It’s that exciting time of year again… time to begin our Album of the Year Awards process! Highlighting and honouring the highest quality DSD music is what we do at NativeDSD. And there is no better way than to let you, our trusted music-loving audiophiles, vote on the top albums from the last year.
Throughout 2023 we have had new labels join the NativeDSD mission, we’ve seen a huge increase in new albums, gone in-depth with DSD music makers for our blog, and worked hard to continue showcasing the great DSD music being made around the world. We have a lot to celebrate!
Next comes the difficult part. How does NativeDSD select the nominees for Best DSD Albums of the Year? As has been our tradition, NativeDSD has asked Senior Reviewer Bill Dodd and Technical Advisor Brian Moura to carefully review the year’s DSD releases and bring our listeners 2 to 5 nominations in several musical categories.
Part 1 contains the following categories:
This is a great way to applaud and reward the excellent music and performances that the music labels and artists have brought us this year. And it also is a guide for our listeners to see what we have selected as the best DSD music in 2023. The nominations highlight what you may have missed throughout the year.
Orchestral (Bill Dodd)
Mahler: Symphony No. 5
Mahler: Symphony No. 5€17,99 – €34,49
Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Rafael Payare
Pentatone – PTC5187067
This is an exuberant, powerful performance conducted by the young maestro from Venezuela, and the Montreal Band is excellent. Together they blow the dust of this symphony to make it almost new again.
Mahler: Symphony No. 1
Mahler: Symphony No. 1€17,99 – €30,99
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Semyon Bychkov
Pentatone – PTC5187043
The Czech Philharmonic is one of the world’s great orchestras, and Bychkov conducts a fine performance of the Mahler 1st. It’s easily the best of his current cycle of Mahler symphonies. Bychkov takes his time to bring out the beauty of the work.
Bartok: Concerto for Orchestra
Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra€17,99 – €34,49
Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, Karina Canellakis
Pentatone – PTC5187027
Karina Canellakis is a rising star in the rarefied world of conductors, and she conducts an excellent Bartok Concerto for Orchestra, and his Four Orchestral Pieces. She gets below the surface of this music and brings it home.
Beethoven: Symphonies No. 4 & 5
Beethoven: Symphonies No. 6 & 8
National Symphony Orchestra, Gianandrea Noseda
National Symphony Orchestra – NSO0009D and NSO00010D
I can’t separate these two releases, just a few months apart. I would happily recommend both to anyone seeking modern recordings and lively, well thought out performances that stand with the best. Like Noseda’s Beethoven 1 and 3 last year, they are an easy recommendation. Noseda’s latest with 2 and 7 has arrived a bit late for these nominations, but I encourage you to check it out as well. I’m excited about the possibility of 9 next year.
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5 & Schulhoff: Five Pieces
Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 5 & Schulhoff: Five Pieces€17,99 – €34,49
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Manfred Honeck
Reference Recordings – FR752
Honeck delivers a strong performance of the Fifth, without the sentimentality that hangs on so many performances. I enjoyed this one! The recording is first class, as well.
Latin Music (Brian Moura)
Con Guitarra (With Guitar)
Con Guitarra (With Guitar)€18,99 – €30,99
Patricio Baeza with Ursu Gábor, Szendi Gábor, Mário Diaz Varas, Réka Tóth, Make Miki & Vasilis Angelis
Hunnia – HRES1406
Singer, Guitarist and Composer Patrico Baeza brings us Con Guitarra (With Guitar). Accompanied by a host of talented musicians and singers from Latin America, the album delighted listeners and was a surprise NativeDSD best seller for several weeks. A highlight of the album is Baeza’s duet with Chilean Tenor Marió Diaz Varas on the song Besame Mucho.
Ahora€17,99 – €34,49
Romo-Agri-Messiez Tango Trio
Aliud – ACDOE1232
Aliud brings us Ahora, a tribute to Tango music with an unusual “tango trio” featuring Bandoneon, Violin and Piano. Also worth noting is that most of the album’s music has been written by members of the trio rather than performing standards of the genre as one usually finds on a tango album. Available at NativeDSD in Stereo and 5.1 Channel Surround Sound DSD, this fine recording by Aliud’s Jos Boerland was nominated for a Latin Grammy Award. A well-deserved bit of recognition for one of this year’s top Latin Music releases at NativeDSD.
As I Travel
As I Travel€20,99 – €30,99
Donald Vega, Lewis Nash, John Patitucci and Luisito Quintero
Anderson Audio NY – AANYIRAIT2023
Jazz Pianist Donald Vega is known for his playing in the Ron Carter Golden Striker Trio, his selection this year as a Guggenheim Fellow and a teacher at The Julliard School. As I Travel is a musical journey that reflects Vega’s travels from his native Nicaragua to the Jazz scene in New York. Accompanied by top Jazz musicians Lewis Nash, John Patitucci and Luisito Quintero, the album features top shelf playing and fine Latin Jazz. A finely crafted set from start to finish.
Cuban Fantasy€17,99 – €30,99
Witmer Trio with Jan-Luc Eendenburg
Sound Liaison – SL1061A
After delving into the world of Soul Classics of the ‘70s and ‘80s in their earlier album Free: Soulful Piano Reflections, the Witmer Trio brought us an album of Latin American Music in 2023 titled Cuban Fantasy. The album is said to be a return to the trio’s origins that focused on musical styles including salsa, cha-cha, bolero, bachata, and cumbia. The playing on the album shows a familiarity and ease with the music from a very talented trio. Adding to the performances is an excellent Stereo recording and special guest Jan-Luc van Eendenburg on congas and bongos. It is just the thing for a relaxing listen.
Solo Instrumental (Bill Dodd)
Marrow: The 6 Suites For Solo Cello by J.S. Bach
Marrow: The 6 Suites For Solo Cello by J.S. Bach€18,99 – €26,99
Sono Luminus – DSL92263
Here’s another recording of Bach’s well known, and well loved cello suites. But this one is totally refreshing. She finds new meanings in these suites, and brings them out quite successfully. Just when I think I’ve heard everything these suites have to offer, Saeunn Thorsteinsdottir opens the windows, and pulls back the shades! The word “Marrow” is part of her interpretation— see the booklet for more.
Without Words€18,99 – €26,99
Bruce Levingston, Piano
Sono Luminus – DSL92269
Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words make up the bulk of this album. Whether you are familiar or not with these pieces, Levingston brings out the depth feelings they contain. Cutting to the chase: You will be enchanted.
Rachmaninoff€17,99 – €30,99
HR Recordigs – E225HR
British Pianist Sebastian Stanley shows a true commitment to Rachmanioff with fine readings of the Variations On A Theme By Chopin, 3 Nocturnes, and others. He is able to find the true emotions of these pieces without sentimentality. Very impressive!
Murmurations (One Microphone Recording)€20,99 – €22,99
Marcia Hadjimarkos, Piano
Outer Marker – OM02100H
Murmurations refers to a flock of birds flying together and changing direction together. It’s a good choice for this album. Murmurations is a goldmine of sparkling, accessible music from Satie, sprinkled with works from some of his admirers– Cage, Glass, Mompou, and others spanning the 20th Century. It works!
Women and War and Peace (Pure DSD)
Women and War and Peace [Pure DSD]€20,99 – €34,49
Katelyn Bouska, Piano
Yarlung Records – YAR54460DSD
Katelyn Bouska is a superb pianist. She is also teaches at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. The concept for this album is the product of isolation during the pandemic. I’m not going to attempt to explain it in just a line or two– you can read the album description or download the booklet. I urge you to do so. This is superb, soul wrenching music-making.
Vocal (Brian Moura)
Modern Cool€17,99 – €34,49
Impex Records – IMP7003
Grammy Award-Winning Album
Patricia Barber’s Modern Cool album is an audiophile classic that has been previously released on Stereo CD, Stereo SACD and Blu-Ray Audio disc. NativeDSD has partnered with Impex Records to bring the album to our listeners in an Exclusive Early Release in Stereo and 5.1 Channel Surround Sound DSD and DXD. Co-Producer and Recording Engineer Jim Anderson says, “This release of Modern Cool faithfully reproduces the original Stereo & 5.1 Surround Sound editions of the album.” Featuring Barber’s performance of Light My Fire – first made popular by The Doors, listeners will enjoy over an hour of fine music. It is a must-buy album for Patricia Barber fans.
Stones In My Passway
Stones In My Passway€17,99 – €30,99
Carmen Gomes Inc.
Sound Liaison – SL1063A
Two years ago, singer Carmen Gomes and her Jazz ensemble Carmen Gomes Inc. reinvented the music of blues great Robert Johnson on the album Up Jumped The Devil. In 2023, she returns with the second edition of her tribute to Johnson with the album Stones In My Passway. Recorded to Stereo PCM 768k using an Analog Mixing Board, the album brings us another emotive and compelling performance of Johnson’s songs. Accompanied by just the right amount of subtle musical accents plus atmospherics and effects from recording engineer Frans de Rond the album really pulls you into each song and creates its own musical world from start to finish. This is an outstanding addition to any musical collection.
Ocean Floor€16,99 – €34,49
Ayanna Witter-Johnson, Gwilym Simcock & the LSO Percussion Ensemble
LSO Live – LSO5122D
Ocean Floor brings together Cellist and Vocalist Ayanna Witter-Johnson, pianist Gwilym Simcock & the London Symphony Orchestra Percussion Ensemble. It explores the music of Africa and Jamaica in a passionate and energetic performance of original compositions that mix Alternative R&B, Classical, and influences from Soul, Hip Hop and Reggae music. Available in both Stereo and 5.1 Channel Surround Sound DSD this is one of the year’s most interesting and fascinating releases.
Jazz Ballads Vol. 3
Jazz Ballads Vol. 3€17,99 – €30,99
Aubrey Logan, Barbara Lea, Ben Webster, Billie Holiday, Bucky Pizzarelli, Carol Sloane, Diana Panton, Emilie-Claire Barlow, Holly Cole, Polly Gibbons, Robert Len, Sarah Vaughan, Shirley Horn, and The L.A. Network with Aubrey Logan & Bill Cantos
2xHD – 2XHDFT1180
Rene Laflamme brings NativeDSD listeners a combination of new and remastered classic Vocal, Jazz and Classical Music recordings each year from 2xHD as well as with partnerships with Reference Recordings, Storyville Records and Jazzology. On Jazz Ballads, Volume 3 we are treated to the best of Jazz Ballads and Vocals from musical stars of the past and today. The songs on the album range from Shirley Horn’s classic interpretation of the song Dindi to Singer, Songwriter & Trombone Player Aubrey Logan with her song The Remembering Song. Not to mention tracks by Billie Holiday, Holly Cole, Sarah Vaughan, The L.A. Network and many more. It is a musical treasure chest that is not to be missed.