|Category||Music||Biography - Cast
|Running Time||69:25 minutes|
|Region||1,2,3,4,5,6||Director||Herbert Von Karajan|
|Starring||Herbert Von Karajan
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
|RPI||$34.95||Music||Ludwig Von Beethoven|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English (Linear PCM 2.0 48/16, 1536
English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448 Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Theatrical Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
There is something very special about Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 that sets it apart from most pieces of classical music. Over the years there have been some utterly superb recordings of this great work, and to be fair Herbert Von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra have been responsible for some of them. Indeed, their 1977 recording together still rates very highly in The Penguin Guide To Compact Discs, as does their earlier 1962 recording. To be fair though, their last recording made around the same time as this video is not amongst the very best around. My personal choices in this work are an earlier recording by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra made in 1959 under the baton of Andre Cluytens, or the recording made by Leonard Bernstein on Christmas Day, 1989 (just after the fall of The Berlin Wall) with combined forces from the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Dresden Staatskapelle. What makes them so special? Well, this is one symphony that really needs to be felt, and both of those recordings really exude passion like few others. And that is the single greatest failing of this version from Herbert Von Karajan - it may be very well-played and all the notes are there, but it simply lacks the passion necessary to make the work really sing. After all, Schiller's Ode To Joy is a passionate work whose words should strike at the very core of any person's heart.
Still, the likelihood of someone having a video of the 1959 Andre Cluyten performance is nil, and I doubt that we will see the Leonard Bernstein version on DVD real soon (it has been available on VHS), so this is a more than acceptable substitute. Not absolute top drawer stuff by any stretch of the imagination, but at least a better-than-average effort that will please all but the most fastidious.
The image is reasonably sharp, but suffers somewhat from the usual problems we would expect from a seventeen year video transfer. The depth of field here is not great and so most of the image is out of focus, unless it is the focal point of the image. Consequently, we get to see a lot of nice sharp images of Herbert Von Karajan against a sadly diffuse background and a marginally lacking foreground. When the viewing field is opened up a little, the images tend to be a lot better with much better overall focus and detail. Detail, however, is nothing exceptional irrespective of where the focus lies, whilst shadow detail is at best acceptable. There appears to be something of a problem with grain in the transfer which mitigates against the clarity of the overall transfer. There does not appear to be any significant problems with low level noise in the transfer.
There is not much of a palette of colours offered here, since everyone wears a black suit with a white shirt and a dark tie. Still, the blacks have a nice depth to them even though they tend to be a little too deep compared to the slightly anaemic skin tones on offer. The instruments certainly do not display much in the way of colour tones either. I suppose it conveys the overall feel of the musicians well enough, but a little relief would have been nice. There is something of a problem with flare in the transfer as a result of the lighting reflecting off instruments and at times this is not handled too well. Oversaturation of colour is definitely not an issue here, nor is there any hint of colour bleed.
There are no problems with MPEG artefacts in the
transfer. Film-to-video artefacts are confined to some minor aliasing problems,
mainly on the string instruments. Film artefacts were absent from the transfer.
There did not seem to be any problems with audio sync in the transfer, and when the vocals did come in the fourth movement they were clear and easy to understand - my German is certainly improving as a result of listening to this symphony for so many years!
Whichever soundtrack you choose to listen to, just
remember to crank it up! Not that we have any audio demonstrations here,
but rather this music deserves to sing and it does that best with the audio
level cranked up. There is certainly nothing much wrong with this well-engineered
Dolby Digital soundtrack, with the bass channel being thankfully restrained.
I must admit to dreading the thought of thunderous drums, but was pleasantly
surprised by how well they were handled in the overall sound mix. Surround
channel usage could perhaps have been a little better, but the overall
sound is quite immersive and is quite reminiscent of the multi-directional
sound that one hears at a live concert. This is perhaps a less analytical
digital soundtrack than some I have heard, with the result that the various
instruments present a nice overall soundscape without any instruments being
especially digitally isolated in the mix. The Linear PCM 2.0 soundtrack
is not in the same league and sounds just like a compact disc recording.
Of admirable quality, even though well overshadowed by the Dolby Digital
|Surround Channel Use|
A good video transfer.
An excellent audio transfer.
A somewhat underwhelming extras package.
© Ian Morris (have
a laugh, check out the bio)
23rd September 2000
|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|