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Albums of the Year 2021 – Nominations (Part 1 of 3)

It is once again time for NativeDSD to celebrate the year in Direct Stream Digital (DSD) music.  With almost 80 music labels contributing to our listeners music enjoyment there is much to celebrate and enjoy.  

During 2021, the NativeDSD family of music labels released hundreds of DSD albums in a wide variety of musical genres – from Pop and Rock to Jazz, Blues, Soul and Funk, Electronic, Swing, World, Gospel, Christmas, Classical and more.  

Next comes the difficult part. How do we select the Best DSD Albums of the Year? As has been the tradition in the past few years, NativeDSD has asked the two of us  – 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.  

Today we reveal the Nominations in these 5 Categories:

Vocals

Orchestral

New Orleans Jazz

Choral Music

Solo Piano

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 2021. It highlights what you may have missed during the year.  

But don’t worry – all of these Best of DSD releases are still available at the Native DSD Music store. Just in time to enhance your personal DSD collection as you prepare for some fine holiday musical enjoyment.  

And now, the nominees for The Best of DSD in 2021… Part 1!


Category: VOCALS (Brian Moura)

Clique! by Patricia Barber (Impex IMP-7002D)

Last year Jazz vocalist, pianist and composer Patricia Barber released her album Higher in Stereo and 5 Channel DSD & DXD at NativeDSD. The album was a top seller at NativeDSD for the balance of the year and was one of our nominees for 2020 Album of the Year. 

Now Patricia Barber is back with her new album Clique!  This album features 9 classic songs that will be familiar to music fans everywhere. My favorites on the album are This Town and All In Love Is Fair but there are several others that are also very fine. Barber and her Jazz ensemble have performed these tracks many times in Jazz clubs and it shows. The performances are warm and rich. Add in the recording and production team of Jim Anderson and Ulrike Schwarz and you have a Stereo and 5 Channel Surround Sound album that is easily one of the best of the year. 

– Brian Moura


Up Jumped The Devil by Carmen Gomes Inc. (Sound Liaison SL1043A)

Carmen Gomes Inc. is a Jazz ensemble that features vocalist Carmen Gomes, guitarist Folker Tettero, bass player Peter Bjornild and drummer Bert Kamsteeg. This is their third album at NativeDSD – following Don’t You Cry, the first in Sound Liaison’s One Microphone Recording series of albums and Carmen Gomes Sings The Blues, a tribute to the album Belafonte Sings The Blues. 

On Up Jumped The Devil, listeners will experience an album of 15 songs written by Blues legend Robert Johnson.  What makes this album so interesting is that the songs move from one story to another without breaks. The album takes on the character of a long form story rather than a series of tracks, making for some compelling listening. Wonderfully recorded, this is a release you will want to experience.

– Brian Moura


Easy Living (Pure DSD) by Sinthia & The Balázs Elemér Quartet (Hunnia Records HRES2112)

Easy Living features singer Sinthia Horvath and the Balázs Elemér Quartet a Live to Pure DSD Stereo DSD 256 recording. The album contains performances of a host of standards from composers George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Lester Young, Abbey Lincoln, and Jule Styne. The album was one of the year’s best sellers at NativeDSD Music.  

While I was not familiar with Sinthia and the BEQ before its release, I was curious about Easy Living’s popularity and downloaded the album in its recorded DSD 256 bit rate. The vocals and musical performances are very well done. When you add Hunnia’s excellent Live to Pure DSD 256 recording, this is an album that you will both enjoy – and use to show off your DSD 256 music system!

– Brian Moura


Category: ORCHESTRAL (Bill Dodd)

Brahms 4 & MacMillan Larghetto by Manfred Honeck, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (Reference Recordings FR744)

Athletic! I see that word applied to many of Honeck’s recordings – strong, emphatic performances! Sometimes he has been accused of being a bit over the top, but I find this Brahms Fourth to be excellent in every way. If I had to choose just one recording of Brahms 4 to live with for the rest of my days, it could easily be this one. The orchestra is superb, as is the Sound Mirror recording. A bonus on this album is the Larghetto for Orchestra from Scottish Composer, James MacMillan. It’s contemporary, and it is lovely.

– Bill Dodd


Vaughan Williams 4 & 6 by Antonio Pappano, London Symphony Orchestra (LSO Live LSO0867)

Sir Antonio Pappano and the LSO blow the doors off with Vaughan Williams’ two most powerful and dramatic symphonies, the Fourth and the Sixth. When he had completed the Fourth, Vaughn Williams reportedly said, “I don’t know whether I like it, but it’s what I meant.” The Sixth, premiering after the end of WWII, is full of rage and heartache. If you think all of Vaughan Williams music is folkloric or pastoral, you’re in for a very big surprise.  Pappano and the LSO are excellent.

– Bill Dodd


Stale Kleiberg Concertos by Eivind Ringstad, Fredrik Sjölin, Marianne Thorsen, Peter Szilvay, Trondheim Symphony Orchestra (2L 2L166)

Kleiberg’s Violin Concerto No 2, Cello Concerto DOPO, and Viola Concerto are all contemporary, but accessible.  There is real emotional depth to these works, beautifully captured by soloists Eivind Ringstadt, Fredrik Sjolin, and Marianne Thorsen. Peter Szilvay conducts the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra. This is music which will stand the test of time. I encourage you to listen.

– Bill Dodd


Mahler 6 by Martin Sieghart, Arnhem Philharmonic Orchestra (Octavia Records OVCL00172)

This recording was originally released on an Exton SACD, but you’d be lucky to find a copy. Happily the high resolution DSD album was released on Native DSD early in 2021. Some of the things that make this an outstanding recording in my mind are the amazing recording quality, and a somewhat “lighter,” more spacious interpretation by Martin Sieghart conducting the Arnhem Philharmonic. Yes, it’s a bit different, but it absolutely works. I find it a refreshing performance that I can enjoy along side of my old favorites. And for many who find the Sixth heavy going, it could well become a favorite.

– Bill Dodd


Category: NEW ORLEANS JAZZ (Brian Moura)

NOLA: Music from New Orleans (One Microphone Recording) by Red (Sound Liaison SL1044A)

NOLA is a tribute to New Orleans Jazz by the European band Red.  Band members Bob Wijnen and Ellister van der Molen visited New Orleans, often referred to as the “birthplace of Jazz” as they planned this album. Along the way, the duo from Red also sat in on some Jazz performances in New Orleans. Their rendition of St. James Infirmary on this album, recorded Live with an audience using Sound Liaison’s One Microphone Recording technique captures the New Orleans Jazz sound perfectly.  One NativeDSD customer referred to the album as “Phenomenal.”  I agree – I love this album from start to finish.

– Brian Moura


Girl Of My Dreams by Fone Jazz Makers (Fone Jazz SACD014)

Fone’s producer, recording engineer and creative leader Giulio Cesare Ricci assembled a Jazz ensemble to perform New Orleans Jazz at an Audio Show in Europe. He recorded Girl of My Dreams to Analog Tape and later transferred it to Stereo DSD for release.  

The Jazz Makers pull out all the stops singing and playing 15 songs with Clarinet, Tenor Sax, Trumpet, Sousaphone and Banjo. The music is very enjoyable, and the musicians are having a great time singing and playing it. If you are looking for a Jazz album that is joyous and just plain fun, this is your album! 

– Brian Moura


Category: CHORAL MUSIC (Bill Dodd)

Berlioz Requiem by Antonio Pappano and Concertgebouworkest (Concertgebouworkest Live RCO19006)  

More years ago than I’d care to remember I participated in a performance of the Berlioz Grande Messe des Morts hidden in the 1st Bass section of the chorus. Since then I’ve heard many recordings of the work, but none has pleased me more more than this release from Sir Antonio Pappano with the Concertgebouworkest (The new official name of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra), tenor Javier Camarena, and the Chorus of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Maria! The critics love it, and I love it. I think you will too. The recording and performance are unsurpassed.


Anton Bruckner & Michael Haydn: Motets by MDR Leipzig Radio Choir (Pentatone PTC5186868)

The MDR Leipzig Radio Choir is quite fine in these motets from Bruckner and Michael Haydn. These Bruckner choral pieces are far less grandiose than his symphonies and are lovely. As the booklet notes suggest, finding these two composers together might seem like an odd pairing but there are many commonalities in their lives.  Most importantly, the MDR Leipzig Radio Choir and the recording engineers have made this a must-hear release.


Category: SOLO PIANO (Brian Moura)

Música Callada / Quiet Music (Pure DSD) by Josep Colom (Eudora Records EUDDR2101)

Pianist Josep Colom has released several albums on the Eudora Records label at NativeDSD. On his 5th album in Stereo and 5 Channel Pure DSD 256 Colom performs Frederic Mompou’s Musica Callada on a Model D Steinway and Sons piano. Eudora’s Gonzalo Noqué calls the album a “reference recording of this iconic work”. When I listened to this album, I found it to be the one of the most realistic recordings of a pianist that I have ever heard. It is a fine performance by Colom and an amazing recording from Eudora. 

– Brian Moura


Reverie by Qope (TRPTK TTK0074)

The multi-talented Bart Koop (Qope) returned to NativeDSD in 2021 with his album Reverie. Koop is influenced by a variety of musical genres including Rock which he embraced with his album Paper Motion and a more reflective style on his prior album NocturnalReverie is along the same musical lines as his last album. TRPTK calls it “meditative and often cyclical with a spontaneous character”. I found the album to be melodic and introspective.  An interesting addition to his body of work at TRPTK.

– Brian Moura


The Sound of Black and White by Raffi Besalyan (Sono Luminus DSL92249)

In 2021, pianist Raffi Besalyan followed up his Sono Luminus debut album The Return with a new album, The Sound of Black and White. This album features tributes to the music of Aram Khachaturian, Oscar Levant, Earl Wild, and George Gershwin.  

Besalyan is an exceptional pianist. His playing on Embraceable You, Rhapsody In Blue and Sabre Dance are highlights. But there are many more. A fine addition to the Sono Luminus catalog and the piano performances at NativeDSD.

– Brian Moura

NativeDSD Music would like to thank Bill Dodd and Brian Moura for countless hours of careful listening to the hundreds of albums that were released during the year 2021. Selecting just a few albums for each category has been a daunting job for them. And we appreciate it a lot that they decided to go for it again this year!!! Thank you very much Brian & Bill.

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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