Hi-Res Downloads, April 2020

Tomba Sonora (DXD; DSD64-DSD512)
www.nativedsd.com; 2L 2L-155

By any standards this is something of a curiosity. The idea of the project is really an experiment in sound, utilising the acoustic of the mausoleum Norwegian artist Emanuel Vigeland built for himself at Slemdal, near Oslo (dubbed Tomba Emmanuelle). He then wrote, performed and recorded this music to make the most of the highly reverberant space. The music is by Kristin Bolstad, the performance a small vocal/cello ensemble including the composer, and the recording by 2L founder Morten Lindberg, recently the recipient of a Grammy for another of his 'immersive' recordings. And this one is definitely immersive, the instruments and voices melding together with those early reflections into a dense, meditative soundscape, yet retaining fine definition. Oh, and it's even more spine-tingling in multichannel, the venue really engulfing the listener. AE

Sound Quality: 95%


Lab Report
Merging Technologies' DXD DACs were employed for this 352.8kHz recording (also offered in DSD64-512). Bandwidth is overkill for the musical content but, for best sound, the FLAC encodes should first be converted to linear WAV files. PM


Alessandro Quarta
Plays Astor Piazzolla (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC; MQA)
www.highresaudio.com; IAN Productions LC 30467

Astor Piazzolla is hardly one of the world's least-recorded composers, with a wide variety of artists having had a stab at the works of the Argentinian bandoneon player and tango-master, not to mention a hefty catalogue of his own recordings. Yet Alessandro Quarta, a violinist as at home in the classical and jazz fields, not to mention an accomplished rock and pop arranger, brings a fresh take to works both familiar and less so, aided by producer Stefan Zaradic. Quarta's full-bodied violin tone, sometimes dreamy and at others snappily rhythmic is – as you might expect – front and centre in the open, expansive soundstage, but there's fine support from the 'band' and in particular Giuseppe Magagnino's expressive piano. The recording benefits from informative sleeve notes, and above all is a hugely entertaining listen, on both musical and audio levels! AE

Sound Quality: 85%


Lab Report
Available as an MQA encode, and 11.1 Auro 3D and Dolby Atmos renderings on BD-Audio, our download is a straight stereo 96kHz file. The recording makes good use of the dynamic range but is filtered earlier than typical at ~40kHz. PM


Sheku Kanneh-Mason
Elgar: Cello Concerto; 'Nimrod' (arr. Strings); and other arrangements (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.highresaudio.com; Decca 485 0241

Much publicised at the end of last year, this follows the pattern of Sheku Kanneh-Mason's debut album Inspiration, with a major Cello Concerto and unrelated shorter pieces. As there's no booklet provided, you'll need www.deccaclassics.com to see the track info and the other performers involved. I particularly liked Scarborough Fair (with guitar). With Sheku's intimate style these pieces are more persuasive than the Elgar Concerto – 'Nimrod' (six cellists) excepted, where the combined vibrato is overdone and the character of the piece too altered. His light, nimble playing makes the Allegro molto the most satisfying part of the main work. Sheku then sustains a slow Adagio but it becomes static. In the outer movements there are beautiful moments – but while Sheku has sure technical skills, depth has yet to follow. CB

Sound Quality: 80%


Lab Report
No technical information is provided about this recording, though it looks like a native file from which the commercial CD was probably derived. It is very clean – no hint of spuriae or compression, with peaks rarely straying above –2dBFs. PM


Michael Kiwanuka
Kiwanuka (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)*
www.highresaudio.com; Polydor Records 7795275

Kiwanuka's third album, produced by multi-Grammy-winning hitmaker Danger Mouse and hip-hop maven Inflo, is striking in that it manages to be both bang up to date and dripping with decades of soulful influences. It could be anything from a '70s album by one of the soul greats to later period Beatles or Stones, and while the production isn't the clearest or most 'hi-fi' you're going to hear [see PM's Lab notes], it's hard not to conclude that the lush, complex mixes sound nothing short of magnificent. At the same time, Kiwanuka is tackling subjects ranging from racist attitudes to gun violence and police shootings, right the way through to apocalyptic nuclear war, but does so in the intense, considered manner of the soulful activists who have gone before. It's a remarkably compelling listen, and the flow means once you start playing it, you'll listen to the end. AE

Sound Quality: 80%


Lab Report
Artistic integrity notwithstanding, this '96kHz' download of Kiwanuka is actually an upsample of a 48kHz mix. All 14 tracks are bandlimited as illustrated here by trk 2 [see Graph]. Dynamic range is also limited by the crushing levels. PM


Lars Vogt/Royal Northern Sinf.
Brahms: Piano Concerto No 1; Ballades Op.10 (48kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.highresaudio.com; Ondine ODE13302

It's certainly unusual for the pianist also to direct the orchestra in Brahms's two Piano Concertos – not even Barenboim does this! But Vogt discusses this aspect at length in the online booklet, where he also praises the now retired Royal Northern Sinfonia leader Bradley Creswick and sets out his thoughts on the young Brahms's four Ballades. These were recorded at a Cologne studio but, perhaps because of the acoustic of the Gateshead Concert Hall, which seems to soak up the sound, the Concerto reproduces the piano at the expense of the orchestra. Try, say, the counterpoint section in the finale and it's hard to set a level to give presence to the strings, in particular, without Vogt seeming too prominent. Of course this balance allows appreciation of his complete mastery of this complex score but I've had to mark it down. CB

Sound Quality: 75%


Lab Report
This is a powerful piece, and powerfully recorded right up to, but not exceeding, the 0dBFs endstops. So dynamic range is fully occupied but the ~20kHz response is insufficient to capture the orchestra's bandwidth. Some minor spuriae too. PM