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MAGNE AMDAHL : Astrognosia (1991); Aesop (2012) – Dennis Storhøi/ Norwegian Radio Orch./ Ingar Heine Bergby – 2L Pure Audio Blu-ray 2L-110-SABD + multichannel SACD

MAGNE AMDAHL :  Astrognosia (1991); Aesop (2012) – Dennis Storhøi/ Norwegian Radio Orch./ Ingar Heine Bergby – 2L Pure Audio Blu-ray 2L-110-SABD + multichannel SACD, 51:23 (DTS-HD MA 192kHz/24 bit 5.1, DTS-HD MA 96kHz/24 bit 7.1, PCM 192kHz/24 bit stereo, mShuttle: stereo FLAC 96kHz + MP3 – 4/28/15) [Distr. by Naxos] (6/30/15)  ****(*):

Magne Amdahl (b. 1942) studied music at conservatories in Oslo, and in Brussels, where he was a piano pupil of Vladimir Ashkenazy.  Amdahl has carved out a career in classical music and in jazz, and in addition to writing music has worked as a conductor, pianist and trombonist.  Among his many compositions, there’s a piano concerto written for Eva Knardahl, much music for the stage, the cinema, chamber groups and full orchestra.

In 1993 he was presented with the prize for Light Music by the Scandinavian broadcasters of Sweden, Denmark and Norway, and in 1994 won the Orchestral Work of the Year in Norway.  This last was awarded for Astrognosia, presented here on this very fine new release from 2L.  Astrognosia is a suite inspired by the twelve signs of the Zodiac, a sort of Pictures at an Astrological Exhibition, and lasts just under the half-hour.  It’s a pleasure for me to welcome what is becoming a rarity these days, an exceedingly well-crafted suite of Light Music, entertaining and diverting.  And the second pleasure is the superb playing by the Norwegian Radio Orchestra under Ingar Heine Bergby, powerful and delicate and bringing out the humour of the work.

Humour is the asset of the other piece in this programme,  Aesop (2012), the retelling of some of Aesop’s Fables for narrator and orchestra. Full texts and English translation are provided for the twelve tales, though the work is presented as a single track.  Again, the piquant flavours are well displayed by the orchestra and narrator, Dennis Storhøi.

Morten Lindberg and his team have come up with yet another gem of audio recording quality. 2L’s reputation among those who appreciate the presentation of audio in the most faithful possible sound is up there with the best.  As with many of the more recent releases, this set contains the programme on both SACD and BD-A discs, so will be playable on any CD, Blu-ray, SACD or universal player.  For those computer audiophiles who have abandoned the physical format, stereo and surround files to the highest possible PCM and DSD resolutions are available from the label and some independent suppliers. I auditioned both discs on the Oppo 105D in both 5.1 and stereo modes, and whilst I found the difference between SACD and BD-A to be negligible, the extra sense of recording venue provided by the surround option made for rather more satisfying listening.  The booklet, also available on 2L’s website, provides a diagram of the orchestral layout as recorded.

Whilst not the most generous in terms of playing time, this release can be recommended wholeheartedly to those who will enjoy a pair of entertaining, light-hearted divertissements.

—Peter Joelson

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