One of the classical world's best-known recordings - The Tallis Scholars' 2007 set for Gimell of works by Allegri and Palestrina, including the former's Miserere - is coming to Pure Audio Blu-ray at the beginning of December. True, it's not the first Pure Audio Blu-ray disc - labels including 2L already have such releases, and indeed the Norwegian company developed the format in association with Munich studio MSM. Neither is it Gimell's first surround release, as the label already has a small range of works, including this recording, available for download in both 'studio master' stereo and high-resolution surround. However, Steve Smith, the producer of all The Tallis Scholars' high-resolution recordings, sees the availability of the set on Blu-ray as an important move in making high-resolution and surround sound accessible to more listeners. He says, ‘Unlike previous format launches, millions of customers already own the equipment needed to play these discs. One player for both high definition pictures and high resolution sound must be the right way to go.' And no doubt with an eye to the impending festive season, he adds ‘High resolution downloads are fine for audiophile specialists but they don't work well as gifts. Pure Audio Blu-ray opens new opportunities.'
The disc itself is playable on any Blu-ray player or home cinema system and, when used with a suitable home cinema receiver and speakers - or indeed played on one of those all-in-one systems - offers the listener the choice of 5.1-channel surround sound in 24-bit/96kHz DTS HD Master Audio or 24/96 Dolby True HD, plus 24/96 PCM stereo.
The formats can be selected from the start-up menu if you have the player connected to a TV, or by using the colour-coding on the packaging and the four colour buttons on every Blu-ray player remote control handset. In addition the disc offers further formats for download to a home computer and playback via network music devices, or the computer itself. Using the mShuttle system you merely have to key in the IP address of the Blu-ray player in a browser on a computer on the same network, and then a variety of stereo sound formats, along with artwork and booklet, can be downloaded.
The recording itself comprises the Allegri Miserere in both the best-known ‘embellished' version - with the high Cs - and a version with further embellishments on the embellishments by Deborah Roberts, developed over more than 300 performances of the work. In addition there are three works by Palestrina - the Stabat Mater, Missa Papae Marcelli and Tu es Petrus - and all the pieces were recorded in surround sound in the chapel of Merton College, Oxford. However, the Allegri is the standout on this disc in sonic terms, with its main choir set before us, and the soloists separated off in the surrounding acoustic, for a truly atmospheric effect that's quite captivating.
Yes, it's possible to get these recordings and more from the Gimell website, where they're available in both 48kHz and 96kHz surround versions in a choice of FLAC or WMA, or in a wide range of stereo from MP3 up to Studio Master 96kHz FLAC. However, for some users downloading files and setting up their computers to play high-resolution music can be something of a faff, so the ‘physical' version makes a lot of sense.
Pure Audio Blu-ray is just one of an ever-growing range of formats, routes and systems for the delivery of high-resolution audio into the home, but for many users it may just turn out to be the simplest. For which reason, the more recordings become available in this way, the better.
Andrew Everard published another review on his own website.