Herbert Von Karajan

Beethoven Symphonies 4 & 5

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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/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 1,2,3,4,5,6 Director Herbert Von Karajan 
Sony Classical
Sony Music
RPI $34.95 Music Ludwig Von Beethoven 
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None Dolby Digital 4.0 L-R-LS-RS
16x9 Enhancement No Soundtrack Languages "English" (Linear PCM 48/16 2.0, 1536Kb/s)
"English" (Dolby Digital 4.0 L-R-LS-RS, 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

    Ah, here I am once again reviewing another fine classical recording from Herbert Von Karajan's legacy film series. Produced for laserdisc in 1990 by Telemondial, this DVD presents another all-digital recording of Ludwig Van Beethoven, this time his Symphonies 4 & 5. Recorded in November 1982 and November 1983 respectfully, these two symphonies are performed by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted, of course, by Herbert Von Karajan.

    Whilst I am no expert in the field of classical music, I know what I like, and whilst Beethoven is not my favourite of the classical composers, it is hard to deny the power and presence of his work. The first movement of Symphony 5 is undoubtedly his most popular work and indeed arguably classical music's most famed piece of all time. Whilst describing music in words is akin to trying to waterpaint with a brick, let me try: da da da dum, da da da dum.

    For those in the know (unlike myself), you will be well pleased with this recording, and for those who aren't in the know, well you can join me in discovering some timeless music played by a whole lot of nicely dressed people working together for a common cause. There is hope for us all yet...

Transfer Quality


     Not much to comment on here, with what is essentially an NTSC laserdisc converted to DVD. 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 sharp and certainly as clear and clean as could be expected for fifteen year old video. Focus is very close, with only foreground images being clear, whilst background detail is lost. However, since after a while it all looks the same, you can still see men madly throwing bows around their instruments whether in the fore or backgrounds, and this is really not as riveting as you might imagine. Shadow detail is fine, and there is no low-level noise in the image.

    Only the less pale musicians demonstrate any real colour, so basically skin tone is the only reference point, and it is fine. If you want some fun, you could play with the loathsome NTSC tint control (if you have it), and make all the musicians a bright pink. I tried it for a while.

    Given the low data requirements of this video, it is not surprising that there are no MPEG artefacts present. There were also no other artefacts of any kind. The phrase "nice and neat" would sum up the video well! 

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


    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.

    There is no real difference between the audio qualities of this and Herbert Von Karajan-Beethoven Symphonies 2 & 3 , and whilst I am repeating myself I will do so in any case.

    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 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 dynamic 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 LPCM 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 aplenty 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 seen, but it is quite functional.

Movement Selections (8) + Chapter Stops (2)

Programme Notes

    Full of purple prose, there is not much to comfort the casual listener. I am sure that the more hard-core classical followers will derive more benefit from them than myself.

Biography-Herbert Von Karajan

R4 vs R1

    One and the same, even as far as NTSC formatting.


    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 excellent.

    There are some notes, but nothing much else in the extras section.

Ratings (out of 5)

© Paul Cordingley (bio)
23rd July, 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