88.2kHz/24-bit, FLAC; Harmonia Mundi HMU 807638 (supplied by www.highresaudio.com)

The Texas-based choral ensemble Conspirare here performs musical director Craig Hella Johnson’s first major composition, a full-length concert piece about the murder of Matthew Shepard. A gay student at the University of Wyoming, in 1998 Shepard was kidnapped, beaten and left to die tied to fence in a field, his funeral later picketed by the infamous Westboro Baptist Church. Drawing on Shepard’s own journals, contemporary sources and musical snippets from the Bach opening to ‘Frère Jacques’, the piece evokes the senselessness of the crime. In its scope, structure and power, this is a modern oratorio, albeit as grounded in country music as it is in the sacred tradition. The recording is exemplary, with the text totally chillingly clear throughout, while the choir and its accompanying musicians sound at once luminous and dramatic. AE

Sound Quality: 85%

Hi-Fi News Lab Report

With levels of ultrasonic noise varying by ~20dB across this work, I’m not convinced it was recorded at the same time or on the same equipment. Tracks 5, 6, 12, 13, 21, 23, 25 look like downsampled DSD, the others PCM. PM