Hi-Res Downloads, May 2019

hfnalbumLos Angeles Philharmonic/Gustavo Dudamel
Celebrating John Williams (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.highresaudio.com; DG 0289 483 6647 7

Whether you love the music of John Williams or consider it a mere exercise in 'spot the composer that bit was nicked from', there's no denying that this double album of his back catalogue, recorded live by the LA Phil under Dudamel in the city's Walt Disney Concert Hall, sounds pretty damn spectacular. It opens with the cinematic (what else?) fanfare for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, and takes in all the biggies, from an atmospheric suite from Close Encounters to Jaws, the Harry Potter, Jurassic Park and Indiana Jones movies and of course the Star Wars franchise. The set concludes with the dramatic theme from the 1978 Superman movie – Williams at his best. Simone Porter's solo violin from Schindler's List is beautifully captured, as is the delicacy of Robert deMaine's cello in 'Sayuri's Theme' from Memoirs Of A Geisha, and the whole set has wonderful detail and impact. AE

Sound Quality: 90%


Lab Report
This 96kHz rendering demonstrates full use of a wide dynamic range, peaking at –1dBFs during 'The Imperial March' (trk 15) and dropping to –60dBFs in 'Close Encounters' (trk 2). Pity about the HF spuriae [black], inaudible but untidy. PM


Archi Di Santa Cecilia/Luigi Piovano
Dvorak and Tchaikovsky String Serenades (88.2kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.highresaudio.com; Arcana A457

All but two of the 23 named string players here are – unsurprisingly – listed as members of Antonio Pappano's Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale (Rome), and they are conducted in these two most popular Serenades by Pappano's principal cellist. Piovano is increasingly working also in the role of conductor. Amazon lists more than 20 alternatives for this coupling, but this new Arcana recording is more than competitive, the interpretations nicely contrasting the sophistication of the Tchaikovsky with Dvořák's more homely personality. Piovano secures sensitive quiet playing and a dramatic sweep as appropriate. The resonant Rome studio creates a sense of far more than 23 strings, although the part-writing is never obscured – but I'd have preferred a drier acoustic. CB

Sound Quality: 85%


Lab Report
Recorded in Jan '15 at Auditorium Parco della Musica, Rome, this is a true 88.2kHz file (all the better for downsampling to CD). Free of spurious noise, or a heavy hand at the controls, this is a fine example of the technical art. PM


Merje Kägu Ensemble
When Silence Falls (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.highresaudio.com; Losen Records LOS 207-2

Is it jazz? Is it classical? Is it written? Is it improvised? With this reflective set from the Swedish-based group led by guitarist Kägu, the answer is yes, all of the above, and then some. Formed a couple of years ago, the ensemble brings together the traditional jazz set-up of soloist/leader, bass and drums, then adds in a cellist, a violinist/vocalist, a flautist and an oboist/English horn. The result is a very unusual collaboration able to explore a wide range of instrumental textures, beautifully captured in a very clean recording. It's just the thing with which to relax, with a deep, sonorous bass and beautiful sound from the strings, and each piece is long enough for the group to explore its options, from the sudden lighthearted breaks in the opening 'To Find Yourself Is To Lose Yourself' through to the mesmeric pulse of the closing title track. Delightful. AE

Sound Quality: 85%


Lab Report
Expertly recorded, this ensemble of strings, oboe, flute and horn rarely breaks cover beyond –4dBFs, ensuring no DAC will get into trouble! Dynamic range is well used thanks to the low –100dB noise floor. A great example of 'high-res'. PM


Cuarteto Casals
Revelations 1: Beethoven String Quartets Op.18:2; Op.74 'Harp' (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.highresaudio.com; Harmona Mundi HMM90240305-1

Open up the booklet PDF and you might wonder 'where's all my music?'. The principle behind this new Beethoven CD series by the Barcelona-based quartet was to have programmes each with an early, middle-period and late work. But in download format the 'Revelations' set is split into three albums – Op.59:2 and Op.132 come as separate FLACs. These musicians have been playing together since 1997 and (like the Emerson Quartet) the two violinists alternate as lead roles. Their style is classical and they create a lovely sense of the music floating across the stage from one instrument to another as if in conversation. You can glimpse session film from the Teldex Studio Berlin on line, where two large screens are free-standing behind the players and about half a dozen stand mics can be seen around them. CB

Sound Quality: 80%


Lab Report
The String Quartet No2 (trks 1-4) shows some 8-10dB higher noise on the right channel than the left, suggesting it was recorded at a different time/equipment than the Quartet No10. Otherwise these are clean 96kHz files, free of clipping. PM


Christian Balvig 6-Tet
Music For Humans (88.2kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.highresaudio.com; Amp Music & Records AT022

Rather like the Marje Kägu Ensemble [HFN Apr '19], this short – 37 minute – album by Danish pianist Balvig is an example of the crossover between jazz and classical music. The '6-tet' here includes a conventional jazz trio, Balvig being joined by Jens Mikkel Madsen on bass and drummer Siv Øyunn Kjenstad, but to that is added a string trio of violin, viola and cello, adding depth and resonance to the pieces on the album. And the effect is palpably obvious from the opening 'Body Blankets', which starts conventionally then takes on an altogether statelier tone as the strings kick in, while the refined 'Froid' puts the trio against pizzicato strings to striking effect. And 'Like A Caveman' is almost Glass-like in its repetitive phrases, benefiting like the rest of the album from a generally clean and precise sound, allowing each of the instrumental elements to shine through. AE

Sound Quality: 80%


Lab Report
This 88.2kHz rendering shows an unusual sampling or post-processing artefact at 40kHz. This is missing from trks 3, 7 and 8 which have a ~20dB higher noise floor and were evidently recorded at a different time and/or conditions. PM