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Reviews: SONaR - Ellen Sejersted Bødtker

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Reviews: 2

Site review by Polly Nomial March 11, 2009
Performance:   Sonics:  
The text for this review has been moved to the new site. You can read it here:

Review by March 29, 2014 (2 of 2 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Originally written and published by me at in January 2009

While waiting for Grammy the of February, 2L is launching an new Blu-ray record. And there are more to come. During first quarter of 2009 there will be a new record containing Grieg-tweaked Mozart-pieces, in addition to a record with compositions by Fred Jonny Berg. On top of that add a reference record containing pieces of music from different artists earlier released. A fearless approach on this new format it is tempting to name Blu-ray Audio. Or BD-Audio. But make no mistake – this isn`t really a separate format from vanilla Blu-ray, only a special category, containing music and no video. Any Blu-ray player will do, so there will be no format confusion or compatibility problems like the ones we enjoyed with DVD-Audio.

A real listening person always receives the message long before it is even pronounced. I believe that Morten Lindberg is a listening person. Anyway the case is that our negative comments on the user-interface on the first release was already solved on the next release, we vere told as our review of Divertimenit was published.

And rightly so – SONar has a brilliant user interface. In addition to solving the issue by handling the record without using a display, there is a brilliant solution to choosing the soundtrack. You can choose directly on the standard colored buttons of the remote, where a red button will give you DTS HD Master audio, green button supply 5.0 LPCM in 24/96, and if you must – the yellow button activates 2.0 24/96. And the best thing is that you can do this on the fly, without using a menu. And without stopping the music, like tou have to do with SA-CD. Brilliant, and very uiser-friendly – particularly if this becomes a standard on BD-Audio.

Mut the most important thing about the interface is of cource that you now can star playback only by using the play-button, as soon as the record is finished loading. And if you choose to enter the menu, it is a result of free will, just the way we want it. That being said, the graphics in the menu are even more appealing than those on Divertimenti, so many users may want to have the display on, if connected?

Like Divertimenit this is also a two-record album. One of them is a hybrid, multichannel SA-CD, while the other one is a BD. This time 2L has limited the number of soundtracks to 3, skipping the Dolby-formats we found on Divertimenti. No real loss.

But don`t let all this joy caused by the user-interface make us forget about the reason for this record’s existence. The musiv is composed by Magnar Åm, born in Trondheim but now living in Volda on the north-western part of Norway. He has previously written music for different crew, where a substantial part of those are for solo-instruments or small orchestras. This time the harp is in the main-role, and Ellen Sejersted Bødtker is the performer.

The first work “vere meininga” is a concerto for harp and strings. It is originally written for chineese harp, but later transcribed for European harp. Oslo kammersolister are the string-sextet, while Hildegunn Riise performs the spoken words. In my ears this work is the most exciting of all three. An brilliant and skinless tension between the harp and the strings gives both the composition and performance a nerve. We here also have the fine balance in being creative new music, and at the same time it is not hard to access. In other words a good opportunity if you wish to visit new music without risking braking the neck.

The second workis a duet for harp and soprano, named “det var mjukt”. Maybe the least exciting, and definitely the shortest work of the three.

“Konsert for harpe og engler (Concerto for harp an angels)” is warning about an airy adventure, and that’s exactly what is presented in “dette blanke no”. Floating is a good description of the vocal performance by Grex Vocalis, coducted by Carl Høgset.

The sound
So let us stay in that word floating for a while. This state is also supported by the sound-engineering, or rather in the multi-channel mix. In this work 2L has arranged the choir – or the angels – all around the sircle. No conservative aprouch this either, as we are used to from 2L. And by parts of the choir gradually fades in- and out, it gives a dymnamic impression that sustaines this floating feeling.

It is temting to make a link to the recording Cikada Duo / Nordheim, where extreme surround also was used. And for the conservative two-channel purist, it can be nice to know those instances it was exactly “what the composers intended”. Both Arne Nordheim and Magnar Åm have written the respective works for being performed in surround sound, also when performed live. Magnar Åm even express that he would like to use height as a dimension in the soundstage in consert halls, if it was possible. What a task this would be for 2L, given a sound format capable of height information. And if the conservative start getting dizzy by this talk wanting to get back to their regular seat 14 at row 38, the comfort is there is a two-channel track onboard.

On SONar 2L has made an exellent graphical presentation of the line-up in the 5.0 mix. And this varies for the works.

The exellent and exciting surround mix aside, also the general sound quality is stunning, and maybe among the very best from this Label. Even though I doubt there is a technical difference in quality between the works, I find that it is on “being the purpose” the transparency is most obvious. But then there is always something special with a violin surrounded by an ocean of air. And in this case, it is a very important contribution to the nudity of the music.

All in all, a very successful Blu-ray audio, presenting the very best from 2L regarding both musical and sound aspects. And watch out so you don’t come close to that yellow button by accident. In that case everything will collapse to earthly levels.

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