SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

DVORAK: Symphonies No. 6 & No. 9 “From the New World” – Baltimore Sym. Orch./ Marin Alsop – Naxos Audio-only Blu-ray

Alsop has raised the Baltimore Symphony to a very high standard, and the lossless Blu-ray ray audio captures it with much better fidelity than the lossy codecs of standard DVDs.

Published on February 25, 2011

DVORAK: Symphonies No. 6 & No. 9 “From the New World” – Baltimore Sym. Orch./ Marin Alsop – Naxos Audio-only Blu-ray

DVORAK: Symphonies Nos. 6 in D Major, Op. 60 & No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95 “From the New World” – Baltimore Symphony Orchestra/ Marin Alsop – Naxos Audio-only Blu-ray NBD0014, 1 hr. 28 min. (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 or PCM Stereo) *****:

This is the second of the two Dvorak audio-only Blu-rays Naxos has issued this month as part of their continuing series, getting back into hi-res surround after giving up on SACD and DVD-A some time ago. Here’s the other Dvorak review.

Again, the performances and sonics cannot be faulted on either symphony, and  partly since I hadn’t heard the New World Symphony for some time, I found it extremely fresh-sounding and enjoyable, which I hadn’t expected frankly.   The Sixth holds a strong influence of Dvorak’s mentor Johannes Brahms, but it also includes the folk influences of his Bohemian homeland in a similar way that Brahms uses references to gypsy music. It has a lovely slow movement in B Flat, and for the lively Scherzo Dvorak uses a Czech peasant dance – contrasting effectively with the more pastorale Trio section.  The Brahms influence sounds especially strong in the rich theme and orchestration of the finale and the work ends in a most positive and triumphant mood.

The New World Symphony hardly needs further explanation.  This is one of its better interpretations to my ears, though I didn’t compare it to any others. Alsop has raised the Baltimore Symphony to a very high standard, and the lossless Blu-ray ray audio captures it with much better fidelity than the lossy codecs to which standard DVDs are limited. The Sixth was recorded at 88.2K and the Ninth at 96K, both with 24-bit word length.  I’ve read that some audiophiles claim they can hear subtle degradations in so-called lossless formats that are not audible in straight, say, 96K/24bit PCM. I’m afraid I can’t. One non-sonic advantage of audio-only Blu-ray would be that this pairing of the two symphonies runs seven and one-half minutes over the 80-minute limit of SACDs. Of course 96K/24bit DVDs would offer the same extended length, but only in two channels.

– John Sunier




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