Hi-Res Downloads (November 2018)

hfnalbum.pngCzech PO/Jiri Belohlavek
Janecek: Glagolitic Mass; Sinfonietta; Taras Bulba; The Fiddler's Child (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.highresaudio.com; Decca 483 4080

Notwithstanding the virtues of the Kempe or Mackerras recordings (also both Decca) you really need the full authenticity of Czech forces – as here – for the Mass. Produced in the Rudolfinum it comes with Janáček's rhapsody after Gogol and ghoulish narrative poem (akin to those by Dvořák), and the popular Sinfonietta, done only three months before Bělohlávek died – a glorious account with its stirring brass – 25 players! – reverberating over woodwind squeals in the Prague hall. The Czech leader is both plaintive and seductive in Fiddler's Child, with divided strings a listening bonus. The soundstage separation effects are equally dramatic in the Mass – lovely upper voices of Prague's Phil. Chorus and two fine soloists; a spacious and dignified account. In (vii) we hear the 1975 Rieger-Kloss organ in full bloom, briefly too as Taras Bulba ends. CB

Sound Quality: 95%


Lab Report
The Taras Bulba (trks 14, 15, 16) look suspiciously like PCM downsamples from DSD [black trace] but the remainder are the real deal – genuine 96kHz renderings that use the available dynamic range to magnificent, dramatic effect. PM


Trygve Seim
Helsinki Songs (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.highresaudio.com; ECM 675 1580

Right, title out of the way first: no, not a selection of ballads of old Helsinki town, but a series of numbers written by Seim – apparently the second most recognisable saxophonist in Norway (after Jan Garbarek) – in an apartment in that city run by the Society of Finnish composers. For this set he's pulled together an altogether conventional quartet, but with an international flavour. The pianist Kristjan Randalu is Estonian, fellow Norwegian Mats Eilertsen plucks the big fiddle and drummer Markku Ounaskari is a Finn. Seim's time in Cairo throws in an exotic undertone, and the whole thing is very ECM – including the inaudible ultrasonic tones PM notes in his lab report! Gentle, understated and with some lovely musicianship, this is a very listenable album, with Seim's sax captured in all its breathiness, and sympathetic support from the rest of the band. AE

Sound Quality: 90%


Lab Report
This is a genuine 96kHz recording and one that makes sensitive use of the available dynamic range, avoiding compression. But not for the first time recently, this is another ECM production with spurious tones, here at ~31kHz. PM


Alexis Ffrench
Evolution (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)*
www.highresaudio.com; Sony 19075842152

The piano album seems to be making something of a comeback, and this set by British pianist and composer Alexis Ffrench is his tenth, past outings including Piano Diaries, The Secret Piano and The Piano Whisperer. Classically trained at the Purcell School, the Royal Academy and Guildhall School of Music, Ffrench has produced a series of beautifully played pieces of pianistic persiflage, all pleasant enough but none really signifying very much at all. That said, and despite the mixed formats from which the album's made up, it's as lovingly recorded as you could like, including the winsome 'Bluebird'. It all drifts by innocuously enough, albeit with a feel of something between music for unmade films and dinner-party accompaniment. Not one I suspect most listeners will revisit too often after a first listen, I fear – unless it's on shuffle repeat in the background. AE

Sound Quality: 85%


Lab Report
Tracks 4, 7 and 11 were recorded in 2017, the remainder in 2018. However while this download will light your DAC's 96kHz LED only tracks 3, 5, 9 and 12 are native. The remainder are 48kHz files upsampled to 96kHz [black trace]. PM


Huw Wiggin And John Lenehan
Reflections (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)*
www.highresaudio.com; Orchid Classics ORC100084

If your image of the saxophone is all stabbing interjections, screaming high notes and parps, and close-miked clattering keys, prepare to have your thoughts rearranged. These pieces, written for the instrument, and some arrangements by Wiggin, are by turns lyrical and rhythmic, and gorgeously recorded. Wiggin – Prof. of saxophone at London's Royal Academy of Music, no less – plays a Selmer soprano sax here. He's accompanied by pianist John Lenehan, with appearances by harpist Oliver Wass, captured with consummate skill by Alexander Barnes, giving the instruments space to breathe and develop their timbres. Standouts? Wiggin's arrangement of Saint-Saëns' The Swan, and Paule Maurice's evocative Tableaux de Provence, written 'for saxophone (or piano)', but then this is an album packed with delights, and a truly scintillating sound. AE

Sound Quality: 85%


Lab Report
While the available dynamic range is well managed – Huw Wiggin's saxophone occupying the uppermost 10dB but never clipping – the original music file is evidently sampled at 48kHz, and offered here upsampled to 96kHz. PM


Arianna Neikrug
Changes (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.highresaudio.com; Concord Music (no number)

The fact that Changes is a 96kHz/24-bit recording is something of a moot point given that this is one of those 'close-miked vocals over tinkling background' albums that would sound pretty good on anything north of a £30 Bluetooth speaker. It's all rather familiar stuff, and a glimpse of the tracklist – 'Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most', 'After You've Gone', 'No Moon At All' and the like – might make you think we're firmly in Holly Cole territory. Well yes, but Ms Neikrug is more 'straight down the line' than her Canadian counterpart, and despite crisp, clean work by pianist/arranger/producer Laurene Hobgood, this set is just a bit forgettable, and the singer's occasional lapse into an almost childlike wail could begin to irritate on repeated listens. Changes may be the title, but there's nothing really transformative here – indeed, it's all rather 'safe'. AE

Sound Quality: 80%


Lab Report
This FLAC file's 96kHz sample rate confers a ~45kHz bandwidth and although the piano resides at <10kHz, Neikrug's voice and the accompanying percussion show harmonics (possibly distortion and noise from in-line limiters) above 20kHz. PM