Chandos 96K/24bit Classical Downloads

by | Jun 28, 2010 | Special Features | 0 comments

CHANDOS 96K/24bit Downloads

New from Chandos is a selection of recordings for download in various qualities including 96 kHz/24-bit.  A few – already available on SACD – are available as multichannel files, the remainder not issued on SACD come in stereo only.  A sample selection of the latter sort is mentioned below.

Chandos has a large catalog of enticing material recorded at 24/96 and many collectors will already have made their wish lists for issue.  The benefits of higher resolution than the simple 44.1K/16bit CD are twofold. The extended frequency response makes for less tiring listening and smoother results at the top end, and the greater resolution results in a tighter sound stage and fuller reproduction.  Whilst the improvements over CD may be subtle or inaudible using a compact system, the difference using full-range speakers and a player capable of resolving the full resolution was greater than I had expected.

Potential purchasers need to ensure their player doesn’t downsample on the way out as the benefits of the extra sound quality will be lost.  The following downloads were auditioned via DVDs burnt using Cirlinca’s easy-to-use DVD Audio Solo software, the latest version of which allows the user to burn to BluRay as well.  The resulting DVDs I burnt were in either DVD-Audio format, playable on some DVD and universal players, or in DVD video format at full resolution, playable on any DVD player, the two formats having identical sound quality in stereo.

A high quality digital server system bypasses the use of discs.  Two higher-end examples of this are the Linn DS series and Naim’s HDX or Uniti.  A cheaper alternative involves connecting a high quality DAC between computer and sound system, as long as your listening isn’t overlaid by noisy fans.

EDWARD GREGSON: Concerto for Trombone – Peter Moore, trombone / BBC Concert Orchestra / Bramwell Tovey – CHANDOS 24/96 download CHAN10627 [] 15:41
Recorded in the Watford Colosseum on1 March 2010, this hugely entertaining concerto is excellently played by Peter Moore, winner at 12 years old of the 2008 BBC Young Musician competition.  Playing with remarkable poise and maturity Moore’s performance shows off the trombone’s range with startling clarity.  

Recording quality is extremely fine – Watford is a top-class location which allows the trombone’s sound to expand fully, and the orchestra under Bramwell Tovey is well-balanced. This recording appears on its own at low price as a download for the present only, and may be the ideal way to try out high-resolution files.

JOHAN HALVORSEN: Entry March of the Boyars; *Andante Religioso; Mascarade Suite; La Mélancolie (arr. Halvorsen); Symphony No 1 – *Marianne Thorsen (violin) / Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra / Neeme Järvi – Chandos 24/96 download CHAN10584 [] 75:57

The music of Johan Halvorsen (1864-1935) has been somewhat neglected in general, so it’s good to welcome the first volume in a series from that old Chandos stalwart, Neeme Järvi, conducting the Bergen Philharmonic in the Grieghallen, Bergen, Norway.  Inspired by romantic music coming out of France, Halvorsen’s is colourfully scored.

Apart from the “Entry March of the Boyars”, which has remained a popular lollipop, and the First Symphony which Kritian Ruud has recorded for Simax, the contents of this selection will be unfamiliar. Chandos engaged that fine violinist Marianne Thorsen for the “Andante Religioso”, the solo violin sounding fuller and smoother compared with the CD issue.  The Symphony’s more densely scored parts don’t smudge in the acoustic.

VINCENT D’INDY: Orchestral Works Vol. 1:  La Forêt enchantée, Op.  8; Jour d’été à la montagne, Op.  61; Souvenirs, Op.  62 –  Iceland Symphony Orchestra / Rumon Gamba Chandos 24/96 download CHAN10464 [] 62:51


VINCENT D’INDY: Orchestral Works Vol. 3:  Third Symphony (Sinfonia Brevis de Bello Gallico) Op. 70; Diptyque méditerranéen, Op. 87; Istar, variations symphoniques Op.42;  Choral varié pour saxophone solo et orchestra, Op. 55 – Sigurður Flosason (saxophone) / Iceland Symphony Orchestra / Rumon Gamba – Chandos 24/96 download CHAN10585 [] 70:19

Recorded in Háskólabió, Iceland, in a fine concert hall, D’Indy’s lush, Wagner-inspired orchestration comes across with the warmth of the Mediterranean in its bones. The high resolution files sharpen up the orchestral image, and Sigurður Flosason’s saxophone emerges with satisfactory heft.

During “Diptyque méditerranéen”, the composer’s last work, you can almost hear the crickets and smell the mimosa.  These releases come from an ongoing series of orchestral music by D’Indy and I hope Volume 2 will appear in high resolution before long.

SIR EDWARD ELGAR: The Crown of India, Op.  66 (Orchestration completed by Anthony Payne); Imperial March; The Coronation March; The Empire March – Clare Shearer, mezzo soprano / Gerald Finley, baritone / Barbara Marten, speaker / Deborah McAndrew, speaker / Joanne Mitchell, speaker – Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus / BBC Philharmonic / Sir Andrew Davis –  Chandos 24/96 download CHAN 10570 [] 75:09 + 77:20

This is a two-for-the-price-of-one issue, the first volume containing the masque, “The Crown of India” in full, complete with the narration of the period prose.  The second volume contains the music only, and is filled out with music for empire and coronation. Possibly as dated as any music written for ceremonies long past, the music will nonetheless be attractive to Elgarians.

The high resolution files come into their own in the passages scored with much percussion, the sound remaining unconstricted, though it is best to wait until the neighbours are out before attempting to listen at normal levels.

SIR MALCOLM ARNOLD: Ballet Music = Suite from “Homage to the Queen”;  Ronaldo and Armida;  Concert Suite from “Sweeney Todd”; Electra, Op. 79 – BBC Philharmonic / Rumon Gamba –  Chandos 24/96 download CHAN 10550 [] 76:14

From Studio 7, New Broadcasting House, Manchester, where the vast majority of recording is done in stereo only,  Arnold’s ballet scores result in an orchestrally rich sound. Comparing the very beginning of the files of  “Homage to the Queen” to the CD issue, the brass entry has noticeably more depth the instrument more sharply carved into the acoustic. “Sweeney Todd” has moments of great fun – this is an issue well worth sampling.

MIKLÓS RÓZSA: Orchestral Works, Vol. 1:  Three Hungarian Sketches, Op. 14; Hungarian Serenade, Op. 25; Overture to a Symphony Concert, Op. 26a;  Tripartita, Op. 33 – BBC Philharmonic / Rumon Gamba –  Chandos 24/96 download CHAN10488 [] 73:51
Rumon Gamba and the BBC Philharmonic are involved in yet another orchestral series, this time  music by Miklós Rózsa (1907-1995).  While the composer is renowned for his scores for the cinema, his orchestral music is not as well known, though there has been a steady release on disc.

The collection in this first volume includes the “Three Hungarian Sketches”, Hungary’s entry for the International Music Festival of 1938, and unmistakably Hungarian in its rhythms and melodies.  Here again, the slight congestion in the very opening on the CD is dispersed, the acoustic remaining in focus.

CYRIL SCOTT: Concerto for Cello and Orchestra (1937); Symphony No. 1 (1899) in G major – Paul Watkins, cello / BBC Philharmonic / Martyn Brabbins – Chandos 24/96 download CHAN10452 [] 57:30

Cyril Scott (1879-1970) is another composer the subject of ongoing series from Chandos.  The Symphony dates from 1899. Scott, having studied in Germany as a boy and young man, dedicated the work to the German poet Stefan George.  It’s a fine work, though Scott consigned it to a drawer, thinking it not worth revising, as he did with so many works in later years.  The short third movement lacked the two opening pages and was edited and completed for this recording by Leslie De’Ath, who has recorded Scott’s piano music for Dutton. The final movement, a theme and ten variations followed by a finale, comes across powerfully.

A high resolution source benefits the solo ‘cello sound, especially at the top end of its range, in the much later Concerto for ‘Cello. Scott was much taken with the violin and ‘cello playing of May and Beatrice Harrison and wrote a violin concerto and double concerto for them, and it is thought the ‘cello concerto was written for Beatrice, too. However, it had to wait for a first performance until the making of this recording.  

The main disadvantages in purchasing 24/96 files instead of the CD are cost and the lack of a professionally printed booklet.  At the moment, the downloads are more expensive than one can easily buy an SACD for. For example, it’s easy to find Chandos’s SACDs at £10.95, compared with £15.99 for a stereo 24/96 download, or £19.99 for the few “studio surround” sets.  While the stereo-only issues will not appear on SACD, the “studio surround” ones have done so and will not appeal to owners of an SACD player.  On the other hand, those with high resolution streaming ability may consider these worthwhile.

The advantages of the high resolution downloads over the equivalent CD releases were very clear played through my main system which includes a Linn Unidisk SC, but were not noticed to such an extent using a Denon A11 and a pair of venerable Celestion SL6 speakers.  If you think your equipment allows the extra quality to shine through, it is well worth investigating a file or two to check.  You may be tempted, as I have been, to come back for more.

— Peter Joelson

[For more on 96K/24bit and the preferability of this hi-res format over 192K/24bit, see my DACport amp review…Ed.]  

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