Hi-Res Downloads, September 2020

hfnalbumBehzod Abduraimov, Lucerne SO/James Gaffigan
Rachmaninoff: Paganini Rhapsody; Symphony No 3; 'Lullaby' (trans) (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.highresaudio.com; Sony Classical 19075981622

The two main works were completed at the composer's Lucerne home, the Villa Senar, in 1934/39. Correcting the distortion of the cover art, the PDF is in itself valuable as it contains numerous family photographs and portraits, together with a few jottings by Rachmaninoff. What it leaves out is that the Steinway D in this Paganini Rhapsody recording is one given to Rachmaninoff to mark his 60th birthday – notably thinner in timbres than with more modern examples, but very well suited to the extraordinary dexterity of the young Uzbek pianist. His playing is full of subtleties in dynamics and timing and the famous '18th Variation' sounds newly minted. Sony and Gaffigan combine to create a Straussian opulence in the Symphony – a rather unusual if compelling interpretation of the work. The middle section of (ii) is particularly exciting. CB

Sound Quality: 90%


Lab Report
Aside from a low-level/ultrasonic clump at 31.95kHz/32.05kHz [black trace] these are well-recorded and produced works, never peaking above –1dBFs and typically enjoying a very wide dynamic range. These are genuine 96kHz files. PM


Nicola Benedetti, LPO/Vladimir Jurowski; Petr Limonov
Elgar: Violin Concerto; Salut d'amour, Chanson de Nuit and Sospiri (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.highresaudio.com; Decca 485 0949

Shortly after their Festival Hall concert performance, this recording was made last December at Henry Wood Hall [see 'Elgar with Nicky'/YouTube]. Arranged for violin/piano, the short extras with the sensitive Moscow-born Petr Limonov (with whom Benedetti has recorded before) are from Air Studios in February. The intimacy of these eminently satisfying performances is a feature here. The Concerto opens with a bold introduction but it's when Benedetti starts to play that things become really interesting – that she has thought about and worked upon every detail means that we have a fascinating fresh and unsentimental view of the music (Andrew Walton's recording is well balanced). She responds to Jurowski's accompaniment in a very 'live' spontaneous way, too. CB

Sound Quality: 90%


Lab Report
The loudest peaks occur in the Allegro (–0.3dBFs) and Adante (–0.6dBFs) but this true 96kHz rendering is free of digital overload and spuriae, and enjoys a wide dynamic range. The orchestra makes full use of the ~45kHz bandwidth. PM


Derek Smith Trio
Plays Jerome Kern (DSD64/128/256)
www.nativedsd.com; 2xHD/Jazzology Records 2XHDJA1172

Originally recorded 40 years ago this jazz trio set of Jerome Kern's tunes written between the late 1920s and early '40s comes up fresh under the attentive ears of 2xHD Mastering's René LaFlamme and André Perry. English-born pianist Smith, who like Kern started out playing the piano in Macy's music department, is ably assisted by Linc Millman on bass and Ronnie Bedford behind the kit, the trio forming a combo that swings it up on tracks like 'Ol' Man River', but just as able to wind it down and smoulder through 'The Folks Who Live On The Hill' with a delicate touch. The three have an enticing rapport, bouncing off each other in 'The Way You Look Tonight', the rhythm section indefatigable behind the piano, and with 'The Song Is You' forming a fitting end-piece to the set. That's just what it sounds like – a live set, captured with all its swing and excitement intact. AE

Sound Quality: 85%


Lab Report
There's no clipping here (peak is –5dBFs) although the difference in sub-100kHz requantisation noise between the DSD64 [red, peak; cyan, rms] and DSD128 [black] releases will certainly exert a subjective difference in some systems. PM


Duisburger Philharmoniker/Jonathan Darlington
Wagner: The Symphonic Ring (192kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.highresaudio.com; Acousence ACO21309

Love Wagner – can't stand all that awful singing? Leopold Stokowski was fond of his 'symphonic syntheses' while conductors of his generation happily recorded Wagner in 'bleeding chunks' (a phrase coined by musicologist Sir Donald Tovey). Lorin Maazel famously recorded his distillation of the Ring cycle 'without words' [Telarc] but here the arrangement for a huge ensemble is by the Ruhr orchestra's cellist Friedmann Dressler. While meant for a seamless 93m experience (and this is how I listened) tracks are named, so you could skip to favourites: 'Ride of the Valkyries', 'Siegfried's Funeral March', etc. Darlington matches the dramatic power of the Solti/Decca Ring but it was the quiet playing which impressed me equally. The May '09 live recording is from the then new Mercatorhalle and it comes with a fully detailed booklet. CB

Sound Quality: 85%


Lab Report
Although there's a DSD128-esque shaping of the ultrasonic noise here, this is linked to the analogue mixing employed by Acousence between its digital recording and 192kHz mastering. Minor spuriae at 32/48/63kHz, but otherwise clean. PM


Luxembourg PO/Gustav Gimeno
Franck: Symphony & Symphonic Variations (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.highresaudio.com; Pentatone PTC5186771

A French symphony with German influences – is the Franck D-minor making a comeback? Pentatone's recording comes hard on the heels of one by the Liège composer's namesake Mikko Franck [Alpha] and the fine NBC/Cantelli reissue [Warner] and is coupled – as so often – with another almost forgotten concert piece, where the Russian Denis Kozhukhin is soloist. He brings Lisztian rhetoric to his first extended passage [trk 5], and while his playing is neat, if bland, the shallow upper treble of the unspecified piano is unappealing. Gimeno directs a spacious, beautifully expressive account of the Symphony – the sound is a little cloudy in the Philharmonie acoustic. So not an audiophile version: which the 1959 CSO/Monteux certainly was. RCA now has this as a 176.4kHz/24-bit download. That should still be your library choice. CB

Sound Quality: 75%


Lab Report
Although the physical release of this 2019 Pentatone recording is on hybrid SACD (and the website displays a DSD logo) the download version is a native 96kHz rendering. A clean file: Variations 1-6 never exceeding –3dBFs. PM