Review by Audiophile.no April 11, 2014 (13 of 14 found this review helpful)
|Auryn Quartet has an almost startling long history with unchanged crew. We're talking about Matthias Lingenfeld and Jens Oppermann on Violin, Stewart Eaton on viola and Andreas Arndt on cello. The quartet was formed in 1981, and thus has a formidable musical experience. They have performed over 150 string quartets, and more than 100 other chamber works.
They also have a large discography, where a dominant part is with the German record label TACET. And since 2000 they have had an exclusive contract with TACET.
A few years ago they released the entire series of Haydn's string quartets on CD, a total of 14 CDs. TACET planned to reissue these on SACD, but the choice fell instead on Blu-ray Audio. Until now they hve reissued five editions on Blu-ray Audio, and the reviewed release is the freshest one.
The contents of the disc is Opus 76, with six string quartets, composed for Hungarian Count Joseph Erdody in 1796-1797. They have a uniform appearance, but still each quartet has its own character.
The performance of the Auryn Quartet in this release is exceptional. The quartet has a wonderful nerve in playing, and combined with a powerful dynamics becomes very engaging. The dynamics is otherwise both in volume and temperament. A common feature in 2.movement on almost all quartets here is that the performances are characterized by a sensitive, almost skinless care, which is incredibly beautiful. This is often in strong contrast to a lively first movement, performed with the same dedication and temperature.
The performance Auryn Quartet make here - and probably in other releases in the series - is likely to arouse an enthusiasm for Haydn, as in my case has not been so very intrusive earlier.
This re-release of opus 76 is thus on Blu-ray Audio, a format that is quite fresh for TACET. But that does not mean that they are novices when it comes to multi-channel produtions. They previously had productions on both SACD and DVD-Audio. Andreas Spreer has worked with surround sound since the late twentieth century, and has established the concept TACET Real Surround Sound. This means that the surround channels have direct sounds, some of the instruments are placed outside the conventional sector between right and left front channel. We will return to how it manifests itself in this recording, after talking a bit about packaging.
The format here is called Blu-ray Audio, and is one of three sub-formats in the category sound-only on Blu-ray. Moderately large TACET have joined the giants Naxos and Deutsche Grammophon. The other two sub-formats of audio on Blu-ray is Pure Audio Blu-ray, where the Norwegian 2L is dominant along with a handful of other companies, and UMG's High Fidelity Pure Audio. It would not hurt to collect essentially identical products under a common term, but thats not the way world wants things to be.
TACET`s incarnation of Blu-ray Audio very much remind of 2L`s releases on Pure Audio Blu-ray. Also TACET has placed great emphasis on good, simple user interface, where they particularly stressed the playback feature CD style - you just put the disc in the tray and press "play". And the choice between 5.1 and stereo done by choosing between respectively red and yellow button. This may seem like insignificant trivialities, but they`re not. The otherwise excellent format DVD-Audio wrecked on precisely these points. There on many recordings one depends on both menus and displays, and that is wrong in life when the first exploration of the disc is over.
The point where TACET differs from 2L and others, is that they have chosen an approx. standard CD case, where the Pure Audio Blu-ray for a long time used standard Blu-ray box. TACET do neither supply disc with CD or SACD as some others. But in return they are one of very few record companies that really uses the potential of extra playing time. This release has running time of nearly two and a half hours - like a double CD.
TACET Real Surround Sound gets a pretty ultimate and pure form of this release. We have a quartet, where the violins are placed on each side in front, with Matthias Lingenfeld left and Jens Oppermann has a slightly more withdrawn role on the right. Stewart Eaton's viola player in the left rear sector, while Andreas Arndt's cello has a significant role in the right rear.
I am convinced that there are many conservatives stereophile males receiving mental reactions of such a setup, and they can hurry up and press the yellow button. Then the the soundstage instantaneously collapses into a listening posision placed in the back row, like they're used to.
We that are used to Morten Lindberg`s creative microphone and musician lineups, rejoice that also Andreas Spreer is at least as progressive participating in this exercise. And it is important to note that this is not just a matter of breach of dogma. At least as important is that it is performed in a masterly way by people who have done this for years and knows what it takes to create sound magic.
In the case Auryn's Haydn Op.76, this approach gives the soundstage a wonderful insight into what each participant in the quartet is playing. One might be tempted to say that there will be a greater emphasis on the individual practitioner`s partial story than a unified whole. I think that's a brilliant idea - to me it gives a completely different immersion into the music.
Some may argue that a quartet is composed for experience from somewhere in the middle. Well, maybe not, but it could just as easily be seen as a practical adaptation. It's not practical to seat 100 listeners at the center of a quartet during a concert.
But it is not just surround mix that is outstanding on Auryn's Haydn. I mentioned quartet's intense dynamics in play, and then it is very important that this not be destroyed by dynamic compression. Judged by ear, there is little- or no compression here.
Also transparency and air is present in abundance, and especially the cello has a very detailed description.
Auryn Quartet and TACET has done an excellent job with Auryn's Haydn. The performance and is top class, in a release in the forward-looking format Blu-ray Audio. And the great multi-channel mix performed by Andreas Spreer makes listening a breathtaking experience.
This review was originally written and published by me at www.Audiophile.no.
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