SACD+Blu-ray; LL & Linn
SACD 5.1 Blu-Ray (dual layer): PCM 192/24 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio 192/24 5.1 [69 mins]
Trondheim Solistene is a very classy string orchestra from Norway, and this release "Divertimenti" (packaged like a DVD but it isn't) prompts thoughts about rapidly changing technology.
Linn Records have asked me to feature a recent promotion and they make much of the sonic potential of their SACD discs, but I have not succeeded in persuading their sister firm to lend us their up to date equipment for reviewing purposes. With dint of hard effort, I have however been able to arrange a SACD demonstration by one of their dealers - a fortnight on by appointment was the best I could achieve, would you believe?
Meanwhile, a preliminary appraisal of this Norwegian offering, which offers the same music twice. We are told that the "2L" label is government supported, "a"premium brand with very high production and packaging values".
The blue disc illustrated was rejected by my CD player and computer, but the other one plays fine and sounds good on any equipment so, whilst typing and listening, I am copying the pieces I like onto iTunes; and for repeat hearing will enjoy them on my iPod.
Readers will know that I am no dedicated minimalist, and the "imperturbable compelling beauty" of Bjorklund's Carmina (like Pärt/Gorecki holy minimalism) is not for me. Nor, to represent Britten's works for string orchestra, does it please me to find his Simple Symphony.
The account of Bartok's mis-named Divertimento (1945 - with a slow movement of searing intensity) is superb and competitive with the many others on record. Bacewicz's Concerto (1948) is a strong, well crafted work which may help tempt you to purchase; certainly worth exploring Blue Ray recordings. Responses from readers will be greatly welcome.
COMMENTS: A correspondent reminds us that "it is scarcely a question of latest state-of-the-art equipment, and draws attention to http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Format_war (1999). Another (a very up-to-date recording pianist) answered pithily "I like my LPs!!!!".
Back to Linn Records, and strong recommendations for their last two discs to reach us.
Philipp Heinrich Erlebach (1657-1714) is a shadowy figure in Baroque history, partly because most of his 1000 compositions were destroyed in a fire in 1735. These multi-movement sonatas are really suites, with optional instrumentation. This is a debut solo CD for Rodolfo Richter, who uses different violins, and with scordatura he varies the tunings and aural effect.
Excellent chamber music playing and impeccably recorded, of course.
LINN CKD 270
A superb disc, with excellent notes by the ensemble's lutenist/guitarist, William Carter.
Palladians Rodolfo Richter - violin Susanne Heinrich - viola da gamba Silas Standage - harpsichord William Carter - archlute, baroque guitar
LINN CKD 292
*Demonstration of Linn SACD equipment I am now able to report a demonstration of Linn products by the company's leading agent in my area. Arriving by appointment, set-up of the Linn Unidisk 1.1 SACD player (which sells at around £7,000...) took about half an hour. The Palladians "hybrid multi-channel" Devil's Trill disc welcomed above sounded predictably fine, and I was shown how you are not actually meant to hear sound coming from the rear speakers, and how the sound appeared to come from within the room - a few feet forward of the magnificent Linn Klimax rear speakers. I was reassured to find the musical difference marginal, and that this top quality equipment does not invalidate our reviewers assessments of these on more modest hi-fi, such as the majority of MP's readers too are likely to have.
There was a more significant difference with col legno's sumptuously produced recording of Nono's Prometeo, which Tim Rutherford-Johnson had reviewed for us "in the round" at Royal Festival Hall. I was impatient listening to it at home, and soon gave up, but through the SACD it certainly cast a spell, and I think I should have had no difficulty listening through its 122 mins on that equipment if time had allowed.
I also took along the Norwegian Blue-Ray package reviewed above, but learned that the dealer has opted not to become involved with Blue-Ray, and had no facilities to play this one, because he believes that quite different equipment (with music encoded on hard disc) will fairly soon supercede the present disc alternatives for high quality listening and, importantly, will be far easier for upgrading without the bane of obsolescence which renders many recorded music collections not easily playable ('78s, Video-8s etc). He did put my mind at rest on one oddity; their sampler included (which looks like a heavily grooved 45-single) is meant to be played on the reverse polished black side... I think I'll let Blue-ray pass me by.
Peter Grahame Woolf
See also BLUFFER's GUIDE TO COMPACT DISCS by YC