Hi-Res Downloads, January 2023

hfnalbumArild Andersen Group
Affirmation (44.1kHz/16-bit, WAV)
www.ecmrecords.com; ECM Records ECM 2763

What's not to like about a recording centred around a bass player, especially when it's one as distinguished as Norwegian Andersen, who made his ECM debut back in the '70s on Jan Garbarek's Afric Pepperbird? For this set, the veteran player drew around him musicians from the next generation – drummer-turned-saxophonist Marius Neset, pianist Helge Lien, and Håkon Mjåset Johansen on the drums. Then, thanks to the Covid-enforced absence of ECM's Manfred Eicher, the quartet were left to their own improvisational devices in Oslo's Rainbow Studio. The result is an album almost completely improvised, mainly comprising the two long Affirmation pieces, and as result has a freshness and freedom of both playing and sound that springs from the speakers with a palpable vitality. This is a fabulous free-form album, each instrument captured beautifully and with amazing, zesty character. AE

Sound Quality: 90%


Lab Report
This may be another 44.1kHz/16-bit (CD) release from ECM but it has a superior dynamic range to most of the 24-bit files we see here. Peaks range up to –0.9dBFs while RMS levels [blue trace] are typically below –20dBFs. ECM knows its stuff... PM


BBC SO/Martyn Brabbins
Vaughan Williams Symphonies Nos 6 & 8 (96-192kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.hyperion-records.co.uk; Hyperion CDA68396

2022 was definitely the year of Vaughan Williams, centred around the 150th anniversary of his birth back in October, and for enthusiasts it's been a feast of performances and new recordings. Released in RVW's birthday month, this reading of the 6th and 8th symphonies is part of a complete cycle by the BBC SO under Martyn Brabbins, here joined by the orchestra's chorus and baritone Roderick Williams for the early folk songs. On its debut in 1948, the 6th was claimed as reaction to the recent conflict, a suggestion that irritated the composer, but there's no denying the anger and emotion heard in the score here. By contrast, the 8th is more vibrant and joyful, the sound of the orchestra in the celebrated Watford Coliseum acoustic captured wonderfully by the Hyperion recording team. AE

Sound Quality: 90%


Dynamic range is well used here – the Epilogue of the 6th peaking at –19dBFs while the first three movts are within 0.3dB of digital clipping. Tested in 96kHz guise, the ~48kHz bandwidth is just sufficient to hold the full orchestra. PM


Olli Hirvonen
Kielo (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.ollihirvonen.com, www.fullyaltered.com; Ropeadope

Finnish-born guitarist Hirvonen gets the old band together, playing here with the trio he assembled in 2014, and which featured on his previous releases, New Helsinki and Displace. Together with bassist Marty Kenney and drummer Nathan Ellman-Bell, he opted for a direct, 'as live' recording technique, the three playing in the Bunker Studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, working without headphones and simply getting on with the music-making. Combining Hirvonen's Nordic influences with Americana, these entertaining tracks range from the folky title piece, opening the set, via the Bach-inspired 'Current' and 'Unceasing', with Hirvonen on plaintive slide guitar, to end with a huge cover of Big Thief's 'Vegas'. The sound quality, from the simpler tracks to the big-hitting guitar solos, is exemplary, and the live feel of the whole set is captured beautifully. AE

Sound Quality: 85%


These are all genuine 96kHz/24-bit files except 'Erode' [black trace] which is at CD resolution. The 96kHz files are all normalised to –0.5dBFs and although the dynamic range is limited, the recording/post-processing is gratifyingly clean. PM


Steven Osborne
Debussy Early And Late Piano Pieces (96-192kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.hyperion-records.co.uk; Hyperion CDA68390

What we get in Osborne's latest recording of Debussy isn't quite what it says on the tin – beside works both early and late there's some content from the middle, making this chronologically arranged recital a fascinating insight into the development of the composer's style. For this, Osborne's meticulous, unembellished style is perfect, as is the sound, captured on familiar Hyperion 'home turf' – the church of St Silas the Martyr in London's Kentish Town – by engineer Arne Akselberg and producer Stephen Johns. This isn't the academic survey expected, but rather an expressive, captivating set in which even the over-familiar – 'Clair de Lune' from 1890's Suite Bergamesque – illuminates the brilliance of Debussy's compositional development. The fact that this is a lovely set from start to finish is the icing on the cake. AE

Sound Quality: 85%


Peaks range from –1dBFs to just –15dBFs across the 22 tracks here but the 90kHz+ bandwidth is arguably excessive for the limited sub-30kHz spectrum of the Steinway piano. If this appeals, and the 96kHz file is cheaper, go for it. PM


Keith Jarrett
Bordeaux Concert (44.1kHz/16-bit, WAV)
www.ecmrecords.com; ECM Records ECM2740

Though a massive stroke early in 2018 robbed Keith Jarrett of any possibility of future performances, fortunately we have a legacy of superb recordings, as thrilling in their musicianship as they are often idiosyncratic. This set, from his last concert in France, forms a triptych with previous recordings from Munich and Budapest, and finds Jarrett in superb form, even though the nature of the 13 improvisations might make it more of a delight for his followers than an entry-point for newcomers. It's both playful and intense, stopping and starting and teasing the listener in a manner that both infuriates and intrigues. The recording provides an insight into Jarrett at his most individual and fascinating, with a close view of both the piano and the performer, skimming across musical styles with impulsive twists and turns. The audience clearly loves it – you may too! AE

Sound Quality: 85%


Recorded in 2016 and while currently only available at CD resolution the 20kHz bandwidth is more than sufficient to capture the range of the piano [the applause occupies a fuller range – black trace]. Peaks are never above –3dBFs. PM