Herbert Von Karajan

Dvorak Symphony No. 9

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Details At A Glance

Category Music Biography - Cast
Programme Notes
Year Released 1992
Running Time 46:12 minutes
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 1,2,3,4,5,6 Director Herbert Von Karajan 
Sony Classical 
Sony Music
Starring Herbert Von Karajan
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Case Dual Clip, Amaray style
RPI $34.95 Music Antonin Dvorak 

Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English (Linear PCM 2.0 48/16, 1536 Kb/s)
English (Dolby Digital 5.0, 448 Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.33:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking No
Subtitles No Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    As the journey through the legacy of Herbert Von Karajan on video continues, we leave behind for now the works of Ludwig Von Beethoven and head off to sample the work of the great Czech composer Antonin Dvorak. Like most of the other DVDs in this series, the video was originally produced for laserdisc by Telemondial, this time in 1992. This time, however, the video was not recorded with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra but rather with the other great orchestra with whom Herbert Von Karajan was associated, namely the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. The work this time is Symphony No. 9, otherwise known as From The New World, composed by Antonin Dvorak in about 1891 during his stay in the United States (hence the title).

    Now when you talk about a Czech composer of the stature of Antonin Dvorak, one thinks of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra who have over the years produced some of the most magnificent recordings of his works. I mention this for the simple fact that the greatest privilege I have ever had in classical music was to attend a concert given by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra under conductor Jiri Belohlavek, for which the Symphony No. 9 was the closing piece on the programme. The symphony lasts for around 44 minutes, but that night the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra had the audience so entranced by their magnificent performance that it felt like ten minutes and it took forever to come down from the euphoric state they had taken us into. I mention this for the simple reason that it has always been very difficult for me to listen to this symphony since, as no performance is ever likely to match up to that magical night. As good as the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra are, they are not the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra in this piece, which is something of a pity for outside of the recordings by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, one of the very best recordings of this work is by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Kyrill Kondrashin. This effort does not compare to that performance.

    Despite my misgivings because I have been fortunate to hear the very best of performances of this work, this is probably a good performance and well worth considering.

Transfer Quality


     Being another later release from the Sony range, this transfer is a PAL effort that tries its best to improve upon the source material, but generally fails to succeed. The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and is not 16x9 enhanced.

     The image is quite sharp, and does not suffer as much from the usual problems we would expect from a video transfer of this vintage. The depth of field here is better than expected and so much less of the image is out of focus, compared to the earlier DVD reviewed from this series. We still get to see a lot of nice sharp images of Herbert Von Karajan against a marginally diffuse background and a less marginally diffuse 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 does not appear to be any problem with grain in the transfer, and this is actually quite a clear transfer. There does not appear to be any significant problems with low level noise in the transfer.

    Whilst there is still not much of a palette of colours on offer here, since everyone wears a black suit with a white shirt and a dark tie, this is actually a quite nice looking transfer. The blacks have a nice depth to them whilst skin tones seem to be nicely handled. The instruments have somewhat of a greater depth of tone to them when compared to the earlier DVD reviewed, although it does have to be said that there is a remarkable consistency in the look of the transfer despite a different recording location and two years in time. There are a few minor problems with flare in the transfer as a result of the lighting reflecting off instruments. There is no hint of oversaturation of colours at all and colour bleed is also not a problem.

    There are no problems with MPEG artefacts in the transfer. Film-to-video artefacts are again confined to some rather minor aliasing problems, mainly on the string instruments. Film artefacts were absent from the transfer.

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


    There are two soundtracks on the DVD, the first being a Linear PCM 2.0 48kHz, 16 bit soundtrack and the other being a Dolby Digital 5.0 soundtrack. They are described as English, even though there are no vocals on the DVD. I stuck to sampling the Dolby Digital soundtrack this time. Note that the packaging is in error in stating this to be a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack.

    There did not seem to be any problems with audio sync in the transfer.

    We once again do not have any audio demonstrations here, but rather a nicely presented, if ultimately slightly lacking, soundtrack that captures the music quite well. There is again nothing much wrong with this well-engineered Dolby Digital soundtrack, with the bass channel obviously being non-existent. That is perhaps the biggest disappointment here, as a full 5.1 soundtrack with a bass channel would have really conveyed the feel of the music a lot better. Surround channel use could definitely have been a little better, but the overall sound is mildly immersive, if not quite reminiscent of the live concert experience. This is again 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 quite in the same league and sounds just like a compact disc recording. Of admirable quality, even though well overshadowed by the Dolby Digital soundtrack.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    Another pretty boring looking effort but it at least does its job.

Biography-Herbert Von Karajan

    A decent if not especially voluminous effort, stretching to seven pages of text. Given the capacity of the DVD format though, I would have thought that a more extensive effort would not go astray, nor would a few more photographs of one of the most famous conductors of the twentieth century.

Programme Notes

    Reasonable enough stuff again I suppose, but again I cannot help but feel that more could have been done here with both the composer and the composition.

R4 vs R1

    As far as I can determine, the Region 1 and Region 4 versions have identical content, making Region 4 the version of choice owing to PAL formatting.


    Yet another typical example of the Herbert Von Karajan legacy on home video, this time delving into the Czech repertoire that was not exactly the forte of the man. This lacks a little fire, and does not compare with memories of a special concert experience. Still, a fine DVD and well worth looking out for this one - especially for the fact that it is recorded in one of the most distinctive music venues in the world, the Musikvereinssaal in Vienna.

    A good video transfer.

    A good audio transfer.

    A somewhat underwhelming extras package.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (have a laugh, check out the bio)
23rd September 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