Hi-Res Downloads, May 2023

Takács Quartet
Hough, Dutilleux & Ravel: String Quartets (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.hyperion-records.co.uk; Hyperion CDA68400

The lineup of the Takács Quartet has only gradually evolved since its formation in 1975 while students, and the core of its personality on record has endured at least since its Decca days. Each track here, though, is caught on the wing with the picture-book immediacy of their best concerts and their Bartók cycle. If the Ravel is the most familiar piece, it still opens up a world of wonder thanks to the palpable atmosphere of both playing and engineering. Their Ainsi la nuit is less elliptical than the Ebène Quartet (Warner), more sensuous in registering Dutilleux's suggestive contrasts of light and timbre. Stephen Hough's 2021 quartet makes a fine complement and contrast, taking an oblique look at tonal harmony and counterpoint through six sketches set in a park, a hotel, a church and so on with the sharp but affectionate eye of a musical Cézanne. PQ

Sound Quality: 95%


Lab Report
Peaks range from –6.2dB (trk 2) to –0.3dB (trk 9) in this native 96kHz recording where the higher harmonics of the two violins soar to ~45kHz. There is a trace of (inaudible) spuriae at 33kHz but this is otherwise a clean Hyperion file. PM

2758 X

Ralph Towner
At First Light (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.ecmrecords.com; ECM 2758

Ralph Towner, now 83, has been on the ECM roster for around half a century since the release of his first solo album, Diary, so it's a pretty safe bet that label and performer have got the hang of each other by now. And so it proves on this latest set, recorded in Lugano, Italy, February 2022 and produced by ECM boss Manfred Eicher. It includes Towner's own compositions, for which he cites influences as diverse as Gershwin and Dowland, along with takes on some standards and even the traditional 'Danny Boy'. Recorded in Towner's preferred long-term fashion for the label – ostensibly as 'live' – this set, described by Towner as 'basically a thumbnail of my entire life', is as alluring for his still-wonderful guitar technique as it is for the exquisitely detailed and sympathetic recording, both dynamic and entirely fuss-free. It sounds nothing less than glorious. AE

Sound Quality: 90%


Lab Report
Sensitively recorded with no digital peaks breaching the top 'bit', this genuine 96kHz file will give all DACs an easy time while still realising an above average dynamic range. The classical guitar's bandwidth is fully accommodated. PM


Cupertinos/LuÍs Toscano
Pedro de Cristo: Magnificat, Marian Antiphons & Missa Salve Regina (96-192kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.hyperion-records.co.uk; Hyperion CDA68393

A golden-age polyphonist to set alongside Alonso Lobo and Manuel Cardoso, Pedro de Cristo (c1550-1618) made no less substantial liturgical contributions to the cult of the Virgin in late 16th-century Portugal. The Missa Salve Regina is one of several notable firsts on record. Music, singing and engineering all glow with gentle radiance, filling the Basilica at Braga without drowning in its resonance. Cristo writes within a narrow compass; the effect in a motet like Beata viscera is not of densely overlapping events (unlike, say, Gombert) but a calm expansion of voices towards a common goal – as we might desire for hymns dedicated to Mary. Smoky Iberian colours from the mixed Cupertinos voices, surprising but pleasing countertenor timbre from the female altos, and steadily paced, unaffected direction. PQ

Sound Quality: 85%


Lab Report
Recorded in the Basílica do Bom Jesus, Portugal for Hyperion, both 96kHz and 192kHz files have sufficient range to capture the soprano voices. Peaks are not excessive but there are occasional bursts of low-level spuriae at 42kHz-60kHz. PM


Eva Bjerga Haugen
Stille Grender (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
grappa.no; Grappa GRCD4756

Christmas in April – well, why not? It's a shame that so much great music is written for the festive season, then packed away on Boxing Day for another 11 months, especially if it includes the superb Nordic sounds released in recent years. And that would certainly cover this set by Norwegian jazz singer/pianist Eva Bjerga Haugen, ably assisted by the guitar of Morten Askildsen and the imaginative trumpet of Simen Kiil Halvorsen and the light-touch bass of Thomas Bang. Yes, some of the tunes are familiar, but given a fine jazz twist by the ensemble, while the local traditional songs are equally captivating, and atmospheric. The album is imbued with the spirit of 'Scandi-jazz' – never a bad thing – and treated to a fine recording: deep of soundstage, crisply detailed and even attention-grabbing as the days grow longer. Make it your guilty pleasure – and chill... AE

Sound Quality: 85%


Lab Report
All the tracks here are normalised to a high –0.13dBFs and some (trks 1, 4, 8, 10, 11) include moderate levels of spurious interference [black trace]. Otherwise, aliasing is well suppressed and dynamic range is merely 'average'. PM


Dave Douglas Quintet
Songs Of Ascent: Book 1 – Degrees (44.1kHz/16-bit)
www.greenleafmusic.com; Greenleaf Music GRE1096

We're still seeing the knock-on effects of the Coronavirus pandemic – so as working from home became a thing rather than an oddity, recording from home has become the norm for many artists. Dave Douglas's set, the first of two based on the 15 biblical psalms from which it takes its name, is an example, assembled rather than produced in the conventional sense. Douglas laid down all his tracks first, then the rest of the musicians, including Linda May Han Oh (bass) and drummer Rudy Royston, added their own contributions, all from home. It's surprising how well this 'remote recording' works, so you'd never know the musicians weren't all together at once. The sound is punchy, upbeat and open, with crisp rhythms and fine instrumental timbres. Even if you don't have an interest in the sacred sources, this set is fine-sounding, hugely enjoyable and – yes – uplifting. AE

Sound Quality: 80%


Lab Report
The 44.1kHz (~20kHz) bandwidth is insufficient to fully capture the tenor/soprano sax and alto clarinet but at least the stopband is free of aliasing. All tracks are normalised to –0.2dBFs and dynamic range is slightly above average. PM