Music Reviews

Relax | The Best DSD Albums to Evoke Peace and Calm

It seems that these days many of us are feeling the need to relax, to wind down, and to take a step back – myself included. So I thought I might list a few NativeDSD sets that I personally find interesting and involving, but ultimately relaxing.  

I’m just scratching the surface with these, and they reflect my personal choices. Many of my picks are solo artists, while the non-classical picks are small groups. Certainly there are mountains of good choices from orchestral and chamber works as well, but for me this list is exactly what I need in order to relax.  

So here they are… 

Michael Lewin’s Starry Night, Debussy: Preludes Book I and Other Works is a best seller for good reasons. Lewin’s touch and sensitivity with Debussy’s exquisite works makes this a must-have. Sure, this can be music to “have on” while you’re doing something, but to really feel both Debussy and Lewin, simply sit and listen. Let yourself be immersed – they named the album Starry Night for good reason.

Debussy – Preludes Books 1 and 2 by Ilya Itin are another choice for the magic of Debussy’s piano music. These recordings are beyond what can be called “demonstration class” in terms of the sound quality, but also for Itin’s impeccable technique and total involvement. Those of you who listen to multi-channel recordings will find a Steinway in your listening room.

Dejan Lazic’s Ravel – Retrospection captures these gems as if they were written for him. I have countless other recordings of the highest praise I can give is that I wish he would record much more Ravel – and Debussy, too! Channel Classic’s sound is spot on.  

Mengjie Han plays selections from Albeniz and Ravel. Here is what I wrote in a much earlier blog: This is a really amazing album. It is a remarkable showcasing of the music of Isaac Albeniz and Maurice Ravel and Mengjie Han’s most unique way of coaxing the music out of the piano. Well done! 

Arvo Pärt Piano Music by Youwha Lee | The famous “Spiegel im Spiegel” is the main attraction here, but all of the music on this album is full of the richness and beauty that Pärt can bring with his surprisingly simple themes. I find it calming, but riveting at the same time.  

Bach: The Cello Suites Petrit Ceku (Guitar) |  Yes, here are Bach’s beloved Cello Suites arranged for guitar by Valter Despalj and played to perfection by Petrit Ceku. The clarity of Bach refreshed by the guitar. And Ceku is masterful in every way. You’ll love the quality of the recording as well.  

Leo Brouwer – Guitar Sonatas | Richard Gallen masterfully captures the essence of Leo Brouwer. Those of you who are unfamiliar with Brouwer’s sound world are in for a big surprise because it is a world all by itself. And Richard Gallen is completely at one with Brouwer. Of all of the albums I picked for this list, this is the one that most perfectly fits.   

“I have no words to thank you for the effort and love deposited in this work, the first integral of my Sonatas recorded by the Master Ricardo Gallén, which I extend to the producers of IBS Classical.”

– Leo Brouwer, 2018

The Guitar with Rupert Boyd is another example of an album that will relax you as it carries you away. This is wonderfully played and recorded music from Bach and Sor to Brouwer, Jobim, even Lennon and McCartney’s song Julia. 

Take One – Piltch and Davis + Friends | This is easy to enjoy jazz from musicians who clearly love playing together, beautifully recorded so that it’s easy to imagine that they are right there in front of you. I am drawn in by this music, it simply makes me feel good.

Elegy by Aeon Trio  | The extremely talented and extremely fearless cellist Maya Fridman is joined by Atzko Kohashi on piano and Frans van der Hoeven on double bass in this album that tiptoes between modern classical and jazz. It is beautifully recorded and totally involving while being on the quiet side. It is music that rewards your attention.

SACD172

Taxidi | Fausto Mesolella can make his guitar yield more simultaneous sound than anyone else I know. His music is multi-national and it transcends typical notions of jazz, yet you have to put it in that category.  This is music for late in the evening when lights are low, when you can put away your thoughts and fly away with Fausto.

The Sweetest Sound  | Ed Verhoef on guitar again trading leads with Angelo Verploegen’s Flugelhorn in a tasty set with incomparable engineering and production from Jared Sacks.    

Bossa, Ballads, and Blues – The Bassface Swing Trio feat. Bruno Muller | Wow, these guys really get into some familiar tunes.  Relaxing and soothing, this album transports you to another place – perhaps another time as well.  

Minne – Bastarda Trio and Holland Baroque | I end this list with something new! One could say it is actually a new look at some very old things.

From the album description: 
“Holland Baroque presents Minne an improvised programme inspired by the love poetry of medieval mystic Hadewijch from Brabant. Hadewijch was a 13th-century beguine who wrote an impressive oeuvre of love poetry, providing an original, female perspective on medieval life. For this project, Holland Baroque works together with Bastarda Trio, a folk-jazz group combining the unique sonorities of clarinet, cello and contrabass clarinet. Inspired by medieval poetry, the result is a playful, passionate, truly contemporary album. “

I’ve been playing this at least once a day since it came out!   

So there are some places to start on your journey to relaxation. This is music you can easily enjoy, music to simply take you away. Listen to the samples and decide for yourself!

Written by

Bill Dodd

Bill is Senior Music Reviewer at NativeDSD. He lives in the Portland, Oregon area. He is an avid photographer too! Along with his early interest in broadcasting and high fidelity audio, he was exposed to classical music in small doses from age 5, was given piano lessons from age 9— Starting with Bach and including Gershwin. Successful morning personality in San Francisco at age 22. (true). Sang in choirs in high school and college. Although the broadcasting experience was all in popular music, his personal listening has been mostly classical his whole life—along with others including Benny Goodman, Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, Joni Mitchell, The Who, and Led Zeppelin.

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