Water Music/Fireworks Music

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Details At A Glance

Category Music Main Menu Audio
Preview Trailers (12)
Travel Notes
Year Released 2000
Running Time
61:10 minutes
(not 65 minutes as stated on packaging) 
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Movie
Region 1,2,3,4,5,6 Director  
DVD International 
Starring Capella Istropolitana 
Bohdan Warchal
Case Amaray
RPI $24.95 Music George Frideric Handel

Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame Audio (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448 Kb/s)
Audio (DTS 5.1)
Audio (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1
Macrovision ? Smoking No
Subtitles None Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    And so we continue the Naxos Musical Journey, which this time takes us to the timeless history of England and the delightful music from the quill of George Frideric Handel. Although not English by birth - he was born in Halle in Germany - he is probably best remembered for the works that he wrote after he moved to England and was considered so English that he was buried in Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey. He is responsible for the creation of the oratorio, a style of musical work in which he is a sublime master. The best known work of his in this style is probably Messiah, a Christmas favourite around the world even 250 years after its composition. His music represents the high point of the Baroque era, and two of his finest, and most beloved, orchestral works are the features on this DVD - The Water Music and The Music For The Royal Fireworks (or Fireworks Music for short). He in many ways represents the transition from the Baroque era to the Classical era in music, dying two years after the birth of the greatest of the Classical composers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

   Once again, there is no disputing the musical quality on offer here. The "bible", otherwise known as the The Penguin Guide To Compact Discs, again assigns their highest rating of three stars to the compact disc recording of these works. It describes them as "bright and lively performances ... well paced and well scaled". Whilst my personal taste in this sort of repertoire is to original instrument recordings, these are certainly enjoyable performances on compact disc.

    The visual accompaniment to the music is quite decent, although a tad obvious in the case of The Music For The Royal Fireworks! The Water Music is accompanied by a visual tour of a few of the magnificent castles and palaces of England: Blenheim Palace, Leeds Castle (in Kent) and Castle Howard (in Yorkshire), with a little bit of London thrown in for good measure. Having been dragged through a few of the buildings as a young child, I can certainly attest to the magnificence of them. The Music For The Royal Fireworks is predominantly accompanied by some marvellous night-time scenes of the City Of London, including St Paul's Cathedral (quaintly described as St Paul's Church in the travel notes), St Martin's-in-the-Field (very much not in a field today), the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, as well as Tower Bridge. Of course we have the fireworks and these are predominantly filmed at Leeds Castle.

    Whilst the presentation method has still not convinced me, this should still be a pleasant enough way to spend just over an hour listening to some good music with some nice visuals to go along with it. However, I would perhaps be more enthused if the quality of the soundtracks were a little better than here.

Transfer Quality


    The transfer is presented in a Full Frame format and is not 16x9 enhanced. The transfer is an NTSC effort so you will require a display device capable of accepting such a signal.

    In general, these are very nice video transfers: generally sharp with plenty of detail to be found, although the night-time shots in London are significantly better than the rest of the programming. However, unlike the earlier Mozart disc reviewed, the general quality of the video transfer is not as good. Things start out a little poorly as the first two minutes of the video is filmed from the air circling into a view of Blenheim Palace - all of which is a little marred by some rather noticeable low level noise. Thereafter, things improve a little, except that at times the video has somewhat of a problem dealing with the lighting inside the buildings. Whilst acknowledging that the interiors would be difficult to capture well with just the natural ambient light, it would seem that the augmented lighting has resulted in some slightly unnatural tones in the colours. Still, at least this lets the detail jump out a little more. Shadow detail is generally pretty good, also bearing in mind that some of the filming appeared to be done on relatively overcast days (what a surprise in England!). The transfers are generally quite clear and there is no real problem at all with respect to grain.

    The colours are generally speaking very well handled, and present a very natural looking palette without being super vibrant. Some of the filming appears to have been done in Autumn and the result is a slightly muted look that is utterly reminiscent of how I remember England to be. The internal shots generally display a gorgeous rich tone that really is quite wonderful. There is no hint of oversaturation here at all. There is nothing approaching colour bleed in the transfer. The only problem at all with the colour, as indicated above, is that there is a slightly unnatural colouring on a couple of occasions in Blenheim Palace in particular, being a little greener in tone than is natural.

    There generally are no any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfers. There is, however, a consistent and ultimately distracting problem with film-to-video artefacts: just about every time there is camera movement, there is a rather noticeable shimmer in the picture. Had this been just an intermittent problem, it would not be so bad, but the sheer consistency of the problem really becomes an impediment to the enjoyment of the show. This may, however, partially be the result of this being an NTSC transfer, rather than purely a mastering problem. It should also be said that it is far more of a problem in the video during the daytime scenes during The Water Music than during the night-time scenes in The Music For The Royal Fireworks. There is nothing much in the way of film artefacts to worry about here at all.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-to-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    Music is not a visual art but an auditory art, and therefore the importance really is in the quality of the soundtracks. It is therefore something of a disappointment to report that the main soundtracks on offer here are quite flawed. Indeed, they seem clearly to have been mastered by someone who has no idea about classical music in general, and even less idea about Baroque music specifically.

    There are three soundtracks are on offer on the DVD, being a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, a DTS 5.1 soundtrack, and a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. These are not flagged as language soundtracks, as they simply are music soundtracks. I listened to the DTS 5.1 soundtrack, whilst making samplings of the Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtracks.

    I have to say that this is the first time I have recommended a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack over both a DTS 5.1 soundtrack and a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack! Quite simply, the mastering on the latter two tracks is flawed and the result is a very unnatural sound to the music. Whilst you can certainly hear it well enough, you really cannot enjoy it at all - indeed the DTS 5.1 soundtrack just ended up giving me an horrendous headache.

    Whilst the DTS soundtrack certainly provides a nice, all-encompassing sound, the mastering has resulted in the cellos and especially the basses being given far too much presence in the mix, making the overall sound far, far too bassy. Baroque music is generally lighter in style, with an emphasis on the higher strings and woodwinds, with just a very natural bass sound in the lower registers. Here the bass sound intrudes into the higher registers too, and this resulted in too much thumping bass for this style of music. The result was to give me a rotten headache. This is most definitely not the sort of sound you would expect from a concert experience of baroque music, unless it was being presented by Metallica or someone similar. This is by far the worst DTS soundtrack I have thus far heard. Not even playing around with my settings could I find a comfortable listening experience.

    The sad thing is that the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack suffers the very same failings, just not so pronounced as the DTS soundtrack. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is thus a little easier to listen to, but it is still not a natural sound at all, with the basses still too prominent in the mix. Surround channel use in the Dolby 5.1 soundtrack is better though, and judicious manipulating of the settings does enable one to at least derive some listening pleasure. By default, the Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack is the preference here. Whilst it lacks the bass enhancement, this is actually a good thing with this style of music and this is eminently listenable stuff, especially if you turn the volume up just a little. Much closer in style to a compact disc recording, it is also much closer in style to the sort of recording this music requires. It is a quite bright recording and certainly sounds very good in comparison to the overbearing 5.1 soundtracks.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue (2.0 sound)
(5.1 sound)
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    At least the package is consistent with the earlier release reviewed in the series, and much the same complaints can be raised too.


    Nicely done but not likely to be used very much. There is some reasonable audio enhancement from The Water Music.

Preview Trailers (12)

    These are all presented full frame with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, and are not 16x9 enhanced. The other DVDs in the series are covered, as are some other titles that are released locally by Wild Releasing and a few titles that are not available locally (Video Essentials, Aquaria and More Tales Of A City). The technical quality of the trailers I watched was not great, suffering quite noticeably at times from MPEG compression problems, as well as shimmer and moiré artefacting, plus there is some variation in the audio levels that is a little off-putting.

Travel Notes

    These are presented for each chapter, detailing extremely briefly the subject matter of that chapter. Nice, but nowhere near extensive enough.

R4 vs R1

    This is the identical release to that in Region 1.


    After the impressive enough start with the first disc reviewed from the series, this proves to be somewhat of a disappointment. The quality of the video mastering is not on a par, but that is a mild problem compared to the poor audio mastering of what would be generally considered to be the two main audio tracks on the DVD. The result is almost a complete loss of the lightness of that wonderful music that Mr Handel composed. The same comments apply to the rather poorish DVD case - it is extremely difficult to get the DVD out of the case - and the fact that the entire DVD has no time information encoded so all your DVD player will display is the useful message "play" still apply. I really would hesitate to recommend this one as a buy - I would recommend you give it a test view and listen first.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (have a laugh, check out the bio)
13th October 2000

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 80cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL