Well Tempered on harpsichord and clavichord – here it's a 1982 Hamburg Steinway D specially tuned to Pilsan's needs for colour and warmth. Indeed, he seems to provide a distinctive 'colour' for each prelude/fugue, major or minor key. He describes the final fugue (B minor) as having 'Schoenbergian complexity' but rather impedes progress through expressive slowings – his mentor Schiff's simpler approach works best. And while the counterpoint playing is exemplary, some would prefer a more distanced approach than Pilsan's. CB

Sound Quality: 80%


Lab Report
Whether originally recorded at 48kHz or 96/192kHz and then downsampled, this 48kHz file still has sufficient bandwidth to capture the Steinway's ~17kHz harmonic range. Few tracks exceed –1dBFs and dynamic range is good. PM


Warren Vaché
First Time Out (DSD64/128/256/512; DXD/24-bit)
www.nativedsd.com; 2XHD 2XHDJA1190

The album's title is self-explanatory – well sort of, as five of the tracks here are from trumpeter Vaché's 1976 debut recording sessions, accompanied and co-produced by guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli. The remaining four cuts come from a later session – some 16 years later – but again with Pizzarelli providing the gentle, considered backing. And gentle and considered just about sums up the whole sound of this set, another of those 2xHD restoration and remastering jobs from the original analogue tapes to the company's DXD system, and thence on to various DSD formats. Featuring standards from composers such as Irving Berlin, Billy Strayhorn and Rodgers & Hart, this is as undemanding a set of tunes as anyone could want. The musicianship is there in spades, and though it never really takes flight, it remains a pleasant enough way to spend half an hour. AE

Sound Quality: 80%


Lab Report
From tape to DXD via a 'custom 2xHD ADC', the sample rate is excessive for the ~15kHz range of trumpet and guitar [red, peak/blue, RMS]. DSD128 version [green] has higher noise and note IMD around 30kHz tape bias in 1976 trks [black]. PM


Minotaurus (48kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.denovali.com; Denovali DEN360

Albums don't get much more high-concept than this – a live, improvised set described as 'a musical homage to the mythos of the Minotaur. The minotaur as a mirror of self-reflection and the fear of confronting one's inner ugliness'. Cheery stuff then, and the result of a co-operation between Mansur founder Jason Köhnen on bass and electronics, oud-player – oudist? – Dimitry El Demerdashi and vocalist Martina Horváth. They create a sound that's big on atmosphere, menace and mysticism, so it's not the first thing you might select to greet a bright sunny weekend morning. The recording 'takes you on a sonic journey through subterranean labyrinths, evoking spirits from past echoes of Minoa', and conjures up mysterious soundscapes, with distinct Eastern influences. It's all a bit samey taken in one sitting – instead of light and shade, there's just lots of the latter. AE

Sound Quality: 80%


Lab Report
By way of indication that the 'analogue' bass, oud and vocals have all passed through some measure of 'electronica', all six tracks peak at exactly –0.21dBFs! Otherwise it is what it is – thoroughly synthesised but clear of aliasing. PM