SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

OLA GJEILO – Piano Improvisations [PlayList follows] – 2L audio-only Blu-ray + SACD

The second piano audio-only Blu-ray from Ola Gjeilo is devoted entirely to on-the-spot improvisations.

Published on June 15, 2012

OLA GJEILO – Piano Improvisations [PlayList follows] – 2L audio-only Blu-ray + multichannel SACD + FLAC & MP3 2L82 [Distr. by Naxos] *****:

This is the latest of the superb audio-only Blu-rays from Norway’s 2L label and Morten Lindberg. Again, it is the only audio-only Blu-ray series that offers both the lossless Blu-ray tracks as well as the complete program on a separate included multichannel SACD.  Plus the original recording was made as 352.8K/24-bit and is available on the Blu-ray as either DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround 192K/24-bit or PCM stereo 192K/24-bit.

The first similar album from 2L by Gjeilo (pronounced Yay-lo) was all pre-composed by the pianist, who also is known for his many choral compositions. This sequel album is different in consisting entirely of spontaneous improvisations. They are not jazz improvisations and in fact are all quite diatonic. Some are less than two minutes length and the longest is over seven minutes. Many sound like relaxed meanderings over the keys playing whatever comes to mind.  Others get more active but never dissonant or heavily rhythmic. Three of them are fantasies around themes of three of Gjeilo’s choral works: Ubi Caritas, Tota Pulchra Es, and Prelude.  The Bach Fantasy is a most interesting improvisation on a Bach selection that reminded me of some pipe organ improvisations on a theme.  I was also reminded on some of the open string acoustic guitar outings of Will Ackerman. There is almost an American Western feeling to some of the harmonies—nothing like the usual Norwegian concert music. This is also displayed in the very non-Norwegian titles of many of the improvisations.

Four of the tracks (3, 6, 9 & 11) feature over-dubbing of Gjeilo’s Steinway D to create two or three grand pianos. (Only Nebraska is for two pianos.) I found these the most interesting and wished there had been more. Three were set up sonically in a sort of triangle on the soundstage. As before, I found little difference between the hi-res Blu-ray 5.1 soundtrack and the 5.1 SACD.  [Amazon link is only for a MP3 download; go to 2L website for Blu-ray...Ed.]

TrackList:
Ubi Caritas, Tota Pulchra Es, Prelude, Meribel, Susanne, Seven Eight, Dark Blue, Santa Monica, Nebraska, The Lake, Cloudless, Light Blue, The Great Plains, Bach Fantasy, The Biltmore Shrine, Little Rock, Chorale, Heart to Heart

—John Sunier




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