SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews
“TrondheimSolistene – in Folk Style” – GRIEG: Holberg Suite; Two Nordic Melodies; EMILIA AMPER: Abrege – folk suite for nyckelharpa & strings; GJERMUND LARSEN: Diplom – folk suite for fiddle & strings – Trondheim Soloists/Øyvind Gimse, musical dir. – 2L
Published on June 9, 2010
“TrondheimSolistene – in Folk Style” – GRIEG: Holberg Suite; Two Nordic Melodies; EMILIA AMPER: Abrege – folk suite for nyckelharpa & strings; GJERMUND LARSEN: Diplom – folk suite for fiddle & strings – Trondheim Soloists/Øyvind Gimse, musical dir. – 2L Pure Audio Blu-ray (DTS-HD MA, both 5.1 192/24 & 7.1 96/24) + multichannel SACD of same program – 2L 68, each 57.3 min. [6/29/10] *****:
Another winning program in SOTA sonics from 2L. All of Morten Lindberg’s efforts on audio-only Blu-ray + SACD have put the lie to Gordon Holt’s old dictum about the better the sonic fidelity the worse the music on the recording. Seeing that this one opened with the rather staid Holberg Suite of Grieg I at first thought it was not one of the best efforts, but the other pieces are less well-known or not known at all and all thoroughly interesting.
I was surprised to read a reference on the box to the Holberg Suite being “feared for its challenges.” It was on the program played by my high school symphony orchestra which was the first recording I ever made on my new Ampex tape deck, so I don’t know about challenging, but of course the Trondheim Soloists play its five short movements 100% better. The second of the two Nordic Melodies is a “Cow Call” in the first half and a rollicking “Peasant Dance” in the second. The latter is super-catchy and one of my favorite Grieg selections.
The other two works on the disc are from young composer/performers, both born in 1981, both works commissioned by 2L to fit in well with the Grieg works. The idea was to communicate the same Norwegian folk style as the Grieg pieces, which the musicians characterize as “a meeting between musical playfulness and passion.” The nyckelharpa, on which Ms. Amper is a virtuoso, looks like a cross between a bowed violin and an autoharp. She is studying for a degree in folk music, but also plays in a rock group. Johannes Leonard Rusten helped her arrange her five-movement suite for the solo instrument plus string orchestra. The closing work is by a renowned fiddler and member of the Trondheim Soloists. Gjermund Larsen has twice won the Norwegian Folk Music Championship for fiddlers. Actual folk melodies of his native Norwegian village provided some of the musical material for his suite. Its third movement – Krambupolka – sounds like some wild bluegrass fiddle music, and brings this delightful program to a rousing close. The Trondheim Soloists comprise a young Norwegian chamber ensemble of the very highest quality, expert at a wide variety of genres, and are at this moment touring China. The note booklet has many photos of the recording session and soloists.
Above is a diagram of the placement of the instruments and miking for the selections that feature soloists. Morten Lindberg records his surround sound as a sound sculpture that you can literally move around in and relate to spatially. On the two suites with a soloist the instrument is heard dead center with astonishing presence. Since I invested in a quality speaker stand for my center speaker and moved it up off the floor, soloists like this in music – as well as the many three-channel SACDs – sound hugely better. You don’t need to display a screen image to play the disc, but there is a well-done screen design with the various tracks and choices of playback formats listed. You have a choice between two lossless DTS-HD Master Audio options: 5.1 at 192K on each of the channels or 7.1 with 96K on each channel. Then there is an uncompressed PCM stereo option, also at 192K/24. There is also a completely separate multichannel hybrid SACD version of the same program. And for those who want to go the opposite direction in resolution, the Blu-ray disc also has the mShuttle technology, which lets you hook up to your computer and transfer MP3s of the music to your mobile player or burn a standard CD-R copy at 44.1/16 (which you can also do off the CD layer on the hybrid SACD).
As I’ve said previously, at my age the SACD, 96K and 192K options all sound the same to me, though of course vastly better than standard CD. If you possess younger ears and extremely high-end gear, you might find the 192/24 files preferable. There are almost no other Blu-rays – music or movies – coming out with 192K surround tracks! In fact most movies are only 48K. 2L is on the vanguard of the effort to make what they have dubbed Pure Audio Blu-ray a success, and though they haven’t started a landslide of participation by other labels, their approach is certainly the right way to do it. Their goal is to unite music-only sound and theatrical movies in equally high quality on the same format.
– John Sunier