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Amdahl: Astrognosia & Aesop [Norwegian Radio Orchestra/Bergby] (TheaterByte Blu-ray Audio)

2L111_boxMagne Amdahl is one of the most respected contemporary composers in Norway with more than 100 works for theater, chamber and orchestral ensembles to his credit. To call him the “John Williams” of his native land may not be too far from the mark as he has received numerous accolades from his peers and audiences for his programmatic compositions. Astrognosia & Aesop explores two very different themes with correspondingly different styles.

astrognosia-still-1
session photo Morten Lindberg

Much in the same vein as Gustav Holst’s The Planets, Astrognosia is an updated survey of the signs of the Zodiac. Three interludes, somewhat reminiscent of Erik Satie’s Gymnopedies, divide the celestial signs four at a time and all receive music that evokes their individual characteristics. All are highly accessible pieces that would find a perfect home in a silver screen soundtrack.

asrognosia-still-3
session photo Morten Lindberg

Nearly every child has heard the legendary fables of the former Greek slave Aesop. In fact, these tales from the animal world have been used to instill a moral conscience in young readers and listeners as each conveys a particular life lesson. Amdahl provides symphonic treatment of the following episodes with narration by well-known Norwegian Dennis Storhoi:

  • The Mountain in Labor
  • The Lioness
  • The Crow in Borrowed Feathers
  • The Mule
  • The Cock and the Fox
  • The Lion’s Breath
  • The Lion and the Fox
  • The Wolf and the Dog
  • The Shepherd Boy and the Wolf
  • Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
  • When the Mice Held a Meeting
  • The Fir Tree and the Rose Bush

All considered, this is music making that last century’s concertgoers would have embraced uncritically and without question. In new millennium, Amdahl gives us the equivalent of “comfort” music that falls easily on the ear but occasionally runs the risk of cloying and not stimulating its listeners.

The Audio

astrognosia-still-2
session photo Morten Lindberg

2L Records has always excelled in orchestral recordings and this DXD-sourced master was mixed down to DTS- HD Master Audio 5.1, 7.1, and 2.0 LPCM versions. The recording session diagrams show the players encircling the array of microphones and the resulting surround tracks clearly reproduce these intended immersive effects. To my ears, both 5.1 and 7.1 options were magnificent.

The Supplements

We get the expected outstanding hybrid multi-channel SACD and MP3 and FLAC downloads via mShuttle. The generous program booklet, besides providing the track listing and credits, has introspective essays by the composer on his own works, brief biosketches on Amdahl and Storhoi, and a libretto for the fables.

[youtube httpss://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TV4Imlih7YI&w=640&h=360]

The Final Assessment

This is a very accomplished orchestral Pure Audio Blu-ray Disc and was nominated for a 2016 Grammy. The selections are well interpreted by the Norwegian Radio Orchestra under the leadership of maestro Ingar Bergby. This programmatic fare would definitely appeal to lovers of light classical music and benefits tremendously from the usual 2L “supersonic” treatment. The clear-cut winner here and my main reason for recommending this disc is Astrognosia as it avoids the rather monotonous narration of Aesop’s stories and conveys a better sense of Amdahl’s creative abilities. Another welcome addition to the growing catalog of well-recorded Norwegian music, thanks to Morten Lindberg and his production crew.

Amdahl: Astrognosia & Aesop [Norwegian Radio Orchestra/Bergby] (TheaterByte Blu-ray Audio)
4 / 5 TheaterByte Rating
{{ reviewsOverall }} / 5 User Rating (0 votes)
2LLabel/Distributor
Norwegian Radio SymphonyArtist
Morten LindbergProducer
51 MinsRun Time
$32.99MSRP
30 Jun. 2015Release Date
PCM 2.0 Stereo (192kHz/24-bit) | DTS-HD MA 5.1 (192kHz/24b); DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (96kHz/24-bit) | DSD | mShuttle (mp3/FLAC)Audio
The Creative Content
The Audio
The Supplements
Summary
Astrognosia & Aesop is another Grammy-nominated 2L recording that introduces us to the orchestral world of Magne Amdahl by way of his accounts of the Zodiac and Aesop's fables. It's a stellar technical achievement.
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