Works for two pianos

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COMPOSERS: Grieg,Mozart
LABELS: 2L
WORKS: Works for two pianos
PERFORMER: Dena Piano Duo
CATALOGUE NO: 2L 57 SABD

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it was inevitable that, sooner or later, audio only recordings would start to appear on Blu-ray discs. The rationale is simple: over the coming years, Blu-ray will replace existing DVD and audio players. On current DVD players, audio tends to be sacrificed for picture quality, but this need not be the case with Blu-ray. Therefore, for those wanting the highest quality surround-sound audio, with or without pictures, Blu-ray is a logical step.

The only problem is that, while SACD and DVD-A had only limited success in popular music and jazz, numerous classical SACDs are released each month, so there is an established and successful format. In recognition of this, these very smart-looking first five Blu-ray audio-only discs from the enterprising Norwegian label 2L each include an additional hybrid SACD with a conventional CD layer.

In other words, unless you still hanker for vinyl, all the bases are covered. Moreover, this makes possible a direct comparison between the various incarnations, though without a spare £4,500 for Denon’s universal player when it appears later this year, this is also an exercise in virtuoso remote control juggling!

The first thing to note is that these recordings sound very good even as compact discs. Listen to them as stereo SACD or Blu-ray recordings and there is more vivid colouring.

So, what are the differences between Blu-ray and SACD for the listener? Well, it is not a difference of quality. Blu-ray is not fundamentally better, or worse, than SACD in terms of sound (though timings of tracks are not displayed as conveniently). Rather it is a matter of emphasis or colour. Christopher Dingle

Morten Lindberg (the founder of 2L) finds that SACD is ‘softer and more beautiful [than Blu-ray], but slightly less detailed’ and expresses a slight preference for the new format. However, he acknowledges that factors such as microphone placings for the recording, and the listener’s speakers are more important, which is as well, as my impressions only partially matched his.

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On the Dena Piano Duo’s inventive selection of works for two pianos by Mozart and Grieg, Lindberg’s characterisation seems absolutely right. The sense of even greater clarity of Blu-ray being welcome in Grieg’s ebullient two piano version of Mozart’s C minor sonata – there really is a feeling of ‘too many notes’ in places, but only the most po-faced would resist the fun.