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American Anthem: The Music of Samuel Barber & Howard Hanson [Ying Quartet] Blu-ray Audio Review

american-anthem-ying-quartet-blu-ray-audio-cover

 

 

The Album

[Rating:4.5/5]

Sono Luminus, the offspring high resolution recording label of Cisco Systems founders, Sandy Lerner and Len Bosack, offers us a collection of 20th century American music, penned by no less than Samuel Barber, Howard Hanson, and Randall Thomson.  These compositions are brought to life by the youthful Ying Quartet, champions of American music for more than a decade.  The Barber compositions are all early neo-romantic works: The String Quartet, Op.11 (with an alternative third movement that is being premiered in this recording); Serenade for String Quartet, Op. 1; Dover Beach, Op.3 (with baritone Randall Scarlata).  Listeners unfamiliar with Barber’s early works will doubtless recognize the String Quartet’s beautiful adagio as it has become popular in its string orchestra transcription.

Howard Hanson, better known for his large orchestral pieces, is represented in this collection by two much smaller works: String Quartet Op. 23 and Concerto da Camera Op. 7.  The disc is completed by the very popular Alleluia of Randall Thompson, arranged for the Yings as a memorial to the victims of the Joplin Missouri tornado.

Unlike much of the 20th century American music, all of these works are quite accessible and fall easily on the ear.  Through the vehicle of the string quartet, each composer’s inner voice becomes readily apparent, an excellent introduction for those new to this music.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

Both surround and two channel versions are excellent. The former gives us more precise placement of the performers and very realistic picture of the sound studio used in the recording. There is also a very natural ambience with just the slightest amount of background echo, most noticeable on the Dover Beach track. The Steinway piano in the Concerto da Camera is well balanced with the string players.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:4/5]

Like all offerings in the Sono Luminus music series, a standard CD is included that, taken on its own, sounds quite fine. A superb program booklet describes the compositions performed and gives some biographical information on the composers and Ying Quartet.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4.5/5]

American chamber music deserves to get more airplay than it currently receives. These pieces, superbly played and getting deluxe sound recording, make strong cases for each one. Of course, the Barber Adagio and the Thompson Alleluia will be headliners, as they should be, but there is much enjoyment to be had in the remaining selections. An excellent way to access some 20th century Americana in the comfort of your listening room that Sono Luminous transforms into a compelling sound stage.

[amazon-product]B00B5UBFYY[/amazon-product]

 

Overall
[Rating:4.5/5]
The Performance
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]

 

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