Hi-Res Downloads, April 2019

Thomas Søndergård/BBC Now
Sibelius: Finlandia (96kHz/192kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.linnrecords.com; Linn CKD 566

Reviewed from the CD, this was my Classical 'Album Choice' in HFN Dec '18. It was Thomas Søndergård's final recording with the BBC's National Orchestra of Wales, as he's now moved to take over the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. His planned Sibelius symphony cycle for Linn went only as far as Nos 1/6 and 2/7, and here we have a concert of smaller pieces: besides the popular Finlandia, Valse Triste and Swan Of Tuonela, there's En Saga, the atmospheric tone-poem The Oceanides and the composer's first printed score, his five-movement Suite King Christian II, premiered in 1898. These performances complement the Colin Davis LSO/Boston SO recordings, with consistently transparent textures. Søndergård secures playing of wide dynamic range too (sometimes pianissimi are barely audible), while Linn's Cardiff production conveys every nuance of Sibelius's scoring. CB

Sound Quality: 90%


Lab Report
Tested here in 96kHz guise (downsample from 192kHz evident from cut-off at ~46kHz), this is a very low-noise digital recording, spoiled only by a lone 20kHz peak at –84dBFs [black]. Dynamic range is excellent; samples free of clipping. PM


Johan Versk
Masters of Rag Vol I (96kHz/24-bit; DSD64/DSD128)
www.nativedsd.com; AudioDefine Records ADMOR01

Here's a genuine oddity: Australian pianist Versk plays ragtime tunes familiar – a breakneck reading of Scott Joplin's 'The Entertainer' – and less so, in about as simple a recording as you could wish. For those of a technical bent, we discover that the recordings of Versk's Bechstein Classic 118 upright were made by AudioDefine boss Cast J Thomson using a simple X/Y stereo configuration of Audio-Technica AT4051B small diaphragm microphones feeding a Korg MR-20005 DSD recorder at 5.6MHz, so what you're hearing in this DSD128 release is just what was captured, 'with no fancy mastering or effects thrown on top'. Versk's performances aim at being as faithful as possible to the original sheet music, giving a remarkably fresh take on music that came back into fashion with its use in The Sting some 45 years ago, and creating a simply enchanting recording. AE

Sound Quality: 90%


Lab Report
Details of the recording equipment are given in AE's review, above, and while no 'fancy effects' are employed, neither am I confident that the series of (spurious?)tones from 15kHz-48kHz are likely to be produced by a Classic 118 upright... PM


Lars Danielsson & Paolo Fresu
Summerwind (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.highresaudio.com; ACTMusic ACT 9871-2

Of course it's an unusual combination of instruments – it's jazz, after all! But while an entire album of brass/bass duets may not seem like a whole load of fun, this set by Italian trumpeter Paolo Fresu and Danish bassist Lars Danielsson is gentle, melodic and altogether fascinating. The two do change instruments occasionally – to flugelhorn and cello – in order to alter the tonal palette, but whatever they're playing, the performances are soulful, almost wistful, and actually rather mesmerising. This is the first time the duo has worked together in the studio, but the warm, resonant acoustic lets their instruments meld together, and the rapport they built up is clear in the improvised 'Dardusó', with each giving the other pace as well as the two firing off each other. It's almost definitive easy listening, but also rewards your close attention. AE

Sound Quality: 85%


Lab Report
Recorded at Nilento Studio, Gothenburg, this 96kHz digital rendering contains variable amounts of analogue noise depending on whether the trumpet or flugelhorn is to the fore [trk 1 'Autumn Leaves' illustrated above]. PM


Sir Roland Hanna
Swing Me No Waltzes (DSD64/DSD128)
www.nativedsd.com; 2XHD 2XHDST1129

Coincidentally, our two releases from the NativeDSD catalogue this month are both solo piano sets, but this one by Detroit-born Roland Hanna, given a honorary knighthood by Liberia in 1970, could not be much more different from Johan Versk's ragtime set. Recorded in Stockholm 40 years ago, and remastered by the 2XHD label's René Laflamme, this set comprises almost entirely compositions by Hanna – the exception being Duke Ellington's 'Everything But You' – and show off the pianist's ability to maintain the luminous tone of his instrument even when rocking hard. The deftness of his playing in, for example, 'A Little Sweetnin' For Sweden' or the album's title track, is a wonder to behold, and then he can just change gear and cruise lyrically through 'Free Spirit-Free Style'. Add in an open, fluid recording, and this is another one to treasure. AE

Sound Quality: 85%


Lab Report
This DSD128 rendering was taken from 15ips mastertapes via a tube-modified Nagra-T deck and sampled at 11.2MHz (DSD256) using a Merging Tech. Horus ADC. The fine 44kHz bandwidth is limited only by original tape noise. PM


Emma Johnson & Friends
Beethoven, Küffner and Strauss (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.highresaudio.com; Somm SOMM0190

Recorded live at Southampton University, this Oct '17 concert starts with an Introduction, Theme And Variations for clarinet and string quartet, once attributed to Weber, and ends with arrangements by Emma Johnson of Johann Strauss II's Frühlingsstimmen and Perpetuum Mobile for all eight players. Emma's 'friends' are the Carducci String Qt, Peter Francombe (horn), Philip Gibbon (bassoon) and husband Chris West (double-bass). Her little hesitation before the final note gets laughter and applause – more applause after the Septet. This is the sturdy centrepiece and with a wide soundstage focused on the extremes we hear how little time Beethoven gave the lead violinist for rest – even putting a solo cadenza in the finale, admirably met here. There's sterling work by Francombe, while Emma's big personality shining through (stage right) will please fans. CB

Sound Quality: 80%


Lab Report
This is a genuine 96kHz recording and download with much of the musical action above 15kHz accounted for by the horn, clarinet and violin. The slight excess of energy at ~32kHz on the peak spectrum [red] is probably spurious. PM