European Tour – Nordic Brass Ensemble – Music of DOWLAND, PRAETORIUS, HOLBORNE et al – 2L (Blu-ray & SACD)

European Tour – Nordic Brass Ensemble – Music of DOWLAND, PRAETORIUS, HOLBORNE et al – 2L-128-SABD – Pure Audio Blu-ray + multichannel SACD, DTS-HD MA 192kHz/24 bit 5.1, PCM 192kHz/24 bit stereo, mShuttle: MQA 96kHz + MP3 (11/18/16) [Dist. by Naxos] ****:

Beautifully rendered recording of Brass Ensemble music.

This is a most agreeable disc with a collection of brass performances by the Nordic Brass Ensemble.  The group was founded in 1993 by a group of brass musicians who shared a strong desire to make chamber music together. From the start, the ensemble has focused on developing its own musical ideas and concepts of sound. By exploiting the different instruments’ special qualities and combining them in new and unusual ways, and by extensively using mutes, percussion, some non-standard instruments, the NBE is making a name for itself with a very unique approach to brass music.

The music performed is traditional, with composers like Holborne, Dowland and Gesualdo. The arrangements were written for the group, and the addition of percussion, while unexpected, is quite persuasive to this listener.

Since this is a 2L recording, I expected it to be good sonically, and I was not disappointed. The microphones are well back from the ensemble, giving us a very natural and ambient sound. I listened to the 5.1 and 2.0 Blu-ray audio tracks and found the surround version more realistic, but the stereo-only mix is superb.

The brass instruments are very smooth, and the percussion has weight and snap. At times, the surround channels are used for off-stage trumpets, for example in the Suite Terpsichore by Praetorius. It makes for an effective presentation of the music.

Like most 2L disc sets, the buyer gets a Blu-ray disc with the 5.1 and 2.0 mixes. There is also an SACD disc with the same mixes, and the Blu-ray disc can serve as a data disc, so if you have a Blu-ray disc device on your computer, you can extract MP3 and high resolution MQA files for playback on a portable or home device. [But not on Macs because they don’t play Blu-rays…Ed.]

Even though some of the music is familiar, this disc is a unique performance with pristine audio that can serve as a lovely demonstration of state-of-the-art recording techniques. Highly recommended!

—Mel Martin

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