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I'll be away next week playing for a week-long flute class in Marshall, CA (as I was last year). So I got my downloads for the month squeezed into this past week, and I thought I'd post a few brief comments about them.
The 24/96 5.0 sound quality is just wonderful! I've liked almost all the Chandos releases over the past few years, but if I could change one thing on their recordings, it would be to move the microphones just a little closer to the proceedings - and that's what they seem to have done on this recent Elgar release (from April). I love the openness and detail, the wide ranges of frequencies and dynamics, and the impact! As for the performances, I'm not as sanguine about them as a couple of others on this site have been - I feel that Gardner pushes things in the tempo department just enough so that some sections (mainly in the Symphony) have an unsettled quality about them, with rhythmic subdivisions not always accurately played (mainly in the form of cheating on the dotted rhythms). In addition, the rhythms sometimes lose their spring IMHO, because of the relentlessness of the performance. The best tracks (which avoid these kinds of problems) are the Intro and Allegro, as well as the slow movement of the Symphony. The performances are good (and the SQ, as I already said, is outstanding!), but, just for performance alone, I prefer some of the old standbys (fill in the blanks).
At this point, I want to mention how much improved the new Chandos download process has become on the Chandos / Classical Shop site, compared to how it used to be. Their new download process (which has an odd quirkiness to it - the kind which the Brits seems to love!), no longer uses Adobe Air (as their old downloader did). I think that's the crucial difference (at least for me): I've complained about how much time the old downloader used to take, with the most outrageous example being the Järvi recording of Swan Lake, which took me more than a day (yes, 24 hours +). No more! The new downloader is fast and efficient! The quirk I mentioned consists in Chandos' current method for downloading: when you click the download button on the site, the files themselves do NOT start downloading. Instead, a file associated with the album you've selected downloads. Once this file downloads (it takes only a second or two), you have to double-click it. This file interfaces with and starts up the actual Chandos Download Manager app (which you have to have previously downloaded - LOL!), and then the actual download of the files commences. No other download site that I know of operates in this way - you've really got to hand it to the Brits to devise a scheme like this. But I'm not complaining! Once the Download Manager gets going, the process is fast and problem-free - as I say, it's a BIG improvement over their previous Adobe Air process. ;-)
I also took this opportunity to re-download some albums I'd previously downloaded from the Chandos site. Like BIS's eClassical site, the Chandos site allows the purchaser to re-download previously purchased files for free. This is a great service in case the original files somehow get corrupted for whatever reason, or, as in my case, one has accidentally yet intentionally (and stupidly!) trashed the originally downloaded files! What a lifesaver! So the rest of this post is a review of some of the previous albums I'd downloaded and have now re-downloaded (and re-listened to) in the past week:
Why do people look down on "lighter" music like this? This album is absolutely delightful, and once again, the SQ is outstanding (even with the microphones seemingly a bit further away than on the newer Elgar release)! Those Le Cid numbers are chock full of vivid colors, with Massenet exploring the Spanish musical soul well before Debussy and Ravel did!
More Massenet! These are only solo piano tracks on this album, but they're none the worse for that. Very entertaining music (what a razzle-dazzle piece that Toccata is!) and I'm so glad that the solo instrument gets the surround sound treatment too! As for the much better known Ravel Concertos, I don't agree with all the details in these performances, but that last movement of the G-major Concerto vies with the Argerich and Kocsis recordings for sheer speed - and like these two, Bavouzet does not sacrifice articulation for his headlong tempo! Fantastic!
I remember being so surprised at how good this album was when I first downloaded it some years ago. The SQ is very open and full-range, and yet the most delicate details (which Denève emphasizes from time to time) can emerge through the texture in an incredibly natural way. At the time of this album's release, I had never heard the RSNO play better, but they've subsequently equalled these top standards in many subsequent Chandos recordings too! Denève (a conductor we don't hear too much about in the US) must have done a good job during his tenure with them!
Hmm. . . I see that this post is growing a bit beyond the length I expected for it, so I'm going to sign off for now. Other downloads I obtained this week included a couple from BIS (a nice new album of Stravinsky's works for violin with Gringolts, an album of guitar favorites with Diego Blanco, and Grieg's Incidental Music for Sigurd Jorsalfar with Ruud and the Bergen PO - this last album particularly interesting in that two of the 11 tracks had DSD masters and the rest had 24/44.1 masters - the download itself was 24/176.4 - I might have more to say on this at a later date!)
When it was first released I listened to in on QOBUZ (Chandos was not on TIDAL or DEEZER Elite when it first came out).
Then it was no longer playable for over a year(only 30sec. demo in mp3 as it the trend on QOBUZ where albums are for sale but not streamable).
Now it's back along with most of the CHANDOS catalog that was not streamable before.
BIS too as much of the BIS catalog goes in and out.
Will give it another listen today as I really like the recording.
Had to turn up volume to get the bass "glow," and to hear the delicate string tremoli under the playful solo flute. Problem is, the strings become too loud in the climaxes.
I notice that Deneve is pretty straight-forward in the Paray/Ansermet mold, which, to be fair, is what Debussy wanted.
I still prefer Haitink's Vaseline-on-lens recording with the Concertgebouw.
That's one of the things I like about the entire set. And the strings really do blossom out in the climaxes ( but not too loudly for me).
Chris wrote: "Denève (a conductor we don't hear too much about in the US) must have done a good job during his tenure with them!"
He was recently appointed music director of the St. Louis Symphony, so we will be hearing more about him in the US.
Interesting that the Elgar is listed as an ADD recording. Is this a trend?
Personally I'm still resistant to the price of downloads. $18 for 24/96. Just can't understand why. Virtually no marginal cost beyond the royalty.
I'm not seeing that. Here's the back insert on the SACD case:
If you look up in the upper right-hand corner, you'll see, "Recorded in 24-bit/96kHz 5.0-channel surround sound". Did you see another listing which suggests otherwise?
Well, you heard it here first!
Mea culpa! I saw ADD on the ordering site, where they must obviously mean ADD this track to your order. Was this a senior moment?
Anyway, perhaps being mostly an analog guy some of my most favorite CDs are ADD.
Many thanks for the tips there which I will certainly check out. I would also point out that I have found the help available from Chandos if one has trouble with a download or on other matters timely, friendly and really concerned to solve your issue.
I am very much with you on your comment " Why do people look down on "lighter" music like this? ". I have my own " lighter music" choice download for the month above (not Chandos). A chance to hear music from both familiar and , to me, unknown Russian composers. Wonderfully played, engaging and entertaining. Somehow imparting a sense of the glittering social evening in St. Petersburg on a Friday evening after a hard week of oppressing the serfs. The link is worth reading. I would also add that the sound quality is outstanding; naturalistic yet rich and vibrant. Only available as 16/44.1 but I will use it as a demonstration disc to prove that a good original recording trumps hi-rez having a less good original recording.
NB: Ivan303 and other Qobuzers, this was a download from Qobuz. You do get a choice of downloading to the Qobuz player or to your hard disk. Obviously choose the latter for replay outside of Qobuz.
Will definitely check out now.
But I'll definitely give the Debussy a try especially since eclassical sells by the track. I love that.
I haven't heard it, but let's not forget who the conductor is on this recording! ;-)
I found the old Järvi recordings more problematical from the point of view of absolute precision (e.g., last movement of the Prokofiev Sixth) than from string tone - but in either case, the problems didn't seem THAT serious (to me anyway).
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