Herbert Von Karajan

Beethoven Symphonies 2 & 3

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Details At A Glance

Category Music Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1999 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 86:33 minutes Other Extras Programme Notes
RSDL/Flipper No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 1,2,3,4,5,6 Director Herbert Von Karajan 
Sony Classical
Sony Music
RRP $34.95 Music Ludwig Von Beethoven 

Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None Dolby Digital 4.0
16x9 Enhancement No Soundtrack Languages English (Linear PCM 2.0, 1536Kb/s)
English (Dolby Digital 4.0, 448Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.33:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking No
Subtitles None Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    I have looked forward for some time to reviewing a selection of classical recordings from the Sony Classical range, and seeing (and indeed hearing) how well they came up on our beloved little disc format since we now have the chance to listen to some fine recordings in multi-channel sound.

    This DVD presents one of the first all-digital recordings of Ludwig Van Beethoven's Symphonies 2 & 3 for your listening pleasure. I say pleasure because that is indeed what I experienced when listening to this disc. Herbert Von Karajan was somewhat of a pioneer in the field of the electronic recording of his orchestras, and was apparently known for pushing the envelope at any given time. This recording was done in January 1984 at the Berlin Philharmonie and placed straight onto digital tape; indeed, many of his recordings earned him awards for excellence. Consider the fact that Karajan was actively conducting orchestras in 1929, and went on to produce the first recordings for the brand spanking new CD format in April 1981, after he was already making fully digital recordings in 1980. You can therefore be assured that this recording, whilst getting on a bit in age, is every bit as good in quality today as the day it went onto tape. Ah, the wonder of digital!

Transfer Quality


    I will say that the video transfer of this disc is of little to no importance to me, since I like to be centrally seated in my "sweet spot" with my eyes closed when listening to music. A bourbon close at hand also doesn't go astray. I will, for completeness, give a review anyway, although really the only thing you will see is a slightly eccentric-looking ageing man madly waving a stick around, and a lot of other slightly eccentric-looking men waving sticks at various instruments. Good for a look at first, but not something you would really bother with again.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and it is not 16x9 enhanced. It is also NTSC formatted, so only TV monitors equipped with NTSC playback facility can replay this disc in full colour.

     The image is quite good, and certainly very good for something recorded in 1984 for video. The foreground has plenty of sharpness to it, however the focal length is very short resulting in somewhat blurry backgrounds. The recording studio is dimly lit, and since all concerned are in their finest black tie wear with only the whites of their eyes and their shirts really bright, this is a dark transfer. Still, shadow detail is very good and nothing is lost. There is a total lack of noise in the image for a very smooth presentation.

    Only the less pale musicians demonstrate any real colour, so basically skin tone is the only reference point, and it is fine.

    There are no MPEG artefacts present whatsoever, which is not too surprising since the most active part of the image is the violin bows moving in unison to some of the more violently active passages, and what a pleasure to watch that is. Indeed, there are no artefacts of any kind. 

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


    Classical music in Dolby Digital! Three cheers!

    There are two soundtracks on this disc. The first is good old Linear PCM, coded at 1,536 Kilobits per second. The second is Dolby Digital 4.0, coded at 448 Kilobits per second and channel configured as left, right and split surrounds with no centre and no subwoofer.

    I am delighted to say that the Dolby Digital soundtrack on this disc is superb, and was very satisfying. I will admit to nudging the volume dial up a bit for this one, and I was thrilled with the results. There is plenty of weight to the sound, and dramatic moments are indeed just that, with a lot of dynamic range. I will not go so far as to say that imaging was particularly good, since when you get this many instruments playing at once details like that tend to get lost, and we are spoilt with single miked instruments from studio recordings being precisely locatable in the stereo soundstage. However, instrument groups are spatially defined within the 360 degree soundstage, resulting in a dynamism that can only be had from multi-channel recordings. It is quite something to hear instruments placed completely around you with no particular bias. I must also note that the centre channel was not missed, as it is not with any standard 2 channel recording.

    There was no hint of compression artefacting, with a nice fullness to the mix. Listening to the 2-channel Linear PCM mix was boring by comparison, although it was still of very good quality. It just didn't sound as dynamic, with the Dolby Digital soundtrack being wider, clearer and more detailed - something which is typically counter to expectations given the substantially lower bit rate. But, there it is.

    My subwoofer, being driven from the left and right speakers, had a lovely evening with this disc, although it is important to note that there is no dedicated .1 channel, and this may or may not be a problem for you depending on your configuration. Suffice it to say that there is bass-a-plenty on this recording, and to fully appreciate this you should have either full range speakers for all channels and/or an integrated subwoofer.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue N/A
Audio Sync N/A
Surround Channel Use



    This is not the best menu I have ever seen, but it is quite functional.

Movement Selections (8) + Chapter Stops (2)

Programme Notes

    These are very interesting if not a bit "purpley" at times. Amongst other things, we learn that Beethoven was suffering the trauma of increasing and incurable deafness whilst composing these pieces. Naturally this would be beyond the realm of comprehension for someone so gifted and close to music, and he indeed contemplated suicide. As we know, he thought the better of this idea and went on to produce wondrous music such as that recorded here without actually being able to hear most of it.


R4 vs R1

    One and the same, even as far as NTSC formatting. Still, the video is fine and not really the focus of this DVD.


    A fine example of multi-channel recording, capturing the Berliner Philharmoniker to perfection. Turn this up, turn the TV off and be swept away, assuming of course that classical music is your cup of tea.

    The video transfer is very good, and more than does its part.

    The Dolby Digital soundtrack is wondrous.

    Some very interesting notes, but nothing much in the extras section.

Ratings (out of 5)

© Paul Cordingley (if bored, why not read my bio)
5th June, 2000. 
Review Equipment
DVD Panasonic A360 (S-Video output)
Display Rear-Projection Pioneer SD-T43W1 125cm Widescreen 16x9
Audio Decoder d t s 5.1 & Dolby Digital 5.1 (DVD Player internal decoder)
Amplification Sony STRDE-525 5x100 watts Dolby Pro-Logic / 5.1 Ready Receiver; 4 x Optimus 10-band Graphic EQ
Speakers Centre: Sony SS-CN35 100 watt; Main & Surrounds: Pioneer CS-R390-K 150-watt floorstanders; Subwoofer: Optimus 100-watt passive