Hi-Res Downloads, August 2022

hfnalbumSteven Osborne
Rachmaninov: Piano Sonata No 1 & Moments Musicaux (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.hyperion-records.co.uk; Hyperion CDA68365

You can't beat the sound of a well-recorded piano, and Steven Osborne's Steinway, here given space to breathe in Hyperion's familiar location of St Silas the Martyr, in London's Kentish Town, sounds absolutely magnificent in this colourful – and generous – programme of Rachmaninov. Running to almost an hour and a quarter, and taking in the little-heard sonata to the rhythmic 'Moments', inspired by a train journey, this set is never less than a delight, from the playing of long-time Hyperion artist Osborne to the masterful recording of the piano in all its light and shade. This is an album in which to immerse yourself, and just bask in the superb sound throughout: from the stately, and very moving, 'Nunc Dimittis' from the 'All-Night Vigil' and darkness of the posthumously-published 'Prelude in D minor' to the sparky 'Moments Musicaux', it's hugely enjoyable throughout. AE

Sound Quality: 90%


Lab Report
This is a very clean 96kHz file with good use of the dynamic range – only the 'D minor, Op 28, Movement 3: Allegro molto' (trk 3) peaks close to 0dBFs. The bandwidth occupied by the Steinway and harmonics is fully accommodated. PM


Stephen Hough
Schubert: Piano Sonatas D894, D664 and D769a (96kHz, 192kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.hyperion-records.co.uk; Hyperion CDA68370

This sensational recording brings us two sonatas – one early, in the form of the A major, and the much later G major – along with a delicious one-minute fragment in E minor, all played with wonderful insight, expression and conviction by the remarkable Stephen Hough. Indeed, one of the charms of this set is that Hough accords the fragment just as much attention as the complete works, which are played beautifully, right from the captivating opening of the D894 'Fantasy' sonata. The richness of the sound of Hough's Bechstein here – he usually plays a Yamaha – adds even greater depth, captured superbly in this top-notch Hyperion recording, conveying attack at one moment, and a lovely lightness of touch the next. Whether you're new to these pieces or a collector, this is a 'must have' recording. AE

Sound Quality: 90%


Lab Report
Testing the native 192kHz file reveals that the 96kHz download would still fully capture the limited ~15kHz span of the Bechstein Model D piano. Dynamic range is excellent but spuriae at 56kHz and ultrasonic noise >60kHz is revealed. PM


Gerald Finley/Julius Drake
Schubert: Die Schöne Müllerin (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.hyperion-records.co.uk; Hyperion CDA68377

Here's a recording with past form on its side: the pairing of baritone Finley and pianist Julius Drake – 'accompanist' sells him short – have already seen acclaim for their previous releases of Winterreise and Schwanengesang, both of which went straight to the top of the preferred recordings list. Now they've completed another cycle of Schubert songs, and this Die Schöne Müllerin should be viewed as being every bit as definitive. They bring the simple tale of the songs – boy meets girl, boy woos girl, girl goes off with a dashing hunter, boy drowns himself in mill-stream – to vivid life with an emotional, beautifully measured performance that goes way beyond the soap opera plot and takes the listener inside the mind of the lovelorn young journeyman miller. Add in another Hyperion state-of-the-art recording, and this is very satisfying indeed. AE

Sound Quality: 85%


Lab Report
Recorded mere weeks before Covid put paid to such group activities, this is a genuine 96kHz 'Studio Master' faithfully capturing the span of (another) Steinway. However, there's some suggestion of limiting on the bass baritone's feed. PM


Gary Marlowe
Everything Will Change (48kHz/24-bit, WAV)
www.denovali.com; Denovali DEN373

To create the soundtrack for Marten Persiel's film, which views the present day through eyes two generations hence, keyboardist and award-winning composer Gary Marlowe hunkered down in his home studio with the director. OK, so that's no great hardship when the studio is in the Alps, with snowboarding before starting work each day. More fascinating is the knowledge that Marlowe used a battery of vintage synths and organs, and prefers to play live, even with superfast arpeggios for which most would now use sequencers. The result may not be an album you'll choose to listen to repeatedly, but it is a curious mix of piano plus vintage and modern electronic sounds, treated to a big rich, reverberant acoustic. It makes the most of all those dramatic chords, and harbours sufficient resolution for all the timbral detail. File under 'odd, but interesting'! AE

Sound Quality: 80%


Lab Report
With synthesised content comes mixed sample rates – but not in this 48kHz file as the Minimoog, Arp Solina, Oberheim OB-8, etc, are all analogue machines! All tracks here are normalised to –0.2dBFs with a peak-to-RMS of about 12dB. PM


Big Plans For A Blue World (44.1kHz/24-bit, WAV)
@sucrecordings; Succulent Recordings n/a cat. no.

Oh good – an album with a big, jangly opening, a forthright wall of sound and no shortage of instrumental interest. It certainly comes as a refreshing antidote to saccharine audiophile niceness. With a title inspired by a non-existent Bowie song – as you do – and recorded in Stereolab's London studio and a Welsh farm – again, as you do – this is the long-awaited second album, four years down the line, from the Cardiff outfit. The sound is still dreamy and introspective, here filled out with vintage synths and woodwind, while the songs draw their inspiration from used Japanese books, earthquakes and Jack Nicholson movies. The result is a 'sea of sound' effect that may not grab the attention in relentless fashion, but it is a rewarding listen if you're not expecting endless invention, but are instead willing to go with the flow and let the ideas wash over you. AE

Sound Quality: 70%


Lab Report
With the emphasis on loud, tracks 1-4, 6, 8-9 are all normalised to –0.1dBFs (the remainder to –1dBFs) and dynamic range is limited, despite the 24-bit encoding. Spectrum analysis is not required to detect the distortion or compression. PM